Bruce decision needed fast

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Rumours surfaced over the weekend that the board will meet with manager Steve Bruce to discuss his future with the football club and I personally feel that this is a decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly but equally it is required fast.

Supporters are in meltdown. Bruce in/out polls are everywhere on Twitter. Every other tweet is asking chairman Tony Xia to clarify our status. CEO Keith Wyness is being bombarded about Financial Fair Play concerns.

The thought of what might have been is still too much to really explore in any detail. Whilst we face an extremely uncertain period, our opponents last weekend, Fulham can bask in the knowledge that they have a mighty windfall coming their way and can look at scouring the market for top talent to improve an already attractive footballing side. One goal made such a seismic difference to our respective futures.

It is still too soon to have the answers to of all the questions that people are panicking about right now. However, despite the supporters appearing hasty in regard to Steve Bruce, one of the most pressing matters is actually a decision on whether our manager remains in charge or not.

Right now, I really don’t know. What I am keen to avoid is simply thinking because we didn’t go up then Bruce must go. In truth, I can see pros and cons to sticking with him.

One thing we can be certain of is that we’re in for a summer of austerity. Any funds generated will be going towards our Financial Fair Play obligations. This isn’t something entirely new for Villa. Last summer we were in a similar situation and spent next to nothing in the transfer market.

In my opinion, Bruce did an excellent job in terms of the players he brought in on limited resources. By his own admission, John Terry signed for the club largely due to Bruce. Sam Johnstone again came back to the club in part to Bruce. And it was the manager’s relationship with both Robert Snodgrass and Ahmed Elmohamady that helped bring them to Villa. Glenn Whelan had his detractors during the season but for me was a very useful addition also. And the signing of Lewis Grabban in January was massively successful.

My point here is twofold. Firstly, Bruce has shown that he is capable of working with next to no money. In our current situation, that ability is not to be sniffed at. Not everyone can do it. All of the players mentioned above were good signings for the club and did well for us this season. The wages must be taken into account and we’ll need to scale that down in the coming season, however.

Secondly, it is clear that Bruce has plenty of respect and contacts in the game to help him out. There is a clear relationship with Manchester United especially from his playing days and that is a massive advantage for a club in our position right now who need to look at loan signings. There is already talk of Axel Tuanzebe returning next year which would be welcome. But Terry and Snodgrass in particular probably wouldn’t have been here if it wasn’t for Bruce.

With the clamour at the moment for Dean Smith to take over, it is worth considering these points in our current position. Smith is relatively inexperienced as a manager and in truth hasn’t achieved anything tangible to suggest he would be up to such a huge job at Villa Park.

Many supporters like the fact that he is a Villa fan as a reason why he should get the job. But that isn’t enough for me. That doesn’t mean he would be able to get us promoted. It is talent and ability over the passion that counts.

However, it can’t be denied that on the pitch, Bruce has faltered somewhat. The naivety of his tactics in the Playoff final was incredible. To set us up in a similar fashion as the games against Middlesborough was ridiculous. Everyone knew we needed to take the game to Fulham. We wasted 45 minutes and ultimately conceded a goal anyway.

And that has been the case in far too many games this season. Over-cautious. Worrying about the opposition rather than coming out and playing to our own strengths, which were plentiful. I’m all for trying to get the basics right and making us solid at the back. But it became overly negative at times.

The use of substitutes has been rightly derided also. When losing games, the tendency to replace midfielders and end up with four strikers on the pitch by the end of the game is laughable. It’s the sort of tactic employed when playing ‘Football Manager’ on the PC. There is no thought that there is no one left in the midfield to create the chances for all of those strikers to convert. It is one of my issues with the defeat to Fulham; if we’d have just kept our shape rather than trying to go gung-ho, we’d have had a better likelihood at creating one or two clear-cut chances against ten men.

Yet even in times of hardship, there are opportunities to prosper. And with no money to spend, possibly even on wages, we must surely look at introducing some youth. Callum O’Hare must surely be promoted, especially if Jack Grealish is sold. Rushian Hepburn-Murphy has been knocking on the door also. Jake Doyle-Hayes is there or thereabouts also.

The consensus is that these guys won’t get much time under Bruce and even if they did, would they be stifled by his brand of football? Well, we can look at the way Grealish has flourished to argue against that. And also the progress that Andre Green was making before injury robbed him of this season. But there is no doubt that Bruce will always put an experienced head over a raw talent if possible. I don’t believe that necessarily neglects youth, but there is an uncomfortable use of youth at times.

There is no doubt about the fact that a manager such as Dean Smith plays a much more attacking style of football. Brentford has earned plaudits for their football this year. But ultimately, it didn’t do them any good, finishing in ninth position. The idea is that at a club with more resources Smith could push us and himself on, but for me, that is simply a gamble. Remember how we all wanted Paul Lambert to bring his attractive football from Norwich with him? It never happened.

Poor start could cost VillaI genuinely don’t know what the answer is with Bruce. Off the pitch, he seems to get it right. He bought in the right players last season and created a professional hard working dressing room. That in turn created a bond with the fans unseen in years. That cannot be underestimated.

Something needs to change on the pitch. The frustrating thing is that we saw on several occasions just how good we were. The demolition jobs of Bristol City. Wolves. We also scored four goals in a game against Norwich, Burton, Sheffield Wednesday and Ipswich. Overall, the season was enjoyable. It felt good supporting Villa again.

The board must make a decision on the path the club is going to take first and foremost. If we are looking to dabble in the loan market again and bring in experienced Premier League players, then Bruce is the man to do that.

However, if we are going ditch as many of the high earners as we can and promote youth then maybe we also look at a more tactically attack-minded manager to let those kids really flourish, whether that is Smith or anyone else fitting that category.

Either way, that needs to be one of the first decisions made and it needs to be done quickly. We’re a club of uncertainty right now and we need to show signs that we have a plan of action as soon as possible. Decide on our approach in tackling the road ahead, and then decide on the man to make it happen.

17 COMMENTS

  1. Good article 👍🏻it was after the wolves game for me couldn’t understand why we didn’t push on tactics and team selection all wrong for QPR and the play off final first half was woeful can’t see any change next season if we keep him too much sitting back and trying to nick games 1-0 with no plan B when we fall behind

    • you cant be effective in every game,,, bruce did get us better in the second half and we could well have won it if we had been sharper up front,, but we lack ideas,, grealish running into trouble and getting foulled
      now if we could score from a direct free kick great,,, but he newer really played anyone in through the center
      and endless poor crosses when cutting in might have been a better option instead of a hopeful ball to a midget
      we just needed to be better in lots of little areas,, if bruce stays then the owners mush address the poor tactics,, first thing we need is a coach to improve the above,,, if agnew and co cant do it

  2. Fred Flintstone v the God father, that’s how I view Bruce compared to Bielsa
    who Leeds are trying to sign. How I wish XIA,and Wyness would stop trying to
    find a quick money solution to the “promised Land”,and get a God father. If Bielsa
    Is the one . get him. Fly him to Bejing now .

    • any managerial change is a gamble,,,, dean smith is a good fit,, but also chris wilder,,,
      both capable of much better with a bit of time and money
      and even now we could put out a decent 433 with all the loanees gone and a lot of the deadwood off the books
      the biggest dissapointment has been lansbury and kodjas form,,, plus the inability to get the best from hogan and get assists from hourihane,, four key players who can do much better in this league,,
      i dont know much about the beisla bloke you fancy,, do you think he could get more from the above,,,
      im assuming grealish and a few more sales could bring in say 40 mill to cover a reduced wage bill and bring in what we need, after all, terry gabby samba johnstone hutton snoddy tunzebe onoma grabban are all gone and gil gollini and elphick look to be off soon,, the wages has come down and we still can put out a very decent side that another manager could just get more out off whats left
      12 players pretty much off the wages big wages too,,, and realistically mccormack tishibola gardner richards bree taylor davis to be assessed, loaned out or sold,,,
      i think we have to look at the holding midfielders too,, jedi and whelan do a job but lack dynamism
      lansbury to is another that could be moved on,,
      i still think a midfield of lansbury benny b hourihane,, with adoma kodja and green up front would be pretty
      decent if we can get them firing again,, rhm and davis and ohare on the bench, and jedi and whelan
      cover for dm and cb if we cant bring lyden through,,,,
      lots to think about eh

  3. (1) In this financial financial strait jacket wonder how much we would save if Steve Bruce left, I seem to recall that he wanted a “rolling contract” in case the England job were to come his way.
    (2) Dean Smith may be inexperienced but with Kevin McDonald as his No.2 he would know everything he needs to know about the vast wealth of talent waiting to be exploited in the U23 Squad.
    (3) Dean Smith managed to get Scott Hogan firing in the goals at Brentford (21 goals in 33 league appearances) and he will not have any issues either with our most expensive striker Ross McCormack.

    • agree totally,,, my choice,,,, and we have so many underperforming players that i just think will benefit
      from his management,,, it could be though bruce gets another season if he thinks selling grealish and some of the underperformers or kids can bring in enough to have one last crack
      he certainly could improve the team,,,,,
      and there will be lots of players floating around this year,, and we need to be much less negative and better
      with the long ball and corners and crosses,, if bruce can improve the weak parts of our game then im ok with him staying, its not pretty but if we can be better at our bad points we will be in with a chance

  4. Bielsa being touted by Leeds as AV try to find a God father to the promise land.
    If this mortal ,is as good as people say, why not XIA,and Wyness contact his reps
    and fly him to Bejing now. Leave the court jesters and rats to speculate. Come back
    XIA fighting asap Bruce out and proper planning ,no quick buck fixes.

    • No ken it’s the managers responsibility to make sure that doesn’t happen plenty of experience in that dressing room or so we have been told 👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻

    • Kenneth Richardson who knows ? are we going to see the same again next season ? After Brentford played us off the park on Boxing Day I thought we did really well to even make the play offs our home form wasn’t to bad but We had some pretty woeful performances away from home Blues,Bolton,Brentford,Derby,Cardiff,and Norwich was just awful

  5. I think many followers had concerns about Bruce well before we fell short against Fulham.

    To my mind, his recruitment has been chosen from a very limited pond of past players, where a heavy reliance on experience and ‘know how’ has prevailed heavily over other virtues. Despite reining in the acquisition costs in terms of transfer fees, the wage roll has taken a battering. That looks to be an avenue now closed to whoever takes the club forward.

    Bruce is pretty good at galvanizing a squad and he can draft in effectively using his network of contacts. However, he is tactically limited and, as you rightly point out, has limited faith in youth. I think much of this stems from an overwhelming need for self preservation and my feeling is this will inhibit our development moving forwards. Particularly so, now we now we are working to a limited budget.

    Whether Dean Smith is the man, who knows. He has done well at Brentford, but pushing a side up to the Premier League will be a major feat. He is good at developing effective attacking inter-play, which is one of Bruce’s limitations. He can (or has had to) work to limited means.

    All told, I would lean towards swapping now. My overwhelming feeling is Bruce’s formula has become out-dated.

  6. dean smith to me is logical,,, i just feel he could get the best from our attackers,, and he would be good for the kids too,, but its a gamble,,, and despite everything that bruce has got wrong he ultimately got us very close to the ultimate aim,,, which looking back, the injuries and players out of form really did not help,,
    if he does stay he still has lots of good players and indeed we could sell any from grealish hogan elphick delaet mccormack richards gollini gil davis taylor lansbury and have possibly 50mill to rebuild
    the kids coming through are very decent, and bring in some good loans and some frees then the wages will come right down and bruce can bring players in to make us better and allow us to play better football
    and more effective football at times,,,
    but grealish going will be a blow but 3 goals and 6 assists is not bad but nothing exceptional
    but we all know next season it would more likely be nearer to 15 goals and 20 assists if he improves
    the big thing is getting the best from kodja and having variations in play for all types of opposition
    were not going to blow teams away and we will still have to grind out results,,
    i felt the defence sat too deep due to the lack of pace in midfield and defence,,, it really dictated our negative play and as the season went on if we went behind then there was no coming back,,,
    so if i was the owners i would ask what can we do to improve this,,, we dont have to be that much better
    but we must be able to win at least 5 to 7 more games,,, not a massive ask,,,
    and bruce is ok with kids if he thinks they are good enough,,,
    we could go into next season with the good kids in the first team squad and loan a decent keeper and full backs, maby buy a decent center back with pace and loan and sign a couple of free agents for up front
    with so many players gone already and a lot more to go we could get the wages down considerably
    and have a better team,,, lots to do and we must make a desision asap re bruce and grealish

  7. We have one of the best Championship Managers in the game, why would you want to change that? Villa supporters need to understand that changing leadership every time results don’t go our way is self destructive. Villa had a good season, just missed on the last game of the year, let’s get on with making our club a destination club for emerging talent in Europe and being successful.

  8. There’s one fact everybody looking for a new manager is forgetting and that is we could replace him from the backroom ! Bring in a new manager over them & we may have to replace the backroom , which could mean good bye promotion for yet another season

  9. Doug Ellis were r you, under your ownership no way would this club have slipped in to financial dire straits. Doug your never to old to teach these tech kids the value of money. If you have a spare ££ millions sitting in the bank, put it to good use and get this club back we’re they belong.

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