Steve Bruce will return to Villa Park next Monday for the first time since he was sacked as Aston Villa manager in October 2018.
You could argue Bruce was very marmite with Villa supporters when he was appointed Villa boss in October 2016. Some couldn’t look past his history with Birmingham while others couldn’t look past his promotion history.
I will find it very interesting to see what reaction he gets from the home supporters. At the time a minority still believed he was the man to take Villa forward while others felt he failed at the task in hand.
When the Newcastle manager became Villa boss I personally felt that he would come in and stabilise what was, let’s face it, a sinking ship. Villa seemed on free for all following relegation to the Championship. Some even feared that we would be playing League One football the following season.
Villa had picked up just 10 points from a possible 33 in their opening 11 games of the season. The final straw for the Villa faithful was a 0-2 defeat to Preston when the fans really turned on then manager Roberto Di Matteo.
Bruce came in and stabilised the club without really making too much impact on the Championship. Villa finished a disappointing 13th – some 18 points off the Playoff positions. Most fans stuck by the manager, however. They could see the job the Geordie manager had done but demanded promotion the following season.
The road to Wembley
Over that summer, Bruce got to work on strengthening his side. He had a net spend of -£13.53million during the summer months by offloading players like Nathan Baker and Carlos Sanchez.
It also saw the arrivals of players like Glenn Whelan, Ahmed Elmohammady and John Terry. The later was said to be on a very luxury contract.
We were all set for a promotion push. Bruce eventually guided Villa to fourth position in the Championship meaning Villa would take part in the playoffs. Again, you can’t please everyone and some said he had already failed by not getting an automatic spot. Others were happy to be there but knew that Bruce couldn’t fail.
We all know what happened in the playoffs. That non-show performance at Wembley still hurts to this day, despite what we have been through since under Dean Smith.
Many fans wanted change during the summer but Dr Tony Xia stole all the headlines when we found out the financial mess he got the club into. Bruce held onto his job when the new owners come in – despite many thinking Thierry Henry would come in once the takeover was complete. Bruce was eventually sacked in October 2018 due to a run of poor results.
So was Steve Bruce’s tenure as Aston Villa boss a success? I would say yes and no. He will surely admit one day that he failed to get Aston Villa promoted as he probably should have done with the players at his disposal – despite what his son likes to spout on Twitter.
But I will also like to place on record my gratitude for him stopping us sliding into League 1. Of course, it is all ifs and buts but we only looked destined to go one way under Di Matteo. He stabilised the club and got the fans and players dreaming again.
I personally won’t boo Bruce on his return with Newcastle on Monday. Neither will I applaud him. I would like to think we have moved on to a club. I think all of us would agree that we are in a much better position under Dean Smith right now and we should only look forward. Let’s just hope we can take all three points also!