This time last year, Steve Bruce would have relished being compared with one of the most high-profile managers who are at the helm of the world’s most famous football club. Today, however, the parallels with Jose Mourinho are not of the kind that anyone wants. In both cases, the fans and media are sharpening their knives and asking just how long these managers can stay on their seat.
Both know that the most effective way to shift the attention away from themselves is for the team to start getting results. As far as Villa are concerned, it is just not happening. Last week’s loss at home to Sheffield Wednesday has tipped Villa into the bottom half of the Championship table, and the dissenting voices are only getting louder.
Hello, old friend
No team outside the bottom seven has conceded more goals than Villa so far this season, and Bruce knows that making things happen out in the middle means strengthening a wafer-thin defence. The sight of former West Ham defender and Wales international James Collins training with the team has therefore set tongues wagging.
At 35, Collins is not exactly a signal of a brave new era for Villa. However, what Bruce needs is a reliable centre-back who can stop the rot and give the defence a little backbone. It also helps that Collins is a familiar face at the club. He was memorably signed on the last day of the summer transfer window in 2009. This year, he is a free agent, and there will be none of the madness, uncertainty and last minute bids that are usually more associated with playing a game at a site like https://lvbet.com/de/casino/ than with professional football management.
If he joins Villa again, there will be far less drama attached to the signing, although critics are already pointing out that signing a 35-year-old defender outside the transfer window sums up the lack of strategic thinking that is endemic within the club’s management.
The talk of signing Collins comes right on the back of rumours that John Terry might make a shock return to the Claret and Blues. Both players are at a time of life when most professionals would more likely be kicking back and playing Book of Dead on their smartphones than going out and trying to help bring a struggling team back from the dead in the middle. While many of the Villa faithful would be delighted to see one or both of these familiar names return to the fold, there are others who feel this is a cynical strategy on Steve Bruce’s part to move the media’s attention away from himself.
The Twitter feeds have been buzzing from the moment that the rumours became known, and most of the feedback has been less than positive. Fans said the idea smacked of “absolute desperation” on the part of a club that is in turmoil and a manager who is drowning.
Bruce taking his time
Steve Bruce, meanwhile, has said only that the club is evaluating a number of options, one of which is Collins. He confirmed that the former Hammer has been training with the club, but added that he recently nicked a hamstring, and so nothing more can be contemplated until he is fully fit.
Collins, meanwhile, said that he simply wants to prove that he can still contribute at a meaningful level. He told Birmingham Live: “I would go anywhere. I love playing football, still, do, and I’ve got plenty in the legs.”