Steve Bruce became Aston Villa manager on 12 October 2016 and immediately put himself under pressure. The former Hull boss stated that as long as a club of Villa’s size remains in the Championship, they will be under pressure.
Villa fans new the style of play wouldn’t be pretty but couldn’t argue with the facts. Bruce has the best record out there when it came to taking Championship sides to the Premiership. What could go wrong?
Fast forward 22 months later and Aston Villa are three league games into the season still undefeated. Yet, there is a section of the Villa faithful who remain unhappy.
First Win in 11 games
In Bruce’s second match in charge, Villa beat Reading which was Villa’s first win in 11 games and first away win for 14 months.
Over time he bought in his own backroom staff and re-built the squad while also getting rid of anyone considered toxic at the club.
Despite being in charge for 31 Championship games in his first season he could only manage to guide Villa to thirteenth. Some supporters view this as a failure while others viewed it as acceptable. Villa were hurting from years of mismanagement and could have so easily have seen back to back relegations.
It was clear as he approached the second season at the club that nothing other than promotion would be seen as failure. Bruce had two transfer windows behind him and the squad started to have more of a Bruce feel to it.
The manager stated that his side would be ‘there or thereabouts’ come to the end of the season but never accepted what the fans were thinking. Promotion or failure.
The 57-year-old guided Villa to fourth place in the division and a place in the playoffs. They managed to beat Middlesbrough over two-legs in the semi-finals before a trip to Wembley to take on Fulham.
This is where it went wrong. You can label football fans fickle if you like but I have a different view on it. Fans see football as a break from working all week long and want to see two things from their team. Winning football but most would accept failure if they can see their team giving 100% effort.
This was the problem at Wembley. Bruce failed to get his side up for the biggest game in the clubs recent history. Of course, the players have to take some of the blame but ultimately the book stops with the manager.
Nobody could see what Aston Villa was going to experience during the 2018 summer. England was taking a lot of peoples minds of things with an impressive World Cup Campaign but there were big problems at B6.
Long story short, the club failed to make ends meet which eventually resulted in new investment. Where does this leave Bruce?
There were very strong links that Thierry Henry would become the new Villa manager. Some bookies even stopped paying out and thought it was a matter of when and not if.
Villa fans had mixed views. Some wanted stability and to stick with Bruce while others wanted a change. Yes, Henry was a gamble but possibly an exciting gamble.
On the 25th July, the club released a statement backing the manager. Bruce stays.
Fast forward to the present time and Aston Villa finds themselves sitting fourth in the Championship, unbeaten in all competitions. So what is the problem?
Just like Sam Allardyce admitted on Sky Sports a few weekends ago, style of football matters in the modern game. As long as a team is winning, fans will put it up with it but the second the win’s stop, the style of football will be questioned.
Bruce has said after each and every game this season that Villa have not performed and it is unacceptable. His words. Something the fans would agree with.
Some are still struggling to forgive the Wembley no-show while others are bored with the same old style of football.
As long as there is a minority of supporters unhappy there will always be a question over the future of the Bruce. Regardless of what camp you are in, the Bruce In or Bruce out camps, the decision ultimately lies with our new owners.
Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens seem to be clever businessmen and will want results and fast. They are extremely wealthy businessmen who will want a return on their new investment and fast.
There is a belief that they won’t put up with long winless runs as in previous seasons under Bruce. People also believe that they want fans on side and while fans are against the manager, it doesn’t look good.
One thing is for sure, Bruce has been under pressure before and will no doubt be again in the future. He can handle it but will the new owners put up with the uncertainty amongst the fanbase of their new investment?