Date: 25th April 2018 at 3:48pm
Written by:

The debate on Vital Villa when it comes to our current incumbent manager is wide-ranging, to say the least.

Having been started in August last year, the debate in fact now spans 38 forum pages but that doesn’t take into account the additional threads started on the subject – usual caveats apply of stronger language, bad jokes etc.

With Steve Bruce coming in as Roberto Di Matteo’s replacement back in October 2016, the first season under his charge didn’t go that well in reality. We were nowhere near our stated aim of gaining promotion and certainly not achieving it at the first time of asking which many fans probably wrongly expected.

Whether that error was based on underestimating how competitive the Championship can be, or just how bad a state Aston Villa were in as a club is a debate in itself. But that’s for another day.

There were changes in his first season though. We became a tighter outfit at the back, we developed more of a backbone and weren’t quite as easy to roll over as we had been earlier in that season and dare I say, the season’s prior to that as we begun our slide.

The midtable finish was neither here nor there in reality – the important thing was we didn’t become Sunderland.

Arguably we have seen further improvements this season in terms of the character and attitude of the side and how they deal with knocks. A testament to that is whilst things remain far from perfect and we all have bugbears of our own in how we play, automatic promotion for a while was a real possibility. It may still be if the Footballing God’s decide to favour us now. The Play-Offs are guaranteed however and as I type we are only four points from second place.

When you consider we’ve spent a large portion of the season without the demon that is Jonathan Kodjia, Bruce’s ‘Plan A’ over preseason was scuppered with Jack Grealish’s injury and we’ve lost John Terry for a good period as well. That really isn’t too shabby.

How would Wolves have coped with losing their three key players? Cardiff and Fulham similarly.

There have been low moments this year, blowing second place for example when the automatic spots were in our grasp, but they are crossed with the joys of a seven-game winning streak and our unbeaten runs.

All in all, it’s difficult to disagree with the sentiment that Bruce has done a fantastic job when you look at us when he joined compared to where we are now.

It’s also fair to say there remains a long way to go to both get us to where we want to be, but also in terms of playing how fans want us to play. But with every loss greeted by potential calls for his head, hasn’t he earned some leeway?

They say you can prove anything with stats and you absolutely can. Two men in our managerial history, for example, hold 100% records. They each only took charge for one game though and I’m pretty sure – no disrespect to them – nobody is calling for Scott or Andy Marshall to be given the reins.

With fans torn on Bruce though, he is by far one of our most successful managers in history in terms of what seems to matter in football these days over and above anything else – wins – even if you allow the relevant caveats that have to be factored in.

Managers covering 2000 onwards:

Manager
From
Until
W
D
L
Total
Win %
Steve Bruce
2016
41
17
26
84
49%
Roberto Di Matteo
2016
2016
1
7
4
12
8%
Remi Garde
2015
2016
3
7
13
23
13%
Tim Sherwood
2015
2015
10
2
16
28
36%
Paul Lambert
2012
2015
34
26
55
115
30%
Alex McLeish
2011
2012
9
17
16
42
21%
Gerard Houllier
2010
2011
14
11
14
39
36%
Martin O’Neill
2006
2010
80
60
50
190
42%
David O’Leary
2003
2006
47
35
49
131
36%
Graham Taylor
2002
2003
19
14
27
60
32%
John Gregory
1998
2002
82
52
56
190
43%

% rounded – stats from www.soccerbase.com

Obviously, I’ve removed caretaker gaffers from the equation here but since the turn of the millennium Bruce’s win percentage speaks for itself. Short of O’Neill’s opening 12 months, I don’t believe there’s that much of a difference in our style of play either – soak up pressure and counter – no ‘Plan B’ with the team largely willing to run through walls for him.

Going back further into history, Brian Little’s ratio was 42% and Big Ron Atkinson notched up 43%. Even the often maligned Jozef Venglos made 33%.

Sir Graham Taylor in his first spell departed with 46%, Tony Barton takes decimal point success over Ron Saunders. 45.99% and 45.57% respectively. Vic Crowe tallied 44% and only three more men better 45%.

Jimmy Hogan with 45.97%, WJ Smith with 48.08% and George Ramsey with 49.59%.

Turning around a club on the slide, a rotten atmosphere and things falling apart off the pitch, let alone things falling apart on the pitch with a lack of confidence, a lack of effort and dressing room issues…Bruce isn’t doing too shabby.

Let’s remember that next time we have a meltdown eh.

 
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