Aston Villa is a second home to many in the AVFC fan base. A place where they can turn away from day-to-day worries and enjoy themselves. Right now, the club is providing anything but a respite for them.
Steve Bruce was hailed as the saviour and the man to bring much-needed stability but that stability has turned into a nightmare scenario.
The thing is this: you know what you’re getting when you get Steve Bruce in. Much like when you go to McDonald’s. You get a solid defensive manager at a premium price (chequebook).
Steve Bruce came in after Roberto Di Matteo spent tmillions with nothing achieved in a short, win-now timeframe at the club. We always knew Steve Bruce would steady the ship and address the defensive issues that were so glaringly obvious under Di Matteo. We climbed to some relative stability with a few notable results as Bruce started to open the chequebook bringing in Conor Hourihane, Henri Lansbury, James Bree, Birkir Bjarnason, and Scott Hogan. This took Villa’s spending to an astronomical £76-million.
Last season was one of much hope with Steve Bruce again opening the chequebook with the additions of Robert Snodgrass and John Terry, both on sizeable pay packets.
The season started with one win in the opening seven with many fans then calling for Bruce to be given his marching orders. There was a slight renaissance up to the end of November as Villa sat fourth, five points off second-placed Cardiff. A winless Christmas period knocked Villa down to seventh, seven points off the top two. It spiralled quickly into sections of the Villa faithful to lose their patience with Bruce again but a solid run through January into mid-February eased those concerns as we thrashed Bristol City and grafted to hard-fought wins away at Nottingham Forest and Sheffield United. Plus the all-important three points at home to the not so noisy neighbours Birmingham City.
The football was turgid but we were picking up points and dropping very few. We were second by the time we took on Fulham and finally in the driving seat. That would be short lived.
We ended up falling short of the mark as we lost a painful play-off final to Fulham. The game summed up Steve Bruce’s tenure though. It was a slow and negative approach where we looked to nick it away from the Londoners. A phrase we’re all too familiar with that, ‘slow and negative’.
I, like many, gave Bruce the benefit of the doubt going through last season but I think we were all aware it was his only chance. It was simply unacceptable to fall short of the mark. The promotion specialist had failed for the second consecutive season.
‘There or Thereabouts’
A summer of turmoil later and it feels like we’re back at square one with Aston Villa Football Club.
Villa opened up with two wins to start the season, but everyone could see things were not right despite victory. We have two centre-backs and one is playing out at right-back (Axel Tuanzebe) despite Manchester United playing the youngster in his natural position all pre-season against the likes of Borussia Dortmund.
Once ever-reliable for a defensive ‘masterclass’, Steve Bruce’s side has become as shaky as a shack in a hurricane. With no John Terry or Chris Samba you’d be forgiven for assuming Tommy Elphick or Easah Suliman would get minutes to prove themselves. Both are out on loan. We’ve been subjected to witnessing the downfall in one of the shining lights in the last few years with Mile Jedinak pegged back to centre-back where he just doesn’t look comfortable. Jedinak being put at centre-back is not even the tip of the iceberg this season though. It’s part of a catalogue of players played out of position.
Neil Taylor is the only natural first-team left-back, which granted isn’t the greatest of situations to be in, meaning Alan Hutton has carried on at left-back for parts. Meanwhile over at right-back we have a plethora of options. Ritchie De Laet (who performed well in pre-season has been cast off); Alan Hutton, who spends more time out of position (not meaning by at left-back either) than at right-back and Ahmed Elmohamady, who seems to end up as a winger. It’s a situation nobody can get their heads around. Steve Bruce has so many right-back options and very little at centre-back or left-back yet he proceeds to play Axel Tuanzebe at right-back.
Tuanzebe has played one game at centre-back since coming back on loan and it was arguably his best game in a Villa shirt, yet before he knows it he is cast off to the bench so Jedinak can play. Moving forward, Jack Grealish has been played across the front three despite being best deployed as a number 10. Jonathan Kodjia has been cast off out wide again.There’s an air of stubbornness in Steve Bruce’s decisions. It’s a square peg, round holes mentality. One that’s needless.
We sit on a run of one win in the last nine games and 14th. Five points off of second place. Last season we were showing a fight and we grafted for results. We’re yet to witness that as we hit October. The performances have shown no sign of improvement. We’ve had one of the easier runs to start the season but our results show otherwise. The way Steve Bruce talks you’d think we’ve played every game with nine men away from home. You’d think we had the cheapest assembled squad in the league.
It is way past D-Day for Steve Bruce. I respect the stability he initially brought, but it’s time to move on from that and find someone who understands how to set out his team as favourites. I’ve witnessed a game and a half worth of good football in Steve Bruce’s 101 games in charge and that? It is being kind.
I lament what we’ve become. We shouldn’t be ‘there or thereabouts’ we’re Aston Villa. We should be on top and dominating week in week out. Teams rock up to Villa Park like they’re playing at home. That’s unacceptable for any football club let alone one that’s spent huge sums of money on attacking options and experienced professionals, and one playing in a massive arena.
The nail in the coffin came after a 4-1 hammering away at Sheffield United. We looked lost! Bruce claimed that the game against Brentford was one of the best games he’s seen Villa play in years. We drew 2-2! Mediocrity is seemingly acceptable.
Thanks, Steve for stabilising Aston Villa but it’s time for us to go our separate ways. You’ve offended the fan base and we’re fed up of the ridiculous excuses. We’re fed up of hearing ‘there or thereabouts’ and that the side is showing signs of ‘gelling’. We don’t care for your excuse of losing 5/6 key players over the summer. Every time he opens his mouth he mentions the four promotions. Nobody cares. We’re well past that. Those four promotions did not happen at Aston Villa and they are not happening now.
It’s time for change before it’s too late. We financially cannot afford another season in this division. Those Premier League dreams are slipping away game-by-game under Steve Bruce’s management.