Aston Villa’s managerial appointment of Steve Bruce isn’t particularly sexy. He’s no David Wagner or Nathan Jones, no Lee Johnson or Julian Nagelsmann. Few neutrals will take much time out of their day to talk about Bruce coming to B6, and few Villa fans will feel some particularly high excitement level about the appointment.
But appointing Bruce was necessary; it’s the best move Aston Villa have made in years.
We all want to see Villa go on to bigger and better things in the Premier League, and perhaps Europe, under Dr. Tony Xia. I think most would agree that Bruce isn’t going to be the manager to do that.
Here‘s the thing, though: Aston Villa cannot finish in the Premier League’s European spots without, you know, being in the Premier League. And there’s no available man better suited to do that than Bruce.
He’s won promotion from the division not once, not twice, not thrice, but a whopping four times — twice with Birmingham City and twice with Hull City. While Bruce’s Premier League credentials are a little suspect, his track record is, quite literally, second to none at getting teams there.
Complaining about Bruce’s Premier League record or the lack of ambition is akin to worrying about running a marathon when you can’t finish a 5k. Get out of this league (the 5k), then worry about survival (the 10k). Then worry about finishing in the top half (half-marathon) and from there, let’s talk about Europe, the “marathon.” But you can’t do any of those latter things until the end.
Take a look around modern football. Of the 44 managers in England’s top two divisions, just one (Arsène Wenger) has been at his post longer than four years. Just five more have been at their clubs three years. A whopping 17 of 24 Championship managers haven’t even held their jobs for 12 months.
The day and age of the long-term manager has come and gone. Sure, you’ll always find exceptions, but on the whole, Villa are just fine positioning themselves to make a managerial switch every 18 or so months. Right now, Bruce fits exactly what the club need.
As for the Blues connection? Seriously, why the hell does anyone care? Sure, he managed Villa’s biggest rival. No, that doesn’t mean he’s incapable of doing the job. Yes, I understand the last former Blues manager we had was pretty terrible. No, Steve Bruce is not Alex McLeish. And crucially, Bruce’s mission (promotion) is far different from McLeish’s (avoiding relegation), even if you want to draw that comparison.
With Bruce, Villa know what they’re getting. This isn’t like the Paul Lambert or Rémi Garde appointments, which came with a long-term goal in mind, nor is it like the Gérard Houllier one, which took a gamble to try and take a big step forward.
But what Villa are getting? It’s exactly what Villa need.