With Aston Villa sitting on top of the form table for the month of September, it’s no surprise to see both the Villa manager, Steve Bruce, and one of his players feature in the Championship Manager of the Month and Player of the Month nominations this month.
Manager of the Month
Bruce came under some flak from some quarters of the Villa support for a poor opening month to the season, that followed on from a very poor effort last season. By his own admittance, Bruce reckoned he one game away from the sack.
In September though, he finally found a starting XI that grinded out home wins and more impressively won back-to-back away games 3-0 (Barnsley) and 4-0 (Burton).
The other nominations for Manager of the Month include Lee Johnstone of Bristol City, Alex Neil of Preston North End and Daniel Farke of Norwich.
Both Bristol and Norwich collected the same amount of wins and points (14) as Villa did in September, while Preston were unbeaten and picked up 12 points.
Norwich, like Villa, only conceded one goal over six games during the month.
Considering the amount of outlay on the Villa squad in the three transfer windows during their time in the Championship, there’s a certain level of expectation for Bruce to do well.
You would have to favour the award going to perhaps Lee Johnstone, with the Robins surprising many neutrals this season.
Player of the Year
As MOMS previously wrote, the foundation of Villa’s improvement in some part has been down to its ever-present defensive players, including goalkeeper Sam Johnstone, who has registered an impressive five out six clean sheets for the month.
Johnstone’s stand-out performance was undoubtedly his series of smart saves at Villa Park against Brentford. Without his heroics, the team would have certainly suffered their first home defeat of the season.
He faces stiff competition for the award though, most notably in the form of Diogo Jota.
Wolves’ obtaining the services of the young Atletico Madrid midfielder on-loan was always a statement of intent this season for Villa’s Midland rivals, and it’s hard to argue with a return of five goals in six games for the month.
Villa will get a closer look at the 20-year-old Portuguese attacking midfielder in their upcoming clash at Molineux after the international break.
Also nominated are Norwich midfielder James Maddison and Bristol City centre back Aden Flint.
The 20-year-old Norwich midfielder struggled to get into the team last season and spent a period of it on loan north of the border at Aberdeen. This season though he’s hit the ground running, conducting Norwich’s midfield and scoring some decent goals.
Meanwhile, after being mooted to leave Bristol City in the summer and missing several games at the start of the season, Flint has since formed a sound partnership with ex-Villan Nathan Baker at the heart of the Robins defence, also scoring three goals in six starts.
However Johnstone and Bruce get on in their respective awards, it’s a good sign to have such nominations and hopefully Villa will be getting a few more during the course of the season as evidence of a serious promotion push.