Last chance saloon for Steve Bruce and Aston Villa

Chris Knight by Chris Knight / 13 October 2016, 14:22

The Sack Race contributor, and Aston Villa fan, Chris Knight (@Chris_Knight84) has his say on the club's decision to appoint Steve Bruce as Roberto Di Matteo's replacement...

...In the end, there was nowhere left to go for Aston Villa and Steve Bruce. Like the last two drunken singles left in a squalid Reflex nightclub on a Friday night, their eyes met across a hazy room before they shrugged and made the first tentative steps across a sticky dance floor towards one another.

Both have seen better days but beggars can't be choosers. In their prime, one was attracting envious glances from across Europe and the other was a gracefully greying manager who had the self-confidence to flutter his eyelashes in the direction of the national team, only to be rejected. Twice.

Their initial embrace was a little uneasy, what with Bruce and his previous dalliance with cross-city rivals Birmingham, but there is potential for a relationship to develop from these dark beginnings...

How did it come to this? 

For Bruce, this is a last chance to manage one of the bigger clubs, historically at least, in England and his record at this level is excellent. The 55-year-old has been promoted four times but he will have to produce something special to turn a team with ten points from eleven games into genuine top-six challengers this term.

For Villa, they need to be promoted this season. Too many 'big' clubs have found going straight back up harder than expected and Villa have no greater right to instant promotion than Leeds, Nottingham Forest, Sheffield Wednesday or Derby County before them.

Mental Fragility

They have spent plenty of money in their quest for promotion by signing players with proven Championship experience but these new additions have a shelf life. The likes of Tommy Elphick, Mile Jedinak, Albert Adomah and Ross McCormack are either approaching or are the wrong side of 30 and they have no resale value. They simply have to do the job this season.

In Bruce, they do at least have a manager with a proven track record and he is capable of getting the best out of players in the Championship.

Time

Bruce needs the one thing he is unlikely to be afforded. Time.

Aston Villa's owner, Dr Tony Xia, has already shown the tact, class and patience of Donald Trump when (allegedly) in the presence of a nubile, young blonde woman during his short stint at the club.

Robert Di Matteo was given short shrift and left broken-hearted by Xia, despite spending the summer offloading the deadwood that made Aston Villa a laughing stock last season.

As with so many Villa managers before him, Bruce has been left to pick up the pieces of an almighty mess.  

Lower Expectations

It doesn't get better than this for either Villa or Bruce. The club have already found that their glory days of old are no longer enough to lure younger, more promising models to Villa Park, with the likes of Lee Johnson, Sean Dyche and David Wagner distancing themselves from the position before Bruce was appointed. While Bruce has had to lower his own expectations as the Championship may prove to be the limit of his ambitions as a manager. 

The pair are in the right place at the right time for one another. For both of their sakes they need this relationship born from an uneasy start to be a long-term success.

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Steve Ball
Steve Ball
(Colchester United)
23rd February
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