Aston Villa’s recent revival appears to have come to an end with the defeat on Saturday against Reading at Villa Park. A 3-1 reversal was perhaps unexpected by some, especially after the Royals were hammered the previous week 7-1 by Norwich City. However, there seems to have been an overreaction to the result by certain fans.
Any defeat is tough to stomach, however, the loss on Saturday seems to have unearthed several lingering doubts which seem to surface far too easily after a negative result.
There are several issues on the minds of fans. Ultimately, it appears to be Steve Bruce who is the cause of the unrest.
Thoughts have begun to turn to next season. The main gripe appears to be a feeling that a promotion push will not actually materialise. The joy that seven victories in eight matches created seems to have dissipated as quickly as appeared. More worryingly, it seems to have done little to reassure fans that the club is finally moving in the right direction.
Personally, I find any criticism at this point completely unbelievable.
As I write this, it is a year to the day that Villa was officially relegated. A league season which saw a pathetic total of just three victories. This season was all about enjoying the step down instead of getting hammered every week. Hopefully gaining promotion if possible, but it wasn’t the be all and end all. The basics were just to enjoy winning some games again and falling back in love with the club. It became a chore to follow the team last year.
This season still hasn’t been plain sailing. I certainly thought we’d be at least challenging for the playoffs. But as it is, I’m really not bothered to have to spend next year in the Championship again. This is still more enjoyable than what we were going through in the Premier League over the last five years.
The style of football has been called into question. Which is funny, because during those clean sheet victories we amassed at the back end of February through to the start of April, I didn’t see too many people complaining about things then.
All logic appears to have gone out of the window. Twitter especially was awash with all sorts of nonsense. From claims that we won’t go up playing football like we have been, to derision over Steve Round’s remit to find a ‘Villa way’ of playing.
Of course, we’d all love to be playing like Barcelona but to be calling the whole set up into question after this one defeat is ridiculous.
First of all, pretty much everyone can agree that Bruce isn’t known for playing attractive football, however, the man has four promotions from this division under his belt. For anyone to say that we won’t go up because of his style of play is quite frankly wrong.
As for the ‘Villa way’, anyone expecting us to be anywhere near even identifying what this is at this point, is deluded.
Look at the state of us last season and even at some stages during this season. We have rebuilt the squad twice and replaced one manager. We have really only ever had any sort of stability since the January transfer window was closed. Since the end of February, we’ve actually done pretty darn well.
Tony Xia has outlined his plans for this club and while they may seem overly ambitious, I believe that we will at least be improving year on year.
The first step is stability. That means having a settled group of players with no major overhaul. It also means keeping faith with a manager for a sustained period of time. We firstly need to become difficult to beat. I have certainly seen signs of that over the last couple of months.
There are a huge amount of positives to focus on. We finally have good, football people at the helm. A Chief Executive in Keith Wyness who has done the job successfully at other clubs previously. Steve Round as Technical Director is somebody with vast football knowledge and experience and a man with the club at heart, Brian Little as an advisor. Xia, of course, is the money man behind things and whilst not a football man, he has certainly connected with supporters in a way that we could only have dreamed of.
From previously having ex-Army generals and advertising and marketing men as CEO’s, I’d say we were going in the right direction. The mess and destruction left by the previous regime will take the time to turn around. Clearing out the deadwood was a major operation. On the playing staff side of things, we’re still not quite there even at this point.
On the pitch, I personally think this season gives us a great deal to build on. Our home form has been decent, and the defeat to Reading was just the third home loss all season. It is likely that Villa Park will only become more of a fortress next season with some of those draws becoming wins. The away form needs to be looked at obviously, but to expect it to all come together in one season is unrealistic.
At the moment, I don’t particularly care that we aren’t playing free flowing expansive football. I’m just happy that we’ve put some victories together. Clean sheets on top of it have been encouraging. On the personnel side of things, I think we need a few more additions of course, but nowhere near the major surgery that we’ve seen in recent transfer windows.
Bruce will never win over 100% of fans no matter what happens. Apart from his style of play, other arguments against him include a perceived lack of giving youth a real chance. My own personal view is that should we make it to the Premier League, it is unlikely that he would last too long with us. That is a bridge we cross when we come to it though. Right now, next season is all that matters, and there are signs that we will be well placed to achieve promotion and with his track record, it’s difficult to argue for not giving Bruce the chance to fulfil his remit of doing so.
Right now it isn’t about the style of football, unfortunately, and defeats in this league can happen at any time. Brighton, Newcastle, Leeds and whoever else you think play better football than ourselves have all succumbed to unexpected defeats this season. It happens, and it will happen next season also in all probability. Reading are a side currently placed in fourth position; losing to them isn’t cause for a meltdown. They’re a good side.
Don’t forget the mess we were in just one year ago and when a defeat does come, stay positive and just remember that we are still a work in progress. Headway is being made but we aren’t going to be winning each game in style week in, week out just yet.