The headline might seem a bit of a wind-up. But after the weekend, the simmering question has moved front and center—among a whole host of other questions that were already there.

So, there’s not much good to write about this week, there’s plenty bad, and Saturday was just downright ugly. That’s it for my schtick.

Let’s start with what we do know. Following that dismal outing against Blackburn, we’re playing Brighton to close out the season and Jonathan Kodjia has a broken ankle. Beyond that, it seems as though we have almost as much uncertainty as ever heading into the close-season.

We think Tony Xia will hold on to Villa, as rumors of him selling up are apparently “complete rubbish”. We think Bruce might still be the manager. We imagine a number of loanees will be leaving permanently. One would also imagine Steve Round and the rest of the backroom staff are staying. It seems there will be more incomings during the window.

But of course, the biggest questions surround Bruce, the squad, tactics, and to what extent Villa can hope to improve over the summer. Perhaps it was simply end-of-season lethargy that left us looking so inept against a Rovers team at home that desperately needed a win. Perhaps it was deeper. It seems deeper, given the reaction coming out of management. We’ve heard from Bruce for weeks that there’s a lot of work to do and that the performances have to be better. So we assume there’s work being done, but the performances don’t seem to reflect that.

These things sound all too familiar for Villans. What I can say is that to all appearances Bruce still doesn’t know his best XI or how to play them together, including the players purchased in January who would, as we understand it, have been sanctioned by Bruce. We don’t seem to be able to win without either Kodjia or Mile Jedinak on the pitch. Basically, we don’t seem to have actually progressed.

Of course we did find a couple of good streaks and some long overdue wins—hadn’t had many of those in recent years. But whereas at one point we hoped they signaled the start of something coming together, the last few matches have brought that into serious question. Instead of kicking on with the pressure off, these performances instead indicate to many that we’re lost at sea and Bruce is flailing. I couldn’t argue against that…not very strongly, anyway.

The counter-argument, of course, is that the rot was so deep, and the club left in such a shambles, that to expect much more this year was unwarranted. And to a degree I can accept it.

However, with so many new players, a new owner, two new managers…It’s hard to understand how such a hangover could persist so long. Some of those in the know suggest the depths were such that this shouldn’t be hard to understand.

At any rate, we’re now left wondering whether Brighton takes on added significance for Steve Bruce. Does another woeful display spell trouble for the gaffer? Is he about ready to walk on his own? Can we view the game, at this stage of the season, as a referendum of whether the players want to play for Bruce? In my book, if they have any pride and any regard for Bruce, they’ll show it. Unless, of course, he’s preventing them from showing it.

It almost seems that once safety was secured, however precarious the matches and routes to victory, the players didn’t have it in them to push for that improbable sixth playoff spot, and instead they…what? Downed tools, or just lumbered through an inevitable run of poor results that they could’ve always had in the preceding run of victories?

Once again, is it all down to Bruce’s formations, tactics, and team choices leaving Villa looking poor? Or is it the players? All of the above? Bottom line, it’s become impossible to avoid asking if Steve Bruce is simply in over his head.

It might not be fair…football rarely is to managers these days, but Dr. Tony’s focus on a quick return to the top tier and the money he’s invested obviously generate pressure. Bruce was carefully vetted coming in, but do Xia and those who compiled the dossier feel as comfortable with the choice as they did before the holidays?

We’ll soon find out. And Bruce being here over the summer won’t necessarily imply the confidence is there. As many have said, the clock most definitely seems to be ticking. For me, I wanted stability. Villa need it. By the same token, if we’re not in the top three or four come Christmas, then something’s wrong. And if we don’t get out of the traps quickly, Christmas might well be too late to make a change.

Dr. Tony has shown he’s not afraid to make a change, even when the manager was his idea. He’s held up his end of the bargain so far, and has got every right to demand returns. Just as we long-suffering supporters do.

I don’t know how this turns out, but I do know that if Villa don’t put in a truly credible performance against Brighton, I wouldn’t be surprised to be writing about Bruce’s departure in the days or weeks following.

Over to you.


Reminder: John Flanner’s book ‘Beautiful Game, Beautiful Memories,’ is available today, 4 May. Copies are available on Amazon and Kindle, and you can find out more about John by visiting his website at:

Comments 71

  1. JC,

    I do get the impression sometimes – especially after last week – Bruce seems to be fed up with what’s happening, but he seems to put it down to some kind of “away match syndrome”.

    If there’s a repeat at home then he *might* just ‘up’ and go. And it’s a big ‘might’, because without the Jedi and Codger he would have some grounds for saying his best players were not around to make a difference. But I don’t see him being sacked.

    In reality I feel that Bruce sees the situation as something to be put right between now and August. He’s had a difficult job, and more difficult than we might think, and at least he’s manoeuvred Villa into a safe position.

    After the previous 5 or 6 years I feel that’s at least given some better stability. Lower than our expectations, perhaps, but then fans always want better, don’t they?

  2. Good morning JC. Thank you for clearly describing the two big points of view.

    Hello, JL. “In reality I feel that Bruce sees the situation as something to be put right between now and August.” Let’s hope so. We certainly don’t want worse. I think, as Mark has previously argued, can Bruce put it right? That is the big question? Is it enough time given the aim of promotion?
    In my view, the Brighton game means something. If Villa perform poorly, Bruce should go.

  3. Good morning each,
    Good leader John, a fair appraisal of the facts providing a clear argument for and against.
    JL, I have to agree with your observation I for one never thought five ,six years of slow decline could be turned around last summer and see us come out firing, I lived in hope though.
    We Villa fans have a very high threshold when it comes to expectation, we expect it all…right now!
    The reality is, a lot rebuilding took place and its still work in progress. I would stick with Bruce at this stage, I really dont fancy us this weekend. I get the feeling SB and the squad just want to get this season put to bed and start preparing for next season.
    I recall getting promoted in 1988, finishing above Middlesborough on goal difference if my memeory serves me right. During the following summer there was a massive ground swell of expectation for the new season in the top flight with Villa fans on the ‘phone in shows, (no blogs then) convinced “we may not be quite good enough to win the league but we’ll settle for the cup and kick on from there” maybe you remember all that JL.
    Next season in the top division 1988/89 we avoided relegation by vertue of the fact we scored a goal more than Middlesborough.
    I sat in a pub in Derby late in that season having seen the Villa get done 2-1 and we were all resigned to the fact we were going straight back down. So much for expectation.
    We will be ok and I think Steve Bruce can finish in the top two next season, I don’t think sacking Bruce ,if we lose this weekend will strengthen our hand, lets go with it.
    The journey continues, and JC, thats my schtick.

  4. Excellent summary JC,

    I am of the mind that Bruce is in above his head, and am really concerned at where we are. Two years ago we were in the Premiership and struggling, but we still managed to beat Everton and Liverpool, before we collapsed at Soton, and then lost the Cup Final, but the team of today is not even capable of beating Burton Albion and Blackburn Rovers, whilst smaller clubs in the Championship, and above us have given extremely good account of themselves.

    We have not really made any progress along the road, and are perhaps further away than when the good Doctor took over. We have managed a few spells of consistency, but only at a very low level, and have failed to really utilize the newly recruited players to the best of their ability, with perhaps the exception of Chester, Johnstone and Taylor. As for the likes of Bree, Hourihane, Hogan and Lansbury, we are still waiting for the payback. Jedinak has just been an average steady influence, but his distribution most of the time has been abysmal.

    We have failed to really utilize any of our young players, and give them an opportunity to shine, apart from Green. Grealish has never really been played in a position that suits him, and does not get the encouragement to develop in the way that he should be.

    When oh when will we recruit a manger in the style of a Pochettino, who gets out on the pitch with the players, and has the skills and the mindset to put his words into reality .

    The days of the old duffer sat behind a desk barking out orders and criticism have long since gone if you are looking for success.

  5. Archie,

    Yes, I remember those 1988 days quite well. And 1974, which was the aftermath of the huge disappointment at not even getting anywhere near promotion after being 3rd the previous year.

    But in these days of blogs and instant messaging the past and what you can learn from it seems to be lost on quite a few! Bless ’em! 😉

    I really have not talked to anyone that thinks that Bruce is the bees-knees, but he has a good enough c.v. for the job at hand and after the previous debacle we’ve known another sacking will not help our cause one bit. Ideally the correct manager should have been brought in last summer. He wasn’t, and we have to live by that as I see it.

  6. JL,

    Agreed…I think it’s unlikely he’ll be sacked unless there’s discontent in the camp that we’re not aware of. Dunno how much of a planner Xia is, but one wonders if other dossiers have been compiled over the last couple months.

    Also agree that Bruce seems very frustrated. The comment on the previous thread about lack of individual fitness programs was troubling. Would’ve thought that was a given. Like a lot of things we’d have thought were givens that apparently haven’t been happening over the years.

    So we find ourselves back at the point where we ask why is Bruce having so much trouble getting his ideas across?

  7. And, indeed, one would think Bruce would be ‘good enough’ to get the job done. I’m just not sure what he thinks they’ll accomplish over the summer that they haven’t been able to work out over the last four months of regular, competitive games and training.

  8. Archie,

    “we’ll settle for the cup and kick on from there”…Villans are nothing if not ‘optimistic’!

    There’ve always been big expectations from the supporters as you say, and we’re pretty sure Xia has the same ambitions. For his part, it will come down to knowing when to have patience and if/when to pull the plug.

    I’m guessing he’s pretty antsy at this moment. Would love to hear what he’s being told by Bruce, Round, etc., as to what’s not been going right, and how it’s going to get fixed.

  9. Morning, Iana…

    Thanks. I hope I’m not sounding like I want to have it both ways. I’m just at a bit of a loss, on the gut level, to explain things. If I were Xia, I’d likely be losing at least a little sleep over the matter, and asking very pointed questions. Which I’m sure he has been.

  10. I don’t think Steve Bruce is in over his head. I expect he’s never actually had to deal with the same level of pressure to get promotion whether it be 1 or 2 years, he may be equipped to get unfancied sides promoted but may not have the answers when the pressure is immediate.

    Footballing wise, he went very very, very, very cautious, taking the approach preventing goals is the springboard to getting points on the board and overly reliant on Kodija to make his own goals. It wasn’t a footballing formula for success but a simplistic approach to a problem when perhaps a bit more guile, thought and progressive football may have achieved better results or better in-game performances. It certainly would have proven confidence in the forward players brought in, in January, however they were so far away from the strikers they’d forgotten to get off the bus Bruce had parked in front of Johnstone.

    Certainly, next season we should put to bed the excuse that Villa are so in turmoil that they can’t play football following years of neglect. While I acknowledge Lerner ripped the heart out of the club, most of the players in the first team have joined under Dr.T and therefore look at this as another job in a bigger club, feck the heart.

    I have to acknowledge we are quite accomplished in defence, Johnstone is proving why Man U have him and we want him, he’s young and will have a fantastic career hopefully we recognise it and sign him up, the back four of Hutton, Chester, Baker, Taylor have developed fine understanding of the defensive function, perhaps Hutton will make way for Bree because he (Hutton) offers little going forward despite putting in a shift for us and not moaning.

    Midfield and forwards is where Bruce’s problems lie, either through inconsistency of selection, the parking of the bus to protect the back four or playing a system not suited for the players, this is a glaring issue that needs to be resolved. Jedinak no doubt provides the midfield general role but is a bit long in the tooth and probably will be even more injury prone next season, we can’t rely on Kodija forever as it’s easy to mark a player out of a game and we far from play to Hogan’s strengths.
    But if you look at the manager and his number 2, both defensive minded players, we could do with a forward/midfield coach to get this working.

    I’m as you are all aware very doubtful Bruce will get things going enough to obtain another 30+ points from a season unless there is a sea-change in approach and perhaps the old dog can be taught new tricks but I’ve seen no evidence this season to suggest he is trying to change things so doubt it will happen over a few games who’s purpose is to work on player fitness.

    Love to see an entirely experimental side against Brighton, more youth and a different formation with Hourihane playing behind Hogan in the final game, if not it will be another waste of a game.

  11. A lot of sense above, & the fact that there is still something not quite right internally is a given, but we know little of the actual sticking points.
    Things appear to be moving slower than anticipated by Bruce [unless he actually is a little out of his depth] as said, but I have the impression it needs more energy to bring some dynamism into the mix, which could include a manager of that ilk being sourced.
    We will find out later in the year probably, although I have a sneaking feeling that the Doc could decide to change things earlier as he appears to act fairly quickly when he decides something.
    As for the match, I agree with you Darren that it would be good to see more of the kids playing as there is little to lose [except for Bruce his job], & if we win it may be by accident unless the players play in a way that they can be freer, whether it be a change in system or mentality with too much fear as the basis of recent performances.

  12. good write up jc
    same for pp and dor
    read this elsewhere bree houirane lansby and hogan where among the 4 best players in this league from august to january when all of a sudden they look like boots are on wrong feet ,running in treacle why? yes it can happen to 1 but all 4
    and we have all done things 4 times doesnt make us experts in it?

  13. Hi JC thanks mate, you know I agree with half of it anyway 🙂

    Ian G just hit the nail on the head we play with a fear mindset, we should be feared ourselves, we are a big fish and while you should never take any game or team for granted we should not be wetting our pants either. At other clubs Steve Bruce has operated a safety first operation, its served him well but his sides did win by more than one goal occasionally, they have never been high scoring teams but they clearly must of ventured out 3-4 times in some games.

    I cannot buy that the club is in a malaise still, at least not the team. Many people lost their jobs so maybe a sense of community is lacking thats yet to emerge among employees? As for the players, they turn up, Train, get in the car and go home, maybe that is a problem to? no extra work, no social life together maybe? I know that we have only just employed a personnel trainer for the Gym which seems lax as rdm had the Italian stallion fitness trainer from day one, I wonder how much the players are just left to get on with it? seems mad with all the changes by Round.

    One of the first things that happened when round came in and a couple of weeks before Bruce turned up was a sports psychologist arrived, looks like he’s just a home game SP and we need an away Game SP too?

    To me its just not using our players to best effect, we saw what we could do under RDM attacking wise and we have seen a solid defence ( 5 man with Jedinak) shame we could not find someone more middle ground to manage us.

  14. Nice piece JC thanks for that. Some good additions too, DOR especially. As for right back in DOR’s team i would like to see DeLeat and what about Sanchez as back up for Jedi’s role, he might do really well in that role. I’d love to see Gil back for a run out too, cant be worse than our Jack the lad.
    Other than that looks pretty good, but we do need a Barry type player that can put is foot on the ball, look up and then complete a pass, if we had that i would be more than happy without spending too much this summer.

  15. I was at John Flanner’s book launch this evening, and Tony Morley was present and made a few comments to those present.

    One thing was that he said to Keith Wyness that Villa’s performances (even at VP) were not up to scratch. He said that Wyness’s response was that the players felt intimidated. “What!”, said Tony, “These players should be proud to play at Villa Park…” and intimated that they should be playing like lions, not pussy cats.

    Tony was deputising for Peter McParland who was too unwell this morning to make the trip for the launch.

  16. Hi CV, Thanks for the kind comment, forgot about DeLaet, absolutely first choice with Bree as understudy.

    I’d give the loanees a chance to prove themselves before selling them or getting rid of those who don’t want to play a part in Villa’s future.

  17. JL
    Sounds like the book launch was a worthwhile event.
    Glad to hear Morley wasn’t a pussycat with Wyness, let him know how he feels.

    Hope Super Mac gets well soon.

  18. Love Morley’s commentary on the radio…doesn’t pull punches. Glad he had a word with Wyness.

    As for the psychological side of things (wish Jenny could share some insight), I’m not surprised to hear Wyness say they’re intimidated. But as Morley says, only one real way to get over that and that’s to just get stuck in and show some attitude.

  19. Iana,

    John Flanner is certainly an inspirational speaker, and that’s what he does, as a job.

    Was most impressed by the people that he has around him and the support they’ve given him for decades apparently. Lovely people.

    One lady in that group was telling me that John went to give a talk to some youngsters, and after he’d finished, one boy said: “I am so sorry that Mr. Flanner is blind”. Another boy retorted: “I’m glad he is, because that’s what’s caused him to be able to speak like that”.

  20. Clive,

    If you’re reading this I saw your mate Rob Bishop last night. He seems to be a bit slimmed down from what I remember! Working one day per week now on the Villa programme.

  21. JC: “As for the psychological side of things (wish Jenny could share some insight)…

    Yes, I agree. But to me it’s all basically down to the fact that the very basis from which Villa became great over and over again up to the 1990s was that a programme was installed that brought about a belief and that hard work achieves all.

    Most players these days seem to like to be wrapped up in cotton wool, but you get the odd exceptions. One upon a time players were generally tough-minded. Just some needed pushing, not the majority.

    It’s self-belief that’s the key factor, and that can only come from within the player – perhaps encouraged by someone like Ron Saunders who would wind up players like Tony Morley to get the best out of him. Morley said last night that the way that Goal Of The Season at Everton (1980-81) came about was that Ron had got him so all fired up with threats of being replaced by Mark Walters that it made him go out and produce what he did that day.

    It seems that it’s being said that Mourinho is “humiliating players” by questioning their commitment. Well, good for him I say, if that’s what it takes to make them earn their crust.

    Take me back to the ’50s, Scotty!! It was a real game back then.

  22. John Flanner’s Book not yet on Amazon

    I’ve heard the following from the publishers:

    The Amazon account is awaiting sign-off by Amazon. I should hear any day
    about it. I will also chase up Kindle.

    All the work has been done. They just have to do a compliance check before
    things can go live.

    Sorry about that … perhaps keep checking every 2 or 3 business days, or if I hear more I’ll let y’all know.

  23. I wonder how much the change in players has come about over the years, as those playing in the 50’s and 60’s had all done National Service, and understood about discipline and had backbone.

    How much have we lost as a country by doing away with it and not helping young people to cope with life, including being away from home. Most European countries still maintain some form on National Service, and I believe that we should.

    Players are much younger on the whole today, and have had very little chance iun many cases to develop in their life away from the football world before suddenly becoming very wealthy young men in contrast to their counterparts.

  24. Paul,

    Yes, I empathise a lot with what you’ve just said.

    I just missed National Service, but I made sure that I made up for it to some extent by going out on toughening up trips of various kinds.

    As an alternative to NS a system of public service should have bene instituted, i.m.o.

  25. JL,

    I do agree with where you’re coming from. We wondered at the beginning of the season whether such a clearly stated one-year (ahem, two-year) promotion push was just heaping a different kind of pressure on the players (versus the constant threat of relegation).

    That said, it really is only just football…they’ve all been playing in front of crowds for a long time, and most have been doing it well. You sort of have to have self-belief to do what they do in the first place.

    I’ve seen what I believed was ‘institutional malaise’ in other teams in other sports, but usually there was a constant like the coaching staff or some such.

    Maybe the task is too big for some of them. Maybe they’re just not comfortable with the expectations that come with being at a big club. Dunno, in the end. I would’ve thought they’d tasted enough success this season, but maybe it was all too shaky and the emphasis on ‘not losing’ has shackled them and got them thinking too much.

  26. JC: ” You sort of have to have self-belief to do what they do in the first place.”

    Yep, but Wyman seems to think they lack the bottle to play at VP.

    And I think he’s not far wrong … there are precious few players (as we keep on saying Jedi and Codger and even Hutton – and Lansbury) that look as though they try to bust a gut, but otherwise they look as though they’re there to just link arms.

    What’s happened to the fire that was in the players back in the 50s, 70s and 90s?

  27. In fact I think it’s this ‘lack of bottle’ that Bruce talks about when he’s remonstrating about the lack of performance that the players produce, and the ‘work to be done’.

    Maybe that’s mainly the factor that will be addressed this summer – one of attitude.

  28. Going back to the title of the thread, is Brucie in over his head, I would have to say I don’t believe so at this level, but if we do get promoted, I just cant see it working. How ever, he does have an eye for putting round pegs in round holes, and square pegs in square holes, for example he took our Liam from a shaky center back always ready to give away a penalty, and turned him into a very reliable left back down the road did he not.
    Also ” no to Defoe” that train left the station a long long time ago, mess us around once shame on you, twice shame on us!!

  29. I like Morley a straight talker, once said Gabby should never play for the club again, I agree as it would of sent out a message that we are serious not a Kindergarten. I don’t know whether Bruce turned to Gabby out of Desperation or because he had to sell some players in Jan and Gabby is unsellable or he truly rates him.

    This must be the only club that can find players with such crippling complexes, I really am fed up to the back teeth with this rubbish now, when I was there age I would have crawled on my hands and knees to Villa to play and they don’t seem unable to take the money do they?

  30. Mk
    The players don’t even have to turn up & get it with some.
    Agree about Morley, & I still think he was right about Gabby.
    There was a time when if a chance came they gave it 200%, but now the kids are well off before they even get in the first team squad, & I do wonder how much attitude is to come.
    An attitude comes from not being focused so there is space for one [unless they came with one of course].
    Playing from fear means you have an almost schizoid situation so you’re rarely properly in the flow of the game or up to the pace as you’re thinking instead of playing.
    As Tony M said, ‘it’s a simple game’ which seems to have gone out of the window.
    It has to be connected to the underlying culture in the club in my view, so how long before the dynamic changes I wonder.

  31. Simple game, and a simple way to get into it: run. If nothing else, run your way into the game. Chase, close down, tackle…impose yourself.

  32. I have to ask why we are the only club that talks about our players being to in awe to perform ? (or anywhere) they certainly were not in awe when they played against us?

    Also should we not be better away from home in that case? Tell someone what they have to do and how and you take away the fear. They are International players on the whole, I find the whole thing ridiculous. Our whole philosophy was based on players with character, where is it? where is the personal pride? forget the team, forget us, Be better than the player in front of you or at least strive to be.

  33. I doubt the current manager and his coaches are top drawer. We need a better management team at Villa, who takes no nonsense from players, but is fair and does what’s best for the club. We need a manager whom the players fear a bit.
    Gabby should go eisewhere to finish his career.

  34. Iana,

    Yes the management team is not top draw, but (probably apart from Garde) as good as anyone else we’ve had these past 6 years.

    Mark says that the manager sets the mood, and that has to be correct. So Bruce *did* set the mood, and got wins where previously there were none to be had! But the underlying atmosphere in the club from before filtered through too strongly, and that is what has to be completely eradicated.

    That is what will happen between now and August, during which time players like Bacuna and Gardner (sadly) will go, or become part of the background unless they greatly improve.


    You say an attitude comes from not being focused, and that is correct, but the influences on the players to put them in that state is varied, though the common root is probably to do with the fact that life for them is so much easier these days. To achieve they need to have the inner desire to ‘get there’, but too few do, and those that do soon want away to a scene where the action is.

    And according to what is being filtered through we have this dimension of fear.

    As we’ve discussed before, the old ‘Villa Way’ would likely put things straight and hopefully (as Round has mentioned it) that’s exactly what they’re working on.

  35. jL- I’d agree except why does it appear to be just us? granted times have been bad at Villa in recent years but who’s left? Hutton, Bacuna, Richards, Amavi, Gabby otherwise you Have GG who’s been on loan and Baker the same. I cannot believe that those 5 would bring the whole team down to there level, and you have to ask why is Bruce playing them?

  36. Mark,

    My oft-stated reasoning is that we are different because of how the club has been brought down until 2016 and the effect on the running of the club, and attitudes generated in that time.

    We’re still suffering from ‘the hangover’ in my view.

  37. JL
    In football & other sports fear thrives in games because of being given the environment it needs.
    In days gone by there were also distractions which snared players into not performing & sometimes becoming casualties, such as alcohol, night clubs & gambling, so it’s not a new phenomena.
    Fear as a habit from ‘hangovers’ now has a new meaning…
    I was talking about in game fear problems coming from not being able to function well in the moment, which I think has more to do with the state of the interaction between the background staff & the coaching staff’s work with the players in training, causing confusion in the moment as the players have to think instead of doing spontaneously in real game time.
    You can get used to being cr*p, & hide behind it so as not to stand out, which has to come from the culture in the club not coming together.
    Also it ruins good players unfortunately.

  38. JL,

    I’d agree about the lack of bottle…but I’m not sure not sure we’re talking about whole-person character instead of the player on the pitch (which is what Ian and Mark are getting at).

    McCormack is the only one of the new boys who has had attitude problems, but it appears he’s been struggling with something deeper.

    I know it’s a long-dead topic, but the bottle bit was why I was always open to the idea of Joey Barton being on the team. Or let’s say a Joey Barton “type”, minus the innate thuggery—someone who doesn’t take losing well and has no intention of letting an opponent get the better of him. I guess you’d say he takes it personally, for better or worse. But anyway…you know what I mean.

  39. Ian G yes they have done really well under ex Villa defender David Hughes he’s a decent coach, more in line with what I would like to see at first team level.

  40. IanG, Mark—

    I definitely think there’s something to either the ‘style’ or training that’s awry. Totally agree that it seems like players are still unsure of each other, which makes them unsure of themselves, as you say. And if they’re all uncomfortable or uncertain with what they’re being asked/told to do, then it obviously will show up in their play.

    It seems chicken-or-egg to me…Dunno whether it’s the wrong players brought in for what Bruce wants to do, or whether Bruce isn’t training and using them properly.

    For example, I’m still not sure why we sold Gestede. The way we’re lumping it forward and asking Kodjia or Hogan to try and be a hold-up player, Rudy was obviously much more suited to that role. A 4-4-2 with him and either Kodjia or Hogan gives you that big-little combination to get the ball to stick and do something with it.

    And given our low-scoring ways, I would’ve wanted to keep the aerial ability he brings. I think he might’ve done well given Hourihane’s ability to deliver a good ball in set-piece situations. Maybe he just was unhappy coming off the bench, or we wanted the money, I don’t know, but given Bruce’s proclivities so far, Gestede going didn’t seem to make much sense tactically.

  41. JC- I agree mate its was baffling, the bloke had 4 goals and hardly started as well. Bruce sold him then played two wingers in Green and Adomah?? I can only think he was told he had to lighten the wage bill and an offer came in, I do think he was a make-weight in the attempt to get Rhodes, maybe Rhodes wanted big Bucks or just didn’t want to come back to the champs. Even more Baffling when we went for Hogan although Lansbury and Hourihane were to deliver the assists for him and Kodjia. Thing is though most of Hourihanes assists are from dead ball situations so ideal at set pieces for our old mate Gestede.

  42. Mark-

    I defo thought Gestede going meant Rhodes was coming…though you’d have thought they’d have had it all worked out so the Rhodes piece wasn’t in question.

  43. JC: “McCormack is the only one of the new boys who has had attitude problems, but it appears he’s been struggling with something deeper.”

    No, I was referring to a general malaise generated within the club rather than the individual type that you allude to. You can say that the new players shouldn’t have been affected by that, but I feel that that ‘atmosphere’ and the overall weight of expectation has had a detrimental effect. Such is the fragility of players today, I feel.

    But – as I said earlier – what happens next season will determine for me what is true.

  44. Steve Bruce:

    “You’ve got to be a very, very good player to perform at Aston Villa because the demand is on you.

    “The big stadium, the big support, the big this, that and the other becomes a pressure on you and you’ve got to handle it.”

  45. “You’ve got to be a very, very good player to perform at Aston Villa because the demand is on you.

    “The big stadium, the big support, the big this, that and the other becomes a pressure on you and you’ve got to handle it.”

    True. He needs to walk the talk now.

  46. JL- How did lowly Leicester win the prem? sure other teams under performed but these were essentially mongrels in footballing terms, I don’t see fragility in the players of other clubs so the modern player line is overplayed imo. I missed National service by a fair measure and it never effected my bottle or mental toughness. In fact records in every sport continue to tumble through the application of better coaching and mental strength. We have excepted mediocre at Villa as the norm far beyond what I see in other clubs, it isn’t our greatness we have done nothing for to long in modern terms.

  47. I’m hoping the team can get a win with a convincing performance today. It’ll put a smile on Bruce’s face and give us a glimmer of confidence.
    I see Bruce said, the team needs strengthening in all areas. Sounds like more than two or three coming in.
    No football for Green or RHM during the break so that their reoccuring hamstrings get a chance to heal before preseason.
    We won’t be seeing Kodjia for around six months cause his tibia was broken and has had surgery.
    Gabby is injured. Xia should send him to China for special accupuncture treatment.

  48. Mark,

    Perhaps you’re underestimating the effect of 6 years of dross at VP on the club as a whole.

    Yes, I can see where you’re coming from, but Leicester – and certainly not any other big club – has been through the maladministration suffered here.

  49. Are you so sure John? portsmouth, blackburn, southampton are just three who have had awful owners and times, add QPR, west Ham, Notts forest, Derby teams have had transfer embargoes, even Newcastle have been in turmoil since Keegans days. does not stop them playing football as it seems to do us, if there is a correlation between the team performance and club atmosphere it surely is not as much as we are seeing. I really do think we need a better figure head and coaching, If these players have been brought through in modern times and have a mindset based on what they have learnt from that maybe it is at conflict with what they are being asked to do? certainly Hogans experience at Brentford was more in depth and focussed than he will be receiving here? Maybe bruce is too old school?

  50. Iana- As I have said many times Bruce likes a shopping spree so for me the whole stability thing is a fallacy, it was never going to be 2-4 players, I would not be surprised with 10 new players.

  51. Mark,

    None of the team you’ve quoted are “big” clubs (which is what I stated! 😉

    Apart from (arguably) Newcastle and they have not been run down in the way that Villa has.

  52. The team Villa had out at Brighton earlier this season in a 1-1 draw (14 shots from Villa va 7 from Brighton)

    1 Gollini
    21 Hutton
    12 Chester
    2 Baker
    23 Amavi
    15 Westwood
    25 Jedinak
    22 Gardner Substituted for Grealishat 67’minutes
    37 Adomah
    11 AgbonlahorSubstituted forJ Ayew at 55’minutes
    26 Kodjia

  53. JL In recent times they have won leagues and cups JL, how can forest be thought of as small, Blackburn also rich in history have won the prem ,we are rich in history poor in actual recent achievements, to a supporter these days that probably does not even remember the league and euro win we are nothing in modern club terms but also rans, so why would 20 something players care? where’s the pressure in that, perhaps we need to start winning and stop celebrating the 1890’s

  54. Mark,

    Clearly you and I have a different idea as to the meaning of what is “big”, 😉

    A lot of small teams win cups from time to time and I agree that Forest have done a lot more than other small clubs. But Villa’s overall tradition is hugely greater than Forest , apart from the actual size of the club.

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