This blog has stuck its head above the parapet in both writing and in the podcast by trying to remain on the fence with Steve Bruce.
That’s not to say that it might not ultimately be necessary, it sometimes is, but that if it can be avoided, then it should.
So, a Rotherham side with an abysmal away record arrived at Villa Park and lost 2-0; that victory alone should have been seized upon as a positive.
However, instead of focusing upon the positives from what was in large part an uninspiring, if efficient home win, we are instead drawn to the ill-advised and targeted post match comments of the manager.
Now, Bruce has come in for significant scrutiny of late, some of it over-reactionary in the grand scheme of our season, some of it overlooking our calamitous close-season preparations and the remainder, a justified bafflement at both selection, form and tactics.
There’s also been some pretty horrendous personal attacks on Bruce across social media, which whilst many wouldn’t entertain in rationale debate, can be too casually overlooked.
With that said, Bruce as a seasoned football manager and veteran of the game should, you would have thought, known better than to fire shots across the bows of both lifelong supporters and the local press.
Fans, are entitled to their opinion. Arguably, there is no right and wrong in this. Football is rooted in views on players, results, officials and everything that’s in between. Debate happens over pints, at work and in the modern era more broadly online. However, it’s certainly nothing new.
The press exist to question and hold public figures to account. Bruce is no different and it comes with the territory. Whilst certain quarters of the local media have written observational pieces on his performance, aside from James Nursey’s inaccurate unsettling Grealish transfer stories, Bruce has got off quite lightly.
Indeed, it would be my view that the local press have been too risk averse (for abject fear of losing access) to scrutinise both the clubs off-field performance and that of the manager’s failure to gain promotion after two seasons adrift in the Championship.
Steve Bruce (Post Match 18.09.18)
“The most intelligent people will see through all the nonsense and realise that we’ve got the makings of a decent team.”
To suggest what? That following football requires a level of superior intelligence to interpret, appreciate or make reasonable assumptions as to how the future may pan out?
It’s after-all a game so simple, that young children can play it with little other than a cursory explanation. It’s this simplicity that engrosses millions (billions?) of us to consume so much of the sport, in all its forms around the globe, from a young girl with a disability playing via the Villa Foundation to the OAP gent taking his seat for the Xth season in The Trinity.
Aston Villa isn’t, unfortunately for Steve Bruce, any different.
It’s not nonsense to examine a winless run or query the repeated selection of seasoned professionals out of position. Nor is it unreasonable for paying supporters to ponder what the reasons for a dour and uninspiring brand of football might be. It’s a results business, marketed as entertainment, is it not?
“I have got four promotions, last year I nearly had a fifth. Yet I don’t know what I am doing?”
“Unfortunately it filters through [to] the mad few.”
I also think to refer to sections of fans as the “mad few” is incredibly poor terminology to use from one of the most visible, quoted figures at the football club. It also suggests a level of delusion on Bruce’s part that discontent is consigned to an extreme minority, whom he should carelessly refer to as having a mental deficiency.
Whilst not a scientific barometer, a casual review of general consensus, opinion and discussion on social media cannot be readily discounted.
“We are Villa and the expectation and belief is huge but common sense is needed.”
“The supporters can see we had a bloody awful performance at Sheffield. Now we are sitting in sixth. I hope it shuts a few up. But I doubt it.”
Finally, Bruce is too readily dismissing a huge chunk of the fan-base as lacking common sense. We could, as an alternative, examine any number of managerial decisions lacking ‘common sense’? Such comments, do not ‘shut up’ a watchful, learned fanbase; it merely serves only to fuel the fires that could be put out with winning football matches.
This also detracts from the positives in a needless, unsavoury manner.
A first win in five that should have been seized upon to challenge any perceived narrative of negativity.
Or that the club is now back into the top six, with an opportunity to press towards the summit of the table should another win be secured against Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday.
Or that Tammy Abraham and Yannick Bolasie demonstrated more in ninety minutes (one as a cameo scoring sub) that many peripheral players have in their Villa careers?
An opportunity missed.
Nothing to see here.
— Villa Underground (@avfc_vilr) September 18, 2018
Perhaps though, these comments draw attention away from nagging issues that persevere?
Why, despite Rotherham’s lack of adventure or intent, did we invite needless pressure and opportunity? The visitors will rue gilt edged missed chances in both halves that could easily have changed the outcome.
Why is there so little momentum, flair and pace in our team?
Why are there long periods of games where we lose our way, unable to inspire, create or up the tempo?
Why, despite significant investment and recent managerial stability, is there no discernible style of play visible or emerging?
A win against Rotherham was deserved, certainly welcome, but the performance would not have been sufficient to put many in the division to the sword.
The uncomfortable truths, irrelevant of ones intelligence, are there for all to see.