The build-up to the Championship Play-Off Final between Aston Villa and Fulham on Saturday is in full flow this week and manager Steve Bruce’s media tour continues at pace.
Another successful promotion campaign for Bruce would again see him pull ahead of Neil Warnock in the historical charts and that has been one element to the questions our gaffer has had to face.
Obviously, with the double personal loss for him, he has again offered thanks to the support he received over that time and admitted he’d taken more days off than he otherwise would’ve done, so his job has been a welcome distraction at points.
A big topic in the chats is the fact that the Play-Off Final comes 26 years to the day since our European Cup triumph in 1982.
Bruce was adamant however that the squad could use that as motivation and turn it into a positive, rather than being something that weighed us down with even more expectation.
“Let’s hope it’s another omen. When you’re talking about expectation at a club like this, it was only 1982 we were in the European Cup final and we’re the fifth most successful club in England in terms of trophies won.”
He’s right, outside expectations shouldn’t matter to the players at the moment. Their own personal expectations and desires should’ve massively taken over at this point and that’s what should be driving them.
Bruce’s candour at getting the job also came to the fore.
“I’ve waited something like 20 years to get a club like this one, although it’s probably only because it was a mess and in the Championship! If it had been fifth and in the Premier League would I have got the job? I’m not so sure. But that’s why it’s been a delight to manage here because you always want a chance at a big club, in a big stadium with big support. It hasn’t disappointed me.”
Bruce definitely hasn’t had it all his own way since he arrived at the club but he’s certainly turned us around compared to where we were when he walked through the door. I’m not sure anyone can really argue with that even if you acknowledge there remains plenty of work still to do and further improvements are needed.
Whilst he still has his critics, I think the vast majority have seen enough from him to continue as gaffer regardless of what happens now. I’d also guess a large portion of fans want him to take this prize purely for the way he’s conducted himself through an incredibly difficult period.
He understands us and our expectations and he’s rarely hidden from that. He certainly hasn’t hidden how much he values the chance in our hotseat, as his words above again show.
A stepping stone we are not and that attitude to the job, given some previous incumbents, makes me root for him even more.
Source: Sky Sports.