‘Promotion won’t be a footballing journey, it’ll be a financial necessity’
By Paul Abdale
AT the start of the season many fans thought Steve Bruce had 10 games to save his job.
That was harsh. He probably has 11.
That’s how many league matches we’ll have played by the time the next international window rolls around.
Four more home games and two away.
Brentford, Boro, Forest and Bolton at Villa Park. Barnsley and Burton on the road.
They should be six very winnable fixtures for a side with ambitions of automatic promotion, but this is Aston Villa we’re talking about and we don’t do winnable.
How did we go into the current break – as a team with only one win in five or a side that has taken four points from the last six?
As a side ready to mount a challenge or as a side languishing in 18th place?
A team just four points from the play-off places or a team already seven points from the top two?
The victory and performance against Norwich was pivotal for Bruce.
That win kick-started a season which began as the last one finished – disjointed and underwhelming.
A team fancied by the bookies but still unable to find a consistent way of playing.
All the issues that should have been sorted out in pre-season still alarmingly evident.
Dr Tony announced over the summer that “one particular task this season is to dramatically improve our away results”.
So the performance at Cardiff – and the quotes from Bruce after the game – must have raised more than a few eyebrows from those inside the club.
You can admire his brutal honesty, but admitting he still can’t work out why we struggle in 50 per cent of our fixtures is not what the club hierarchy wants to hear.
It doesn’t want to hear many of the same post-match downbeat interviews that followed away defeats last season.
What it wants to hear is how the big-money signings are firing us up the league.
What it is desperate to see is how the players on big wages are justifying the club’s financial commitment to them.
And from a monetary perspective, the pressure on the manager – from inside and outside the club – is massive.
Dwindling parachute payments will cause us a headache, but we’ll get an economic migraine if Dr Tony is struggling to move money due to influence from the Chinese government.
Promotion won’t be a footballing journey, it’ll be a financial necessity.
It won’t have gone unnoticed in the Bruce household, when the good Dr tweeted, ‘A crucial month. Time to build confidence and ‘only results matter’ culture’.
I believe the translation is, ‘I don’t care how you do it, just get us up the table’.
And with the next six games, we have to go up the table.
A New Hope
The Norwich game gave us a platform and something to build on, and Keinan Davis gave us a reason to be excited (it doesn’t take much).
Who would have thought a kid from Biggleswade would look a better fit than a £9million signing from Brentford.
Hogan has often cut a frustrated figure in attack. Isolated and starved of service, playing with his back to goal rather than on the shoulder.
The ball gets lumped up to him and comes straight back. It’s not his fault, it’s not his game.
Against Norwich with Davis, the ball sticks and suddenly the midfield can move 10 metres up the pitch and look like performers instead of passengers.
With the promise shown by Davis, Josh Onomah and Andre Green there is genuine reason for optimism, and with the fit-again Mile Jedinak and Robert Snodgrass to add to the team we should be moving swiftly up the table. And that’s all before Kodjia returns.
If Bruce fails to get the side into at least the top six during September then the next equation tweet Dr Tony sends could well be ‘SB = P45’.
And the ‘social media vultures’ Bruce has complained about won’t just be circling, they’ll be picking at another Villa managerial carcass.
Make sure you follow Paul on Twitter here – @paulabdale
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