With yesterday evening’s news that new Aston Villa owners Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens had decided that time was right for Steve Bruce and his coaching staff to be given their marching orders, watching the reactions to the news was quite interesting.
Whilst some were preoccupied with thoughts of who next, do we kick start rumours linking us with Thierry Henry again – he eventually denied he’d ever had contact – is Brentford’s Dean Smith the man given how his sides play, let alone how he’s demonstrated he can work to a budget and still coach an ethos into a side despite the players not necessarily being his pick and constantly losing his presumed better players.
Do we go European and look for the next Jurgen Klopp or Julian Nagelsman?
One thing nobody wants is a Sam Allardyce.
Plenty of others were happy to enjoy the ‘five a day’ related puns following the appearance of a cabbage in the dugout against Preston North End on Tuesday evening.
Many others decided to buck what had become a popular trend in the media as excuses were made and lined up as the wheels speedily fell off the bus and pointed out that few were bothered about his Birmingham connections. They took the opportunity to point out the welcome he received when first appointed, they pointed out the support he’s received since, especially in light of last season.
And in correcting the narrative, they pointed out what Bruce should be remembered for…ensuring we didn’t become Sunderland with a double relegation. Turning around the spirit in the group after years of stagnation and yes, getting us to within 90 minutes of promotion.
Contrary to the popular and well-pushed belief of some, fans didn’t turn on Bruce because we have issues with his former employers. Fans and the local media have been incredibly patient given the quality of football on show. Most fans knew that to the draw the line on previous season’s we had to be defensive and rebuild confidence slowly and that is why things have turned this season.
That job had been done and despite summer disruption, this was the year to kick on and improve. We even saw slight attempts to begin with that led fans to comment on a slightly more offensive outlook from the side, but it didn’t last.
Preston sees our record go to one win in the last nine I believe and there has just been no improvement in style. If anything, the daft decision that Tommy Elphick’s face didn’t fit leaving us short at centre-half and the continual playing of Mile Jedinak out of position has seen us travel backwards. It’s not the only decision, some fans have rightly questioned why not let Orjan Nyland and Andre Moreira settle into the club before getting Jed Steer out for games? Did we really put our defensive eggs in getting John Terry back, if so we’re now in October?
It hasn’t just been defensively shambolic either, in recent matches having overloaded on wingers ahead of the closure of the summer transfer window, we’ve taken to not starting any. Then taking off our attackers to put wingers on in the second half like we’re playing some warped version of FIFA.
Bruce said this week that every decision had quickly become questioned – yes, because the same decisions, with no reward, kept being taken. Fans will rightly question why a manager sticks with a decision when it doesn’t work and it keeps not working.
It’s been a buildup and a result of why can we still only play for 45 minutes, just what is said at halftime when we’re doing well or badly? I’m pretty confident in claiming I’m not the only one who ponders whether that was our ‘good half’ in every single match now.
Why keep talking about two upfront when the lack of balance in the squad sees Jack Grealish out on the left, or the right, or wherever he now ends up at points (which doesn’t suit him and was never Bruce’s plan from day one and he’s admitted that).
Then, not even really playing two upfront because Jonathan Kodjia is basically a right winger at times.
It goes on and on and it will obviously get questioned, with valid reason.
But fans have been incredibly patient, the vast majority wanted this to work out and plenty are happy to acknowledge the role Bruce played in turning us around, contrary to the headlines and the spinning we’ll now see in the media. Bruce galvanised us, but for whatever reason this year instead of stopping the rot and kicking on, he started holding us back, blaming the fans not performances and no amount of goodwill will stop that reaction.
You can’t criticise the fans and then not get a result.
Ultimately, the decision didn’t come as a result of our lack of intelligence or the mad few, the decision didn’t come because of our expectations – 11 games in, 3 three wins, out of the EFL Cup and 6 draws.
I know I’m not alone in wishing Bruce well for the future, sadly it just hasn’t worked out but the man deserves huge credit for the role he did play, and he deserves huge credit last year. In some ways, I’m pleased the decision was taken quickly as I didn’t want to see things turn truly bitter and sour.
Bruce should be remembered for stopping the rot and giving us some foundations back, and that’s exactly how many will remember his time at the club.