So after almost two weeks of waiting the worst kept secret in the Championship has been revealed, Steve Bruce is the new manager of Aston Villa.
Even a glance at the list of candidates would make any fan shudder but such is the dire situation Villa have plummeted to. With multiple promotions under his belt and vast experience in the English game Steve Bruce was probably the right man for the job.
The Easy Stuff
Villa need to turn things around fast and to do this Bruce needs to hit the ground running. The good news for the new man is that there are several simple things he can do to get the fan base onside and the results improving.
The first and most obvious thing for the new boss to decide on is tactics. After Di Matteo’s failure to set up the team in any recognisable shape this should be the easiest aspect.
For the moment a basic 4-4-2 would probably best suit the players at our disposal. This will mean selecting just two of our many strikers, but this should keep a healthy level of competition for places (something lacking at Villa for some time), and also means that there will be several options to change the game from the bench.
‘He may not be the hero we deserve, but he could be the one we need right now.’
Players playing in their natural positions is likely to get this stuttering team firing on all cylinders again, rather than the top-heavy but soft in the middle mess of previous months. It should also relieve pressure on a struggling midfield and add some sort of supply to the chosen forwards instead of hoping they will pull something out of thin air.
Points on the Board
While wins are obviously a must, the new man in the dug out is in an oddly fortuitous situation with regards to making an impression. If Bruce can get the tactics sorted, then its hard to see him not besting the awful win count of his most recent predecessors.
The timing of this managerial change was also a key factor. The international break halted any further stagnation in the league while giving the board a chance to do their due diligence on potential candidates and allowing Bruce at least a couple of days with the full squad before their next game.
A few goals, a couple of wins, and a scalp of the Blues and the feel good factor could well be back at Villa Park. If he has the audacity to actually win an away game then he’ll quickly be in the good books of Villa’s incredible away support, not to mention everyone else at the club.
Managing the Squad
Perhaps the most interesting challenge for Bruce will be how he manages the squad, and there are several issues for him to decide the best approach for. Rebuilding the identity of the club will require some new heroes and at least some of our academy players being involved is a must.
Jack Grealish is on a high after his star turn for the England U-21s and this must be channelled into his club form. The likes of Andre Green and Rushian Hepburn Murphy should also be utilised in some way, although the latter may struggle to get a look in with the sheer amount of strikers in the squad.
Bruce will also have to be firm in his intentions for some of last season’s pariahs. The likes of Gabby and Micah Richards could see a new boss as a new opportunity to impress, or Bruce may have made his mind up on certain squad members before he even arrived.
Finally Bruce will need to make a call on the goalkeeping situation. Gollini has potential but also loves a clanger. Bunn is the more experienced but there’s a reason he is a career back-up keeper. Jed Steer may be the beneficiary of the new man and at least deserves a chance to prove himself.
January is still too far away for any permanent replacement, so the opportunity is there for one of the men to stake a real claim between the sticks on both a short-term basis and beyond.
A History of the Blues
Steve Bruce arrives with baggage in the form of his previous stints at our arch rivals. Some pundits claim that this will lead to increased pressure on him, but much of the sensationalism around this move is just media muppets trying to whip up a story.
Many keyboard warriors have pulled up the point that despite the multiple Championship promotions to his name Bruce also has several relegations from the Premier League to his name. To those fans I would point out, that at the moment, Villa should be more worried about relegation from this division than the Premier League!
A relegation battle in the Premiership next season would be an improvement on where we currently find ourselves. We need to focus on the task at hand, stopping the rot and stabilising the club.
We all know that the club has had a rotten core and restoration is ongoing. For so long fans and boards alike have wanted a manager with a long term project to build and improve the club, we’re all sick of the managerial merry-go-round.
There is nothing wrong with wanting that but what our eagerness has clouded is the fact that there’s no point in building a house on foundations of sand. Let’s not forget Remi Garde project too fast, we must learn from our mistakes.
That is where I see Steve Bruce’s role at Aston Villa, not as a man to keep the helm for years to come, but an experienced hand to steady the ship. Villa need to plant roots before the club can grow again. Who better to plant roots than the man so many seem to view as a potato?
This is not the most inspiring or glamorous appointment of all time but Bruce must be given a fair chance and must be judged on results. I believe he will be. He may not be the hero we deserve, but he could be the one we need right now.
Without short-term improvement and solidity there can be no long-term. Best of luck to Steve Bruce, let’s hope you pay your cards right so Villa can banish the blues and bring some joy to our lives again.
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