Is Bruce the right man to get Villa back on track?

Birmingham Post - - SPORT - Foot­ball Ed­i­tor

STEVE Bruce, As­ton Villa man­ager. But for how long? Bruce’s fu­ture is among the mul­ti­tude of is­sues to be re­solved as Villa try to pick up the pieces of their dev­as­tat­ing fail­ure to achieve pro­mo­tion to the Premier League.

The 57-year-old has been on hol­i­day as he tries to re­cover from the crush­ing dis­ap­point­ment of the Cham­pi­onship play-off de­feat to Ful­ham at Wem­b­ley.

With the club in fi­nan­cial tur­moil, Bruce is yet to re­ceive assurances he will re­main in charge for next sea­son. There has been no pub­lic or pri­vate back­ing of the man­ager from club owner Tony Xia.

And there are even some sug­ges­tions he could walk if he isn’t sat­is­fied with the out­look for next sea­son, al­though we un­der­stand that’s un­likely.

Since the Wem­b­ley woes a fort­night ago, our web­site, Birm­ing­hamLive, has car­ried a Bruce ap­proval rat­ing poll ask­ing fans whether he should stay or go.

It has at­tracted more than 15,000 votes, with 61 per cent choos­ing ‘Yes, he’s the man to get us up’ and 39 per cent opt­ing for ‘No, he hasn’t achieved what he was asked’.

Bruce was a top-class de­fender and it seems his son, Alex, has fol­lowed in his dad’s foot­steps when it comes to de­fend­ing the Villa boss.

He ended a re­cent tweet en­dors­ing his fa­ther with the word ‘Fail­ure’ and a cry­ing-with-laugh­ter emoji. The in­fer­ence be­ing Bruce se­nior had ac­tu­ally suc­ceeded.

Ad­mirable loy­alty, but there’s no dis­put­ing the fact Bruce and Villa failed last sea­son. The brief was pro­mo­tion. Villa didn’t get pro­moted. Ergo fail­ure.

How ac­count­able Bruce that re­mains to be seen.

While some­body finds a pair of tweez­ers to pluck the splin­ters from my back­side let me ex­plain why I have mixed feel­ings about the man­age­rial sit­u­a­tion.

Bruce re­paired the bro­ken re­la­tion­ship be­tween the team and the fans, raised the stan­dards in the dress­ing room and helped pro­vide more wins and happy me­mories in 2017-18 than Villa have man­aged in the pre­vi­ous decade.

He also did it on a much tighter trans­fer bud­get than pre­de­ces­sor Roberto Di Mat­teo. The £2.5 mil­lion he had last sum­mer to shape his side wouldn’t even have bought Ross McCor­mack’s gates.

It was Bruce’s contacts, in­flu­ence and rep­u­ta­tion that at­tracted John Terry, Robert Sn­od­grass and Sam John­stone, al­though such play­ers come at a cost in terms of wages.

He’s got a bet­ter win ra­tio than any Villa man­ager since 1934, al­beit a level be­low where Villa are used to op­er­at­ing.

There’s no doubt he’s im­proved on what came be­fore, but the last 10 years set a very low bar for Villa is for and the land­scape at the club will look very dif­fer­ent in 2018-19 to last sea­son.

If the 57-year-old Ge­ordie sur­vives, it ar­guably needs to be a dif­fer­ent Steve Bruce.

Re­build­ing squads for long-last­ing progress is not ex­actly his forté as Sun­der­land fans, among oth­ers, will tes­tify.

If and when the dust set­tles on this seis­mic sum­mer, ‘pro­mo­tion, pro­mo­tion, pro­mo­tion’ can’t be the mar­ket­ing spiel.

Bor­ing as it sounds, it re­ally has to be ‘con­sol­i­da­tion, con­sol­i­da­tion, con­sol­i­da­tion’.

Villa must (gen­uinely) plan for the next five years and be­yond, not the off-chance that they might or might not sneak up next sea­son.

Is Bruce the man to carry that through? Can Bruce, at this stage of his career, use his ex­pe­ri­ence to adapt his philoso­phies or would a younger, fresher-think­ing man­ager with a track record of bring­ing through youth and a more aes­thet­i­cally pleas­ing way of play­ing be a bet­ter fit?

If it is to be baby steps in the right di­rec­tion rather than bungee cord leaps for­ward and back, and surely it has to be, then is Bruce the best man for the job?

Would he want to be? Could Villa pay off his rolling con­tract if they didn’t want him to? Is com­pen­sa­tion for a re­place­ment an­other cost too far?

There is some sense to the Dean Smith school of thought, but would even a boy­hood Villa fan risk their career at a bas­ket case of a club like this right now – and if this job chews up and spits out a man­ager with Bruce’s miles on the clock, how would a rel­a­tive rookie from here or abroad cope?

More ques­tions than an­swers... right now Martin Lewis, of bar­gain­hunt­ing Money Sav­ing Ex­pert fame, would be a bet­ter bet for the job than any­one!

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