On of the biggest battles that we, as human beings, face in this life is accepting our own very real mortality. We’re not built to last forever - ‘this too, will pass’ - is a mantra we can easily apply to our time spent on this planet. Everything will end, no matter what it is. While we struggle to accept that our time on this planet is limited, we also find it hard to understand that the same applies to everything else.
Losing ourself to mortality might not matter a great deal. Nobody knows what truly happens when you die, but there are theories about how the brain works - possibly sending you into lightyears of never-ending REM activity, dreams upon dreams upon death. We can’t prove anything, of course - but it’s a very nice thought that we simply ‘sleep’ upon death.
When we lose someone else, a character in the chapters of our lives, it’s an altogether different thing. If you, reader, are like me, then you’ll all probably rather suffer, rather than watch a loved one suffer - then fade away into, well, nothingness.
I must be blunt, because death is a real thing that we fail to sugarcoat. In the Western world, death is mostly a tragedy - something we cannot fathom, or quantify. Other cultures across the world may see death as a ‘new beginning’, but we struggle with that idea. The death of a loved one, is a gutting, punishing and neverending blow. It’s Christmas with fewer chairs around the table, it’s one fewer cup of tea, one fewer pint in a round - it’s a loss and a subtraction from the complicated formula of life.
Steve Bruce suffered the tragedy of losing his father earlier in the week. The Aston Villa manager was spending time with his mother - in poor health herself, when his father suddenly, and unexpectedly passed away.
Watching your own mother suffer, then losing your father at the same time, is a one-two punch that we simply can’t walk away from. It’s a guttural, rending wound that leaves us down and begging.
It’s a uniquely horrific situation, and rightly so - it has left Steve Bruce sidelined from his current job as Aston Villa manager. Steve’s 2nd in command at Aston Villa, Colin Calderwood, has been taking media duties for the past week, and even accepted Bruce’s EFL Manager of the Month award on his behalf.
Still, Bruce turned up to lead his Villa side in the 126th edition of the Second City derby, against his former club, Birmingham City. Of all weeks to go into a potential cauldron of misery, potentially his worst day at the office, he actually showed up on the sideline and lead the team. He waved to the Holte End, he screamed and roared at his players, he forwarded the instructions of Agnew and Calderwood.
On this day, of all days, Steve Bruce came to work, and did his job. In the worst week of his life, Bruce had to come to Villa Park and perform his role.
One of Villa’s best qualities now is the leadership leaking from the team. Every single player is ready to step up and take control - be it John Terry, Jack Grealish of Sam Johnstone. Every. Single. Player.
Where do we think that comes from? That asset? That spirit? Well, we can no longer be under any illusions. It comes straight from the top, right from Steve Bruce himself.
When Aston Villa took the lead, thanks to a sweeping effort from Albert Adomah, the elation for Bruce was there. A bittersweet gift, a small thank you for all his troubles, and maybe the slightest relief from all of his very real pain? Check it out for yourself, but I struggle to recall a more powerful image in Aston Villa’s recent history:
Steve Bruce isn’t simply just a manager of Aston Villa. He’s Aston Villa’s Manager. The strength of this man’s character, and his resilience, should not be ignored - as they are exactly the type of things leaking into this side, and making them unbeatable, if not immortal.