When Steve Bruce was announced as Aston Villa manager this week, the details regarding his contract were sketchy at best. The Daily Mail online had indicated (wildly) that Bruce was on a five-year contract, before seeing the error of their ways and removing it from their story.
If Roberto Di Matteo was on a two-year contract – which translates to ‘get us promoted within two seasons’ – why would Bruce get five? He’s hardly Jose Mourinho.
Xia’s Contract Dilemma
Considering Tony Xia & the Recon group’s position only promotion by the end of the 2017/18 season, at the latest, will see their gamble of buying Villa in the Championship pay off.
If the club wallows in the Championship for any longer, then there will be no Premier League TV revenue to fund Xia’s plans and the parachute payments will have dried up. Villa will suddenly become a drain on the current owners.
The remit for Steve Bruce is simple and he will be seen as a failure, if promotion hasn’t been achieved by the above timeframe. Those are the stakes he takes the job under.
There’s also another factor to consider in terms of his contract. While some supporters and the club have celebrated his record of four Championship promotions, what happens if/when promotion is achieved? Because as soon as that is achieved he is no longer, on paper at least, the “best man for the job”. His Premier League record (10th being his best ever finish) does not match up with Xia’s projected ambition.
Now a really good manager would potentially only have one Championship promotion to his name, because if they either took over a Championship club or worked a team through the divisions, a truly good manager probably wouldn’t have to work in the Championship again, if they were doing their job!
I doubt Rafa Benitez will ever have more than one Championship promotion to his name, if he gets the Geordies out of their current predicament.
This is worth pointing out to showcase Steve Bruce’s overall journeyman reputation as a manager of yo-yo clubs – an identity that Aston Villa don’t really want to add to.
I doubt Bruce would have been considered a ‘sexy choice’ by Villa owner Tony Xia when he initially bought the club, but of course, Xia’s fast coming to terms with the reality and practicalities of running a football club and the current situation at Villa Park.
So with this in mind the rolling contract that Villa CEO Keith Wyness has been issued makes perfect sense.
It indicates that the focus of the Bruce appointment is promotion and no doubt they’ll be a healthy bonus for achieving that factored into the contract.
‘It’s a rolling contract so there’s no confusion. In essence every contract is a rolling contract,” said Wyness. “It’s something I did back at Aberdeen so that’s a long time ago. Everton was more fixed term, but rolling contracts are the right way to go.’
Essentially, beyond the Championship, it is up to Steve Bruce to prove himself at the biggest club he has managed so far in his career. If he turns the team around and the Villa supporters buy into what he is doing and attendances are back up, then it’ll be happy days for both manager and club.
I would imagine the rolling contract would carry on through the first season back in the Premier League, before being reassessed at the end of that season, in terms of whether it would turn into a fixed-term deal.
In short, the current Villa boss has a massive opportunity to make his mark (and make a lot of fans happy along the way), but the club has a no-nonsense financial insurance policy against another Villa manager failure.
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