At the start of the season when MOMS polled it’s readers as to when they expected promotion for Aston Villa from the Championship, they were mainly split over whether it was going to take one or two seasons. A slight majority of 45.7% felt it would take two seasons, while 42.4% expected instant promotion.
Before a woeful performance away to Norwich City that led to a 1-0 loss, Villa were three points off the play-offs with 26 games to go. Considering the club along with Newcastle had both spent combined more on their teams in the summer than the rest of the Championship combined, anything but making the play-offs would be seen as failure.
There’s no excuses. Even though Bruce has an inherited squad, in McCormack, Gestede and Kodjia, it had three strikers that had each previously bagged 20-goals in a season in the Championship and also Bruce’s former captain at Hull City, James Chester. Also, Tommy Elphick and Miles Jedinak were the type of players Bruce would have got in.
An automatic promotion spot should have been the destination, but after the owners made their first mistake in terms of the recruiting of their first Villa manager, you’d settle for fighting it out for promotion via the play-off’s.
Big Ron’s View
MOMS got to interview ex-Villa boss Ron Atkinson at the weekend and we asked for his thoughts on the current situation at Villa, and he didn’t seemed so convinced by Villa’s promotional credentials this season.
First of all, Atkinson suggested he was surprised by the fall from grace under Randy Lerner over the past five years.
“I didn’t quite see the demise [coming] that happened,” reflected Atkinson.
“I never met Lerner, who actually when he first came, everyone was quite favourable with him.
“Alright, I think he had some domestic situations and problems himself. We understand, he had to pull the plug financially.”
Putting his finger on what went wrong, Big Ron, was quick to highlight it was recruitment at both board level and on the pitch.
“What happened was for two years the recruitment was bad,” says the former Villa boss. “Because the recruitment, from what we understand, was being done by people who weren’t in the recruitment game.
“That always stood out to be to be a major problem.”
Atkinson shares the majority of Villa supporters’ optimism relating to Steve Bruce’s credentials to guide the team out of the league.
“Bruce is a proper football man and there will be more football-oriented men around him,” said Atkinson. “So I would assume that would improve things.”
The 1994 League Cup-winning Villa boss though suggests there is a question mark over whether Villa can bounce straight back to the top tier like they did in the 1987/88 season.
“This year it may be a bit much to expect them to go up this year,” offers Atkinson, agreeing with the majority of the MOMS readers polled at the start of the season.
“[Bruce] will aim particularly for the play-offs spots and he might as well aim for it, because in the past there’s teams that have done it (got promoted after poor starts). Ipswich, Crystal Palace and Sunderland certainly did, they zoomed up from a bottom three or four position.”
It won’t be easy, Big Ron concludes.
“It’s going to be very difficult, because when you look at the Championship now, the number of big clubs in it is unbelievable.”
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