An incredible amount of sports journalists spent way too much time trying to build up Aston Villa’s visit to Sheffield Wednesday into a pantomime story revolving around Steve Bruce last week. This, in turn, saw a hefty swell of bad will towards the club on social media. Karma was mentioned by so many.
The desperation from so many people to have Bruce exact his revenge on the club which dismissed him earlier in the season was almost tangible.
The media continues to perpetuate the notion that Villa is a club with delusions of grandeur, who dumped the kindly uncle Steve for no apparent reason. They think we should’ve just been grateful for having a promotion specialist at the helm.
Us, the dastardly rotters from B6 were about to get a taste of revenge, which would be incredibly bitter and long-lasting on the palate. Brucie would be sipping something altogether much sweeter; a nice big chilled glass of redemption.
Except, it didn’t turn out like that. And thankfully, those waiting and hoping for Villa to fail, all because of being blinded by staring at the halo apparently round Bruce’s head, didn’t get their little moment of glory.
Personally, I didn’t give much thought to the fact that the game would be the first time Bruce was up against us. I don’t think any Villa fan really did. It was acknowledged, of course. We knew it was going to be a tough game, against a team in decent form that hadn’t lost for twelve league games. All I was concerned with was getting something out of the match.
However, that feeling changed the more I saw the absolute guff that was being peddled across Twitter.
The worst one for me was ex-pro Carlton Palmer expressing that “I have always believed in karma. The smart money goes on the draw but I believe we beat them 1-0. Man of the moment Fletcher to score. Game on.” How did that work out for you, Carlton?
For me, this summed up everything that was wrong with this whole narrative. Karma. For what exactly?! Because we sacked a massively under achieving manager?!
The whole notion that Bruce was doing a good job and should never have been sacked is absolutely laughable. Many will cite the fact that he got us to the playoff finals as some sort of badge of honour which offers him immunity. However, no one talks about the way Bruce set us up on the day. Every single Villa fan could see our best chance of getting a result would be to come out and play. Instead, we sat back hoping to nick the game 1-0. And once we were a goal down, it was too late and too big a job to come back, even against ten men.
Let’s be absolutely clear here; Villa fans do not hate Steve Bruce. I’d actually go as far to say that there was a hell of a lot of goodwill towards him for the majority of his tenure. His personal tragedy in losing both parents during such a short space of time saw everyone behind him. In particular, when he guided us to a victory over rivals Birmingham City a few days after his mother passed away, and you saw the tear in his eye as he celebrated, there was complete unity. Yes, he was a potato head. But actually, he was OUR potato head.
Did Bruce ever really win over the fans? In truth, probably not. But it certainly wasn’t to do with the fact that he once managed Blues. That is another common misconception that has been thrust upon us by the likes of his son Alex Bruce and goalkeeper Chris Kirkland.
Of course, there may have been a minority who begrudged that part of Bruce’s history. For the overwhelming majority who are capable of seeing past that, it wasn’t the issue.
The problem was always to do with football. The reluctance to use the tools at his disposal and go and blow teams away. The stifling of creativity. The insistence of persevering with personal choices that clearly were not working. Leaving an unbalanced squad containing a threadbare defence was unforgivable. And eventually the constant digs at the fans. I mean honestly, coming out after a 2-0 win against Rotherham and sticking it to his detractors like we’ve just beaten Barcelona instead is never going to end well.
Did he deserve having a cabbage lobbed at his head? No. But at the same time, it was undoubtedly the actions of that supporter that fateful night that forced the hands of the owners to take action and dismiss Bruce. And that was absolutely 100% the correct call at that time.
A point at Hillsborough would’ve been decent. Certainly not the end of the world. But I have to admit that when Albert Adomah scored I celebrated hard. Really hard. And again when Tammy Abraham wrapped it up. First and foremost, the win is huge for our playoff chances. Those extra 2 points matter, big time.
But also, a huge part of it was because, at that moment, it stopped all of the potential stories being run by the rags and the hacks which would’ve focused on Steve Bruce getting revenge over the club that ditched him. The narrative that Villa fans were stupid for ever wanting anything other than Steve Bruce to be their manager. It put a stop to everyone who was lining up to take a swipe at Villa. And that was just as important as the win itself.
It wasn’t because we got one over ol’ Brucie. I really don’t care about that. His tenure is in the past now. But I do care that people are still misinformed about the whole situation. I do care when people are using it to take potshots at a club who is undoubtedly in a much better place. We are playing much more attractive football and seem to be moving in the right direction in the long term for a change. Villa taking three points at Hillsborough stopped all of that happening. And that’s what I’m bothered about.
So, for all of those people still peddling the ideology of ‘karma’ and still unable to understand the real reasons why Villa supporters lost faith in Bruce. I’m glad we spoiled the party you were gearing up to having.
Unless it hasn’t sunken in yet, Bruce wasn’t fired because the fans didn’t like him because he managed Birmingham City. He massively underachieved at Villa and was dismissed due to his failings as a manager that were seeing us regress from the previous season. Karma was never going to be involved in that match at Hillsborough; the sacking was fair.
If the change in management had failed, I’d understand it a bit more. But Dean Smith has just steered us to a sixth straight win and firmly into playoff contention. The real story is of progressive management of a team that was underachieving. And that’s what should be given the column inches.