With defeat to Burton Albion in the second round of the EFL Cup on Tuesday evening, some obvious topics of discussion were brought back to the fore – both in terms of players who haven’t justified their fees and inclusions so far, and also the Steve Bruce debate.

It’s clear the fan base is split, you don’t have to look far or indeed hard on Vital Villa to see that and it’s replicated on other sites and social media as well.

Glancing through our Steve Bruce forum thread, whilst lines are drawn in the proverbial sand, two posts from sirdennis and McParlandTheGreat stood out for being what I think is the crux of the point – when you put positions aside.


“I am conflicted in the sense that I think having Bruce as manager is probably our best chance of getting promoted, but at the same time am puzzled about some of his selections and our ability to throw in a shocking performance from time to time.

I would be very nervous about a new manager coming in because of the upheaval it would cause in terms of playing style, tactics, personnel etc and we could waste another season in this league.

I don’t think there is a better chance than getting promoted this season, all the teams I have seen have given me nothing to worry about and I want us to take the bull by the horns and dominate games and teams set the pace instead of playing catch up.”

To which Mc replied.

“Much the same as me. In Bruce’s first two seasons I was labelled a Bruce hater; recently I’ve been labelled a Bruce lover! I’m neither.

Bruce wasn’t my choice, and I was unimpressed by the claims about his experience; if you looked at his record, it was very mixed, and there were signs of some of the poorer bits being repeated. Given that, the only thing I was interested in was Bruce’s record with us, what we actually saw on the pitch and the results we got.

By February 2017 I thought he would be out. He improved, but by the end of season I expected Xia to pull the trigger. He didn’t; in retrospect, invisible financial problems were taking priority.

Again, after our poor start to last season, I thought he’d be going; the reason he didn’t I’d put down to financial problems again.

Then we actually did improve. At one point it looked as though we’d sail into the automatics, but we didn’t. And we did have a decent run through the playoffs, even if we failed at the last hurdle.

So my view of Bruce has changed a bit. I think he’s been very astute in his bringing players in; I put the January 2017 signings down to Round not him. The latest lot look promising. In spite of the summer turmoil, it seems we have a very real chance of promotion. At this precise moment we’re in a decent position to achieve it.

Set against that are the ongoing worries about mixed performances. Last night’s was a typical low of the sort we’ve been hit with. Something isn’t working properly. I suspect Steve is a manager but not a coach, and his coaches either aren’t good enough or aren’t given enough rein to be effective. Even when we’re going all out as against Brentford, I think there’s a lack of efficiency; the end product isn’t good enough, but also either through tiredness or something else the players can’t keep it up match after match.

All in all, I think a pragmatic approach is the only way. So long as we stay in touch with the leaders (or even better lead), keep things going and see where it gets us. Bear in mind that the owners are unlikely to do anything until they have a CEO in place who can take a good look at things. We took a lot of positives from last season; we may yet do from this. Yes there are frustrations; there usually are with most managers. They may yet be the downfall of Steve; on the other hand we may sail on in spite of them. Give it time.”

The grass is always greener approach in football is helping to ruin the game and the instant gratification nature of social media can skew things further.

When top sides perform badly, the players usually take the blame, when Villa perform well but we don’t hammer a side it’s Bruce’s fault. It’s Bruce’s fault when we lose and draw.

But it’s down to the players when we win.

At what point will people cease entrenching and be pragmatic about things.

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