A huge sigh of relief all round as Villa showed signs of life, attacking intent, and more than enough finishing to see off the visiting Canaries 4-2. First time in a while I’ve enjoyed doing this schtick.

The Good
Obviously four goals and a vital win.

You can’t really overstate the importance of the performance and the result. In what very well might have been a referendum on the clearly embattled and irritated Steve Bruce, the players stepped it up a gear, fluffed the usual early early scoring chance, got the goal they deserved, then added the all-important second before the half.

When Norwich pulled one back, Villa got another. Then pulled away again when the Canaries found a second.

As we all know, that initial two-goal cushion was crucial.

The hat-trick for Connor Hourihane was very well deserved. He might have had a bit of luck on the deflection, but it was luck earned, and it was his day. Andre Green’s excellent all-round performance was capped by a superb finish to open his account and put some misses behind him.

Keinan Davis also looked the part, setting up Hourihane’s opener with a perfect cross, showing good composure and strength on the ball, lots of motion and smart play. He and Green are obviously on the same wavelength, and Hourihane was right there with them.

Elmohamady shook off 30-some stitches and put in a good performance with a mix of tenaciousness, pace and clever, attacking intent.

And really, it was the combination of those four that made the day for Villa. Strong, fast, moving together, and showing class and skill (how many players did Green take on and beat?), they were a constant menace.

Hourihane himself could easily have had four, Davis was robbed by couple good saves, and Elmo was denied late by the crossbar. Chester will want back the header he powered over off a lovely delivery.

There’s more, but you get the idea. A really good day for those players who clearly made as strong a case for themselves as they could.

The Bad
Both goals conceded were eminently avoidable. Hutton was undone all day, and that finally led to the first, and Terry clearly switched off and was caught ball-watching for the second.

What was frustrating was that although Villa had backed off, Norwich were doing nothing much with the possession allowed and it all looked rather comfortable. But a couple smart balls and good finishes threatened to undo all of Villa’s work up front. If we hadn’t found the third, well…blowing a two-goal lead would’ve been a catastrophe for all concerned.

Bringing Bree on, although belatedly, was the right move. But Bruce really should just have started with him. As I’ve said before, he can’t be any worse a defender than Hutton, so I really don’t understand why you just don’t give Bree the minutes, let him grow into it, and close the book on a valiant but less talented player who has no long-term upside. De Laet really should be ahead of him in the pecking order, too.

Terry has also been less than rock-steady at the back. It will perhaps take a little time for him and Chester to work it out together, but he’s obviously not the player he was. Of course, he’s also shaking off rust since he didn’t feature that much last season for Chelsea, but he’s not really been an upgrade on Baker. That said, Baker had never seemed capable of staying healthy. One hopes Terry’s at least providing the sort of off-field leadership I’d hoped he would.

The Ugly
It’s a bit unfair that overseas Villans get to watch and UK supporters don’t. Sure, that’s spared many the embarrassments of the previous two matches, but it’s still a shame. I obviously understand the reasons and arrangements, but it has to be a bit galling to be so much closer to the action and yet so much further away.

Final Verdict
The big question many have already put out there is whether Bruce will revert to form when other players are fit and step back from what looks a very promising combination up front. As I said, Green, Hourihane, and Davis couldn’t have done any more except convert more, and they converted more than we have done in ages.

They won’t be as good every week. No one is. That’s what substitutes are for. But when a squad plays a great game, one of the best in recent memory, you have to keep going with the same selections. They were called upon, they delivered, and that really should be it. Gabby has nowhere near the skill on the ball that Green and Davis do, and nowhere near the ability to cause so many problems for a defense. And Hourihane’s scored four in two games. How could anyone justify leaving him out?

I wouldn’t even start Hogan when he’s fit. Not saying Hogan wouldn’t benefit from playing with Davis and Green. But I saw nothing today to say any of the three should lose their spot. Quite the contrary. They showed great understanding and cohesion today, and they’ve earned the right for a spell leading the starting XI. And it shouldn’t be surprising, because any time we’ve had these youngsters playing together for the senior squad, they’ve showed the understanding they’ve developed over the years.

Moreover, I don’t think Dr. Xia will be fussed about who starts as long as Villa win. It really will come down to whether Bruce reverts to caution and outsmarts himself, or wants to prove that his previous selections were valid and outdumbs himself.

Given the pressure he’s under, and the performances he got today, no one will blame him if he sticks with this side and they struggle next time out. Well, some will, but you can’t please everyone. So there’s no reason for him to go wobbly or be pig-headed.

Bruce should just be thankful that, however it came to pass, he’s been presented with a lifeline, one that was staring him in the face all the time.

Over to you.

Comments 117

  1. JC,

    A very fair and well-stated round-up.

    Just to add … Green missed another near the end after Elmos’s shot crashed back off the crossbar. Green’s header should have been plonked into the corner methinks.

    So 5-2 it might have been. But I shouldn’t be too hard on Green, who did have a very good match from what I saw.

    Another two cautions:

    1. Norwich’s defence did not look so good. Next week may not be so easy.
    2. Hutton should be out, agreed, but Terry worries me almost as much. Not only that ball-watching moment but also a near-suicidal back-pass first-half that might have been from Baker!!

    Davis looks a very clever player. I just hope he can maintain that form. And he and Green (as we would expect) have a good understanding … as with Conor, our new David Platt. I’d given up on him after the pre-season matches.

    Bruce said today, about Conor & Lansbury:

    I think what they`ve found very quickly is the expectation that comes upon you and you have to find that little bit of confidence. They were big players at Barnsley and Forest and they`ve got to take it on to this big stage here. I`m delighted for Conor – when he gets to the edge of the box you think ‘goal` because he practices. It is not often you get a hat-trick for a midfield player. Terrific.

    Conor seems to have found himself again … and Lansbury may be on the road to form as well.

  2. great write up john
    for the love of god bruce no more hutton,but his press conference was worrying gabby had tweaked his back only reason davies started

  3. JC,

    I’ve never (by the way) claimed that Gabby is the bees-knees or one who has a very good footballing brain.

    What I’ve constantly tried to intimate is simply that at least he’s been made to find a road back, and, being a former England international (he was in the England squad as recent as 2011) he should have enough about him to succeed at this level. Especially as we’ve been short of resources up front.

    With one goal and one assist to his name this season after less than 3 games on the field he cannot be dismissed, but I totally support the idea of pursuing with Davis as the much better option. In fact a Davis and Codger combination might make us salivate!!

  4. James: “gabby had tweaked his back only reason davies started”

    But that’s how big breaks very often come, James. For the reasons stated above, I believe Gabby has his worth but it’s clear that Davis is a much better footballer and deserved that chance. But until you actually put them in the first team you do not *really* know how they’ll turn out. Bruce was trying to utilise experience to get the season going, and was clearly unsure whether to risk a youngster.

    But (as I say) situations like this have often happened before to stimulate a needed change in the team selection.

  5. JC: “Bruce should just be thankful that, however it came to pass, he’s been presented with a lifeline, one that was staring him in the face all the time.”

    Meant to comment on this…

    As I intimated in the previous thread, Bruce was trying to get his experienced players to produce the result needed by upping their game – as in fact they had done first half against Hull. So to my mind his thought was “since they did then, why can’t they reproduce it?” They in fact should have been 2 or 3 up at h-t in the Hull match.

    But clearly Cardiff are proving themselves to be a team to watch for this season – especially after beating rivals Wolves away from home. So though we were rolled over at Cardiff, it was against what looks like to be one of the danger teams.

    Therefore, bringing in Davis (for me) would not have been the automatic answer. I think we might see, however, that bringing him in against Norwich (with their suspect defence) was the ideal match to get him bloodied. Which other team’s defence is going to allow the kind of hassle from him that he exhibited today?

    We’ll find out soon enough whether Davis will be allowed to shine as he did today.

    I worry a bit more about Terry.

  6. JL,

    I understand where you’re coming from with Gabby. And I don’t really disagree about what he can offer. For me, decent option off the bench to change things up.

    Saying Gabby shouldn’t come back is really directed more toward Bruce (not that he’s reading, but you never know). I just think that like Hutton, he’s relied on that ‘experience’ too much, and to the disregard of performances.

    That said, Gabby did offer a lot in the first half against Hull. But he faded in influence (not the only one, either). That’s why I think he’s a 30-minute player these days, and not a starter. I just really don’t want Bruce to feel relief and go back to what clearly wasn’t working.

  7. JL,

    Don’t disagree with you about the experienced players getting the nod, either. I do understand Bruce’s line of thinking. The trick is that there’s a fine line between rightly persisting with a belief and just being stubborn, or even being afraid of taking the risk. It’s always safer for a manager to play the known “pros”, leaves him less open to second-guessing.

    What I took away from the game was that the kids can play, and even though they’ll face sterner tests, I don’t think Gabby and Hogan would’ve had four today, never mind that we really could’ve had at least six or seven.

    Many more clear-cut (and obviously well-taken) chances today than against Hull. And Hull really were poor that half. Norwich, while maybe not brilliant defensively, were still up and into Green and Davis all day, especially from the back. Gabby would never have had any of Green’s dribbles, and would’ve generally turned the ball over in the tight spaces Green, Davis, and Hourihane managed to play through.

  8. Oh, and I don’t know that Davis, as a starter, was the obvious answer either…but these guys should’ve been getting more minutes.

    And I do think the hint was there because when we have seen two, three or four of them playing, they really do have an understanding. They’re still young and naive, but much less fearful, much quicker to get forward, more dogged. It almost seems to be the case that they get lost being inserted into the side piecemeal.

    For whatever reason, Hourihane just seemed to work with both of them. Like mind, I guess, but that’s what we thought we were buying, what we saw today.

    And I thought Green really took a step up today. They won’t look that good every day. But there was a patience, composure and almost arrogance about him that was really refreshing.

    And then there’s more upside to the kids…they’re good, they’ll get better, and today maybe said that it’s not a season-long project for that to happen.

  9. john l
    we agree [break out champers] terry has been very poor so far anything played in from wing is dropping behind him,seen on fb someone put up a clip on terry probably norwich should had a penalty in first half, i know hutton taylor half been very poor so far as well leaving chester covering all over show,all defenders have plenty experienced so no excuse for poor working partnership

  10. bruce has been struggling to get the balance right between attack and sitting back,,, i think bruce has has lots of bad luck with injuries and combined with the new faces and relatively new faces certain elements of our play will take time to become established
    davies today showed what the kids can do,,, and along with green who although far from the finished article will get better the more he plays,,, but we need to be careful and not criticize him or the other young lads too much if they miss the odd chance or miss hit a cross
    green himself has been so unlucky with his goalscoring chances and he could have had 6 or 7 first team goals for us already but today will give him and davies a lot of confidence
    and its really good to see hourihane shooting and getting in the box,,, just need lansbury to pop a few in now and i will be very happy
    as to gabby he needs to be played to his strengths,,, out wide and balls over the top,, he is not a center forward but can be a useful player if used correctly,, hogan however is a very good center forward but unless we change our style of play we wont get the best from him,, partnering him alongside davies may very well work for him though,,, hogans running off the ball is so good
    i just hope we can start to get the best from him
    as to hutton and the defence,,,,, sloppy,,, but they will get better,, delaet and bree will get better with games as will the center backs
    and i expect a few departures,,, mccormack gardner richards hutton really should be moved on
    and we need a left back too to compete and cover for taylor

  11. we just need to not have half time when we are playing well,seen some highlights davies awesome,why would we need anyone one on loan and if we get a bit of form could see him linking with both hogan, kodja, houriane class act passed ball into net,defence keeper at 6/7 too many times, after hutton went off never seen norwich attack down our right, still not convinced by whelan shouldnt need 3 central mids at home

  12. Agree that Gabby is an impact player from the bench. SB should have noticed by now that Gabby is pretty injury prone and shouldn’t be in the starting lineup. Even Hogan hasn’t proved (yet) to be reliable for Villa, though his record at Brentford is indisputable.
    I really hope that Greene, Hourihane and Davis get a chance to further develop their combination. If they did the job today, why not tomorrow? Good question that from JG. Why bring in another loan? It may just impede young guys developing.
    Terry, I think, will come right. Either that or he’ll be deemed injured, probably to save face.

  13. JG/Iana why bring in a loan? because bruce ignores our academy players as anything but stop gaps thats why. Apparently we were building around Grealish? well O’hare is a better player imo yet today we have changed tack.

    why do players like hourihane and Hogan flourish with the youth players in the side? it only takes a look at the clubs they came from, full of youth players, Bree played for Barnsley at 16 for gods sake yet at Nineteen Hutton keeps him out. at this point in time Bruce is Villa’s biggest enemy

  14. Have a listen to bruces after match presser, people think I have the odd rant but woah he really is going for it, I particularly like where he says Greeny and the centre forward? thats Davis steve 🙂

    Four local home grown ones??? who were they? bree , lansbury and Samba came on, Green and Davis were the only academy players?

    I’m sorry but I can’t listen to the bloke any more, forgive me I want he best for Villa but this idiot is painful to my ears

  15. Mark – idiot, delusional, painfully self obsessed, he,s getting worse, & what he said about Davis is insulting, as is the constant put down of all the young players the way he calls them kids & tries to get the credit.
    It really was getting to him which does not bode well, as JG said

  16. IanG and Mark,I agree to a certain extent .To not use any player’s name is rude,and to not use the name of Davis after such an outstanding debut was ill mannered.
    SB shows a bit of complaceny too. IMO.He spoke as if we had just won 7 on the bounce,not conceded7 league goals in a week.

  17. SB moaning aboun fans’ nonsense is nonsense. The fans have every right to be worried and complain. Fans are the customers. I remember basic naval training when one of our POs told us if it looks like cr*p, it probably is.
    He better not revert to type then lose. If he does, I really will believe he is a bluenose plant.

  18. A difficult task coming up against Wigan. Villa should just go for the jugular again. Need to get another win before Bristol to prove Norwich wasn’t a fluke against a poor team. I’d keep Davis, Elmo, Green and Hourihane on for the first 45 at least. Let the cohesiveness develop. Gabby and maybe Hogan can have a run later in match. It is time to bring Bree in with Jedinak.

  19. Oh Gabby has a sore back and Hogan has a sore hamstring. I guess SB shouldn’t risk them. He should just stick with the winning combo anyways.

  20. Agree with robbo . Im more frustrated. No doubt this squad can tear most teams apart if we play high tempo, pressure footy. They simply wont handle us.

    But yesterday is the first time we have seen it. A great win but lets see where we are at christmas

  21. Andrew,

    This was only Norwich we played and I agree that it’s what happens in the next few weeks that will give us a better idea.

    Progress has been made, though.

  22. Bruce

    Sorry, though I think Bruce is not stating his case well at these PR stunts, I feel he has a right to complain about the degree of criticism he gets.

    The fans, on the other hand, have had 6 or so years of nonsense, but in the main part they don’t realise what the previous lot did to this club. Dr. Tonix and his Merry Men have only had 12 months to sort it out so far, such has been the task i.m.o.

    The media should be handled intelligently by the fans if they have a genuine point to make. Or do the olf fashioned thing, write a letter to the chairman.

  23. Bruce – Part Two

    I don’t think he’s perfect either, but he’s what we’ve got! 🙂

    And so long as he does what he’s appointed for then blow everything else in my view.

  24. Hold on folks only Norwich? one of last seasons favourites to go back up and finished higher than us, until we beat them they had conceded 4 to our 6 so I do not think they are that bad they drew 1-1 at Fulham.

    I am fuming to be honest as I have watched the kids in pre-season and in the cup game and they are more than ready and capable. Its obvious that when they play our style goes form dull slow and defensive generally and it has to be said in the first game Bruces real game plan the boot to the wing was prominent, we had pace variety accurate passing, I am not surprised Norwich could not live with them.
    On top of that after we were 2-0 up in a fairly open first half we sat in second half and invited them on (instructed no doubt) leaving Davis isolated the result was nearly a disaster until we decided to resume the first halfs pattern of play.

    JT looks subdued and tentative to me, Hutton no more please, Bree in and lest use ohare with the same line up in the cup and play samba if we have too or clark or one of the many young CB’s we have

  25. If Bruce has seen the light, ie for the love of the Villa attack, maybe just maybe he could rethink the methodology and look at McCormack again, him going elsewhere, is not good, now Hogan out for me is the better call

  26. Mark,

    My deprecation of Norwich is simply as they’ve not started the season too well themselves. I’m talking ‘now’, not last season. They might pick up, but I think they’re showing fault in defence.

    We’ll have to face much stronger defences than that.

  27. JL
    I think everyone wants SB to do well. Villa’s youth seems to be stepping up. Most wish SB to do well by them. And it’s obvious they want action. SB needs to do well by them and back them. They can support one another and the likes of Hourihan and hopefully Hogan et al can add a bit of experience, resolve and steel to the mix. Sir Alex Ferguson played a bunch of “boys” once. We know what happened next.

  28. Trinity: “Sir Alex Ferguson played a bunch of “boys” once. We know what happened next.”

    That’s an interesting point .. did you see yesterday’s Man U line-up? Two British players, and (without being in any way colour-prejudiced, before someone jumps in!!) they look to be almost all black players.

    The PL game now seems to be a form of fast mechanisation. It’s all speed and quick passing. The Man U and Arsenal matches seemed identical in the way of fast play.

    Not sure I like it too much. But that’s me brought up on Stan Matthews, Tom Finney … and Jimmy McEwan.

  29. Great leader JC,

    but something seriously went wrong yesterday, and 29100 fans turned up to see a mediocre game of football, where the usual rubbish would happen. Villa would attack for ten minutes, fail to score, and then the opposition would realise that they could…!!!

    First thing that happened, was Gabby was missing, not even on the bench, and some lad Kieran Davis was leading the line, and then the next thing was that Villa were to attack towards the Holte End….This is not allowed in matches.

    Then VILLA kicked off and not only attacked, missing an opening minute sitter, but continued to attack!

    The difference of having Davis up front cannot be underestimated, as he was immense, with his ability to fight for the ball, not only get it, but hold it up, and for many fans there, he was the Man of the Match. I cannot remember there being so much discussion over two outstanding players, as to who should be MOM. Hourihane got it by a majority decision, and probably deserved it.

    I notice no-one her has referred to the excellent shot from Davis which would have crowned his day, when he hit the crossbar with Gunn well beaten.

    Most of your summary of the match is spot on JC, and comments from others. Sorry for Onomah, who was doing well until injured, but in the end Lansbury improved as he went on.

    Totally agree about Hutton, and hopefully Bree will start every game, and de Laet should have to wait his turn.

    Chester to me was outstanding, and hopefully his understanding with Terry will improve. Taylor had a good game, and Green was outstanding, culminating in a great goal.

    Interesting that I feel it also made a difference to the team kicking towards the Holte, with the crowd getting behind them, which continued throughout the match, maybe they will take this on board too.

    I am totally disgusted with Steve Bruce and his post match comments, and hope that Dr Tony has sussed him out, and that we would not have had yesterday’s result, but for the circumstances. The good Dr should realise we have the players to shape into a great team, but not the manager…

    What was the Samba substitution???? changing your backline for the last ten minutes, when Adomah was sat on the bench, or at least put Samba up front to continue the terror that Davis has caused ALL match. He can be a giant of a player, and be our new Benteke.
    Let us hope that we put out a great team on Tuesday, and maybe give O’Hare 45 minutes, so that he can be back up for Onomah and Hourihane.

    Still want Bruce out….especially if goes back to the same old, and does not continue to play Davis, Green and Bree.

  30. Just watched the extended highlights on the os. I was impressed with the passing. Sad to see Hutton skinned. I see Terry got caught out but he pulled off a fine tackle near halfway that nearly ended up with Villa scoring.
    My granny won’t like me for saying it, but thrash Wigan,

  31. paul pears
    great post,think i wrote something similar on samba for davies with hogan/adoamh on bench defenitly thought it
    same with press con dead man walking,davies put himself about more yesterday than gabby in all his matches last 3/4 years
    no point resting form players v wigan get a winning run together is more important,likes terry whelan are different but only few weeks in get a break after next week as well

  32. JG,

    I totally agree with you. The team will be buzzing now and should all start on Tuesday, except maybe Steer could play in goal, after his performance in the previous round, and maybe a young centre back in place of Terry, to give him experience, or Elphick, so that he gets used to paying again, but otherwise keep it the same.

    It was pitiful to see Hutton getting skinned so easily, was really impressed with young Josh Murphy, he played well for Norwich, until Bree came on, and matched him for pace. It makes all the difference who you are up against.

  33. I would love to know who made the decision to play Davis, as he was not even down as a substitute, as far as I am aware. Does not seem like a Bruce decision, as he does not even know his name..!!!

    Am even more concerned about Bruce now I realise that he not only has the connections to the Bluenoses and the Scummers, but was in Norwich’s League cup winning team…and we know things connected to Norwich don’t do us any good! He is about good enough these days for Gillingham where he started….

  34. Paul: “The team will be buzzing now and should all start on Tuesday,”

    And tiring them all out before the next (league) game, 3 days later?

    No, I think change ’em around or bring em on as subs if needed.

    If Davis can come on and play so well as he did, he can miss the next game and repeat his performance on Friday, I say. Playing the outstanding youngsters too much can produce burn out, so softly, softly a tad…

  35. Paul: “I would love to know who made the decision to play Davis, as he was not even down as a substitute, as far as I am aware. Does not seem like a Bruce decision”

    Hobson’s Choice. As I’ve said, Gabby was knocked and Hogan was still not fully fit.

  36. JL- Norwich haven’t started well? I question that they had 4 points so had lost once to Sunderland who have only lost one so far and beat QPR who are in 6th. By saying Norwich’s defence were not up to much do you think the performance and combination of players was not the driving factor in our winning? could say the old crew have performed as well and won?

    We played a high pressing game much like PNE, Barnsley, Huddersfield etc it gave them no time and they made mistakes, given time they knocked the ball about well and certainly have goals in them. Davis was both alert and physical could easily had a hat-trick himself as could Green, that is a massive leap forward from hogan getting a couple of chances or Greens solitary effort first half against Reading (who have only beaten us by the way)

    As for burning out the Kids? are we not more likely to burn out the grandads? Kids recuperate at a rate of Knots and are supremely fit these days.

    What yesterday has highlighted for me ( if it can be repeated) is that the entire getting in experience may have been a false direction to go. Maybe just Maybe the likes of Lansbury and Hourihane coupled with some talented youth and a smattering of experience is a better combo than old heads plus hourihane etc.

    why I hear you Cry? because although Hourihane is relatively young he was Barnsley’s Captain, sometimes when you put a player like him into a pool of older more experienced players they will defer to those players and take less responsibility and action themselves blunting their natural game. That I believe is where the perceived lack of effort has come from. Could just be the kids think quicker and have more energy which lends to his natural game not this slow standstill stuff we have played since he came here? its alien to him and the Kids. Chester for me at 28 is more than experienced enough to captain a young side, Elmo is a good player(with experiance) but then always has been a good winger, what we needed was a good winger not an old winger, same goes for wheelan, a good DM not and old one.

  37. I do think that the old experienced heads are more about buying quality for little money than it is anything else, although in the long run in this league its a false economy maybe.

  38. Mark,

    You are making a mountain out of a mole-hill! 😀

    My *observation* was that the Norwich central defence was not that clever. Yes, of course the Villa deserve credit – did I say they didn’t?

    I’m a Villa supporter, not a Norwich supporter, but I do try to see the match objectively.

    As for “burning out” – no ‘old heads’ generally know how to pace themselves better.

  39. JL- I am not at all I am asking to what extent you believe Norwich’s poor defence contributed to our win and whether the change had little to no effect because the opposition was poor? straight question.

    And younger athletes/people recover quicker thats fact, they recover from injury faster and general knocks and bruises. Didn’t matter how much pacing Myself I did if I got a knock it took much longer to resolve as I got older, the research bears this out otherwise we would all pace ourselves to 200 years old and look the same 😉 or by pacing do you mean got slower? 🙂

  40. Mark,

    Sorry, I saw what I saw and don’t have to say anything more than they were more naiive than the youngster barging them aside! 🙂

    And burnning out … I saw what happened to Mercer’s Minors in the 60s when they were under enormous pressure, and even to the degree that the fine players Deakin and Tindall’s careers were savaged by serious injuries. And it’s not just the physical wear and tear it’s also the emotional and psychological pressures that players get subjected to – as Ian Gibson refers to very often.

    As for comparing your good self with what Aston Villa players experience is a bit much! 😀

  41. One factor crucial to recovery that fascinates me is sleep, we repair and recover while asleep, this year I find myself waking up at 5.30 whether I want to or not, when I was younger I could sleep ten hours no problem and so recovery was easier, sleeping time has become shorter the older I have got.

  42. I should have added that I am fully aware that treatment and rehabilitation facilities are hugely improved on what existed in the 1960s, but there are still the psychological issues and the fact that I do not see today’s youngsters as being as tough as those of my generation, and after.

  43. JL,

    These lads are not playing with a leather football, up to their ankles in mud. They are playing a modern fast pace game, which requires an amount of stamina, fitness and desire, which all of these lads have. I am sure most of the boys here, who played football, would agree that when you are in your teens and twenties, you can play for days for hours on end, which is what I did as youngster.

    As MK has said, the older you get, the harder it gets, especially once you pass the thirty mark, and you have to conserve your energy and pace. Ask any rugby player, and he will say the same too.

    I am all for playing Hourihane on Tuesday with Green and Davis again, and maybe have Hepburn-Murphy on the bench as back-up. It is Whelan, Terry and El Mohamady who that may need resting, and he can bring in Jedinak, Elphick and Adomah or Bjarnasson to give them a break, with Steer taking over in goal. There is also O’Hare and Doyle-Hayes who should be on the bench.

    I am wholeheartedly with you MK, and this is born out again when you look at the likes of Hazard, and many other young players who have shone well before reaching the grand old age of twenty.

  44. JL- like getting blood from a stone you are, its not a catch question, I can only conclude you think it aided our win to what extent I don’t know you wont say 🙂 I am interested in knowing, do you think the same side will fall flat on its face against a better defence? as ever we will find out if Bruce plays them again (50/50)

    How is it a bit much? I worked 40 plus hours a week as a sheet metalworker played football 2-3 times a week weight trained 3-4 and judo on top of that, I think they have got it easy, don’t think they will be fretting about mortgage payment any time soon. I have always looked after myself nutritionally and for the level I played at was as fit as the 18 year olds I played with at 40+ you just get slower and can’t recover as quickly.

    They will only be under pressure if the crowd (less likely imo) and management (stupid comments) get on their backs its the job of the management to help them and also the senior players who by the way have been hopeless themselves psychologically, you do worry about these things a lot, this league is full of young players, they are far more resilient than you think John. Bree made 22 appearances for Barnsley last season before he joined us, he then made 7

  45. PP,

    There are always two ways of looking at things.

    I do not say that you and Mark are “wrong” (but you tell me I am!!), it’s just that there are two sides to every story (and their shades of grey) and it’s frequent that people pick up and concentrate on one side.

    And the most important issue here is that you and Mark do not have the responsibility – nor the knowledge – that Bruce possesses. We can’t put ourselves in his shoes – though we’d love to be able to do tha! 😉

  46. Mark: “I think they have got it easy, don’t think they will be fretting about mortgage payment any time soon.”

    That’s exactly my point – or part of it! 😀

  47. JL- how do you know me and PP don’t have the same knowledge? because we haven’t chosen to pursue a career in football? should we just give up talking about football? 😉

    We can only ever see it from the outside but as he never discusses what he is trying to achieve with any real depth he comes across s limited to me when compared to a Wagner who can talk technicalities all day long, he is a knows what he knows type manager it appears and not a student of the game.

  48. JL- you’ve tickled me now, I can’t wait for Bruces speech at the end of the season when he explains he would of got Villa up if it wasn’t for that Mark King stopping me 🙂

  49. Youth do recover quick but their heads don’t. A perceived slight can multiply its self very quickly. Tell me, how old were you before you thought to yourself for an older workmate or boss to pack sand? An Arm around the shoulder is much more effective than an onion and garlic brow beating–every time. In some respect even terry at 36. Is 36 old? Not when you look at it from my perspective.
    All the youth should play. 45 minutes each. Give as many a run out as possible. When they find this out, and it should be right now they will be champing at the bit to get going. And they won’t be bagged come Saturday. Bruce has a situation where he can increase confidence on Tuesday. With man managing a positive result can happen with confidence.
    Sleep, what a strange thing that has turned into. When an hour’s nap in the afternoon feels better than night time. Recovery is Advil, beer, and my spot on The couch. With an undetermined number of days for that recovery to occur.

  50. If’s and ands and buts…..

    So it all goes on.


    MK and I, more than accept that there are other points of view, but until Bruce actually proves what he is trying to achieve by explaining his thoughts and theories, and why he does what he does.

    He only achieved yesterday’s result by the absence of Jedinak and Gabby, because they were both injured. He did not plan to play Davis, if he had, then it could be declared as a masterstroke, and the moving of Hourhane further forward to replace Onamah.

    Thought I would copy the Villa Life blog summary and player statistics for those that missed them

    We scored four goals at Villa Park for the first time in three years yesterday. Conor Hourihane scored our first hat-trick for two years and his own first. This our first win of the season took us from the bottom of the table up to 16th place. We also left the ground with smiles on our faces rather than frowns after this goal fest.  
    We conceded two goals and at times looked too shaky for comfort at the back. That is enough of negativity which was far outweighed by the positives yesterday. We scored four, could easily had another two and we played positive, flowing, attacking football. Each time they scored and threatened to peg us back we responded with a goal of our own to ease our fraying nerves.  
    Let us hope that this result marks a turning point in our season. An away win at Bristol City on Friday looks far less unlikely than it did on Saturday morning and that would take us into the top half of the table and within reach of the top six. Make it so Villa!
    My player ratings from a game that demonstrated that you can win games with kids are:
    Sam Johnstone – 6 – Had hearts in mouths when he raced outside of his box on the 38th minute when attempting to intercept a ball that had gone past our defenders but narrowed the angle well on the 50th minute when Naismith’s near post shot hit the side netting. Had little chance with both of their goals.         
    Alan Hutton – 4 – Given a tough afternoon particularly in the minutes prior to his 64th minute substitution by the lively and pacey Murphy. Hutton allowed him to get goal side of him for their first on the hour mark and was beaten easily 2 minutes later by the same player whose cross led to a goalmouth melee that was settled by a clearance from Johnstone. Difficult to see a reason for him to continue to start games instead of either Bree or De Laet given his current form.             
    James Chester – 6 – Really should have been on target with an unchallenged diving header from a 55th minute Hourihane free kick that flew harmlessly over the bar.     
    John Terry – 6 – Neither he nor Taylor picked up Oliveira in the 79th minute when the forward was left unmarked to hit their second.        
    Neil Taylor – 6 – A solid enough defensive display and he also got forward well at times. 
    Ahmed Elmohamady – 6 – Hit the bar in the 4th minute of stoppage time after Bree had switched the ball back to him inside of the box.
    Josh Onomah – 6 – Substituted on the half hour having sustained an injury.          
    Glenn Whelan – 7 – Much more involved yesterday and this played a part in Conor and Henri having the opportunity to move forward more often than they had been doing previously. Hit an on-target effort from the edge of the box on 37 minutes which was inadvertently blocked by Davis.
    Conor Hourihane – 9 – MOTM – As the late Bruce Forsyth often said, “Didn’t he do well?” It is not often that a midfield player gets a hat-trick but Conor did so yesterday producing the sort of performance he regularly gave for Barnsley which led us to sign him. He needs to have licence to get forward where he can be so dangerous from now onwards. Davis threaded the ball between 2 defenders on the 19th minute to Conor but he hit his shot across the face of goal and inches wide. Onomah then won the ball near the half way line before hitting a nice ball for Davis to run onto. Keinan proceeded to hit a low cross that went between the goalkeeper and a defender before reaching Conor near the far post who hit home our 22nd minute opener with assurance. Lansbury fed Conor from a Taylor free-kick and his 68th minute 30-yard shot took a deflection off a defender on its way past the keeper and into the corner of the net. He completed his hat-trick on the 85th minute when Elmohamady found him in a central position a couple of yards outside of the box and he struck the ball low into the right-hand corner of the net. Almost turned home a fourth goal on 89 minutes but that effort was blocked.      
    Andre Green – 8 – Lansbury found him on the edge of the box on the 42nd minute and he then picked his spot curling the ball around a defender and into the top right-hand corner of the net to give us our second goal of the afternoon. He will do well to score a better goal than this one for us! Hit a 70th minute shot from the edge of the box just wide of the post and should have had a second goal to his name on the 94th minute when Elmohamady’s shot bounced to him off the bar only for his header to find Gunn’s hands rather than the back of the net.     
    Keinan Davis – 9 – Looked very, very promising yesterday. Held the ball up and led the line very well. Refused to be knocked off the ball and utilised his strength and determination throughout to give the central defenders he was up against a very difficult afternoon. Won the ball from Zimmermann on the 2nd minute and ran inside the box before hitting a shot which was blocked by the advancing Gunn’s legs. Taylor then found Green on the edge of the box whose inch perfect 16th minute cross was met by Davis but Gunn did well to get a hand to his header to keep it out. Ran onto a strong 24th minute header from inside his own half by Whelan and having got the better of a defender hit an effort from the edge of the box that struck the top of the crossbar. Denied by Gunn on the 64th minute when he ran onto a ball from Lansbury but could not turn the ball past the keeper.           
    Henri Lansbury – 6 – Replaced Onomah on 30 minutes. Was not quite able to slide in to make contact with a good 35th minute Hourihane cross into the box. Looked to be belatedly in the process of forming a decent partnership alongside Conor today and he has surely done enough to start games from now on? 
    James Bree – 6 – Replaced Hutton on 64 minutes and we looked more secure after that.
    Chris Samba – Replaced Davis on 87 minutes. Was not on long enough to earn a rating.      
    Up the Villa!
    John Lewis

      Report Entr

  51. Mark: ” how do you know me and PP don’t have the same knowledge? “

    Because you actually haven’t travelled down his road or are sitting in his position! His knowledge on his topic is far greater than we on this blog i.m.o.

    We can voice our disappointments, but we do not really know what’s going on his end, nor see how his cumulative experience makes him work in a certain way.

  52. PP

    John Lewis have sparred with one another for near 15 years and I usually differ with him on his ratings, but not this time (based on what I saw of the match).

  53. PP: “I feel it also made a difference to the team kicking towards the Holte, with the crowd getting behind them, which continued throughout the match, maybe they will take this on board too.”

    Surely that was always the case? I always remember Johnjny D or Vic choosing to kick towards the Witton End if they won the toss for the very reason you state. And in the 70s.

  54. No JL,

    For the past 5/6 seasons that I have had a season ticket Villa have chosen to kick towards the Witton Land End, so that they play towards the Holte in the second half.

  55. I imagine for Bruce and all managers there is pressure to show that the players they bought were worth the outlay, it must Irk that the Jan signings didn’t work as expected. The danger is if he decides he can play that way with anyone and downplays Davis’s display, he will play better defenders for sure but that is doing him an injustice because his hold up play and technical ability are very good and his awareness of others and unselfish play is top notch, If his finishing improves we have us a bona fide CF.

    Also for the managerthere is also the phenomenon of the player that looks like Pele in training and Djemba Djemba on match day, some players are the exact opposite they find training a boring task while matches bring on a different response as the senses heighten and adrenaline surges, some it makes supermen others it overwhelms.

  56. Funny how Gabby spends so much time injured over he last few seasons with a bad back, makes me wonder what he is doing over & over again in Gabby land to keep not having o play to earn his money, just apparently to reappear when he sniffs advantage it seems, but I may be wrong, it could be the weight of his enormous intellect doing it.
    Hutton may be **** a lot of times but he always puts himself on the line, even if it’s the wrong one.

  57. IanG
    Gabby has already scored his goal. SB and co must have realised by now, Gabby is injury prone.

    I feel sorry for Hutton because he tries and isn’t a shirker, but Murphy certainly asked a few questions of him. Hutton has probably slowed down.

  58. ian
    i think not,he ran about and disguised things , and bit like relegation season there where that many horror shows,take a look at goals from last season

  59. Fear of failure can hold us all back,stops us trying new experiences,new careers,new relationships etc.I believe Bruce has a “better the devil you know” mentality with Hutton.He fears playing Bree,in case he fails.Bree has decent experience in this division and is no mug.It’s just how I feel about Bruce and the young lads,I’m sure the old guard will all play at Brizzie on Friday,fear of failure is holding Bruce back.
    I didn’nt like how,in his post match pressers,he blew his own trumpet,re introducing young players.He named one at the Vermin(he was there 6 years)and one other,which I can’t remember.Implying that he used young players regularly,it was only circumstance not intent that gave Davis his start,so don’t try and tell us it was your plan all along Stevie.Next thing you’ll be telling us you invented the bycycle kick.
    Like someone pi$$ing down your leg on the old Holte End terraces and trying to tell you it’s raining.
    Not as anti Bruce as some on here,in fact he seems a decent fella,but football wise,no not for me after this season regardless of the outcome.

  60. Hutton

    Definitely a trier – but born in Glasgow it should be no surprise; there’s true grit where he comes from.

    But he’s not going to help the club in the PL and at age 32 he must be seeing this season as pretty well swansong.

  61. Brasil- I am only anti- bruces football although his comments are starting to grate, it has been said he has an ego to feed and the whole I have never been given a chance just says he isn’t good enough, good managers get chances, they get noticed.

  62. Hutton, redux.

    I think the problem with him is that he doesn’t have good hips. Basically, he can’t turn well to follow runners. So instead, he plays to keep them in front of him instead of getting close in, as he knows he’ll get beat when he’s tight. Obviously, this means his opposite number has space and time to put in a cross.

    Taylor will close more quickly. What I saw of De Laet last week, early on at least, suggests he would do the same. Even if Taylor gets beat, he’s forcing the wide man to put his head down, get round him, and it more often reduces the accuracy of the pass/cross, and gives the central players a second or two more to read the likely path of the incoming ball. What’s required there, though, is better cover for the wide man’s easy outlet toward the corner edge of the box.

    Another thing I’ve noticed with Hutton is that, unlike years past, when he’s running side-by-side with an attacker, he won’t put in the crunching tackles he used to. Guessing he’s afraid of having lost that step and that he’ll mistime the challenge, come in after the ball’s gone by.

    When he comes flying back from upfield, he also tends to vector in toward the box, again to avoid getting beat out on an island, but that of course lets the wide man sit in acres, pick a pass back to a trailing fullback or midfielder. Or put in the cross.

    He gets caught upfield so often because when he carries the ball, he usually turns it over, and the rush is right back at us and often into the space he’s vacated.

  63. B6,

    Fear of failure, indeed. Bruce seems to think that if he sticks with the experienced player, he’s open to less criticism. My read, and yours obviously, anyway.

    As JG or someone noted further up, when Bree came on, Norwich’s sallies down our right largely stopped. Hutton has been seen as a weak point and is targeted incessantly.

    With Davis, I’m guessing Bruce is more afraid there because he’s a central player, more focus and expectation. Green, out wide, is a little easier to overlook in the grand scheme. But since the two played so well on the day, I really hope Bruce takes the opportunity to stick with a ‘winning side’ because he won’t be faulted for following that conventional wisdom and doing what worked last time, and it would also match supporters’ opinions. So it’s a no-lose for him.

    He can always bring on Hogan or Gabby if Davis is ineffectual in a given game. It happens to the best. But if he keeps sticking with someone like Davis as a starter, the ratio of good days to bad will keep improving. And it’s not like Bruce would be messing with some formula that’s made us a goal-scoring juggernaut.

  64. With a cup game coming up, play the same team as Saturday or something very similar. Nothing to lose. Everything to gain confidence wise. The cups are a cr*p shoot. Don’t go wasting legs and getting an unwanted injury.
    I like Hutton too. Maybe he has lost a step. Plenty of players have turned that corner over a summer. And at 32 that’s a good career. Not to say it’s over.

  65. Brasil
    I don’t hate Bruce, I’m just sick of his bragging & blagging & insulting the fans, including when he accidentally hits on a solution & pretends it was his idea all along.
    All such things are fear led, & it shows in his selections, substitutions overcautiousness, & his reactions when he constantly contradicts himself, & he was limited as a player but learned to use it, but he hasn’t done that as a manager yet.
    I hope he comes good as then he may perform better for us, but I think we are presently here for him more than he is here for the club.
    Like JL I have a sneaking regard for Hutton, because of his honesty, it’s just like many I think that Bree should have a chance, as Hutton’s playing badly, but I have a feeling that de laet has more future potential, & he is also cover for the entire back 4 once he’s up to speed, so why keep playing Hutton?
    Hope I’ll be able to get the commentary for the cup match?

  66. JL
    “He gets caught upfield so often because when he carries the ball, he usually turns it over, and the rush is right back at us and often into the space he’s vacated.”

    Yes, yet that is something that could have been easily remedied with a few kind words of instruction from a decent coach. There would be some truth in Kieran Clarke’s comments about the better coaching he received at NUFC. Some things can’t be coached, but the above can.

  67. Iana: “There would be some truth in Kieran Clarke’s comments about the better coaching he received at NUFC. “

    “Better” vs the coaching at Villa before Bruce came, though!

  68. Hourihane on Davis…(B’ham Mail)

    “When the ball goes up to him, you know it’s going to stick.

    “You can make your runs off him.

    “He was the main reason I had so much joy.”

    He clearly hasn’t been getting the same vibes from Hogan nor Gabby as he also said:

    “Davis is a joy to play with”.

  69. JL
    “Better” vs the coaching at Villa before Bruce came, though!“
    Right. The comment wasn’t specifically aimed at Bruce. Hutton has been at Villa a lot longer, and Kieran had even longer.

  70. Bruce has already said that Green, Davis, Johnstone and Terry are needed for Friday versus Bristol City.

    Callum O’Hare , Hepburn-Murphy, Jed Steer and Samba will play in the cup, and possibly Jedinak if he is fit with Gabby on the bench.

    I think because of the huge reaction from fans, pundits and the media, that Bruce now accepts that the only way forward for him is with a good blend of the young and hungry with the fittest of the more experienced players.

    This should now be the turning point for Bruce, and the team, which means that the fans will also be happy.

    I feel that Hourihane’s comments on Davis are very telling, which Bruce cannot now ignore.

  71. PP,

    Yes I see your point, but in fairness to Bruce he has been saying since pre-season that he would be looking to use youth. OK, partly because there’s no more significant money to spend, but also he said himself “spending [by itself] is not the solution”.

    I honestly do think we pay far too much attention to what Bruce says at pre-match and post-match interviews and derive our understanding from that. But in my view, the manager is paid to manage, not be a PR expert. At that he’s not that good for definite. I honestly think he says things just to try to keep an even keel, not to divulge his inner thoughts.

    And Bruce is not the only one who says things of no lasting meaning. Benitez was happy last season to say something like “we don’t need to do an Aston Villa and spend so much”, and yet this season he’s not happy because his boss is not wanting (nor able) to spend huge sums to compete against Man City. Meanwhile Huddersfield follow Mark King’s advice! 😀

  72. Glad Hourihane made such specific comments about Davis…As you say, Paul, very difficult to ignore. Not that a manager couldn’t, but it wouldn’t play well with the supporters, and Bruce knows he’s still on thin ice.

  73. JL,

    I never watch the pressers, or pay much attention to what’s said. Bruce is likeable enough, from the outside anyway, and not terribly articulate. Some things can be telling, like his description of O’Hare, or forgetting Davis’ name (which can happen, but shouldn’t really). But in the main, like you say, it’s just trying to put a good face on things, PR exercise/damage control, what have you.

    Youth: Given Bruce’s spending pattern, I think he’d have bypassed the youth by and large if he’d had more money. This one smells to me more like Xia saying ‘make do with what you have.’ Green might well have featured fairly regularly, regardless, but rumors about wingers and such, and another striker, seem to indicate he’d prefer to buy someone in.

    Don’t know whether it’s an actual bias on his part, or just the pressure he’s under. He’s been bringing teams up, leading them down. I can see why he’d have become a very short-term thinker, even if it that wasn’t what he might actually do without such circumstances.

    But I think a lot of managers dream of ‘unlimited’ funds because it means you’re much higher up the food chain.

  74. One thing that hasn’t been at all clever is in buying players with a goal-scoring record, with little thought, obviously, given to the set-ups these players thrived in. Someone’s just seeing “goals”.

  75. Well fair play to Bruce for admitting the reason youth have been given a chance is because he has no money to spend and praised the work of KMac to get them to first team level.

    Beggars can’t be choosers so it looks like FFP has worked out as an unintended positive. Great performance all round, except for the previously mentioned Terry and Hutton, with a ready made replacement in Bree and cover to be provided by De Laet, hopefully Hutton will disappear into the annals of Villa history, he served Villa well without complaining but the legs are gone.

    Terry pah, useless wage grabbing donkey, with the money better spent of providing long term back up for Chester if we aren’t getting it through the youths and keeping Baker (with Samba and Elphick as cover).

    Hopefully Terry lasts til around December without impacting results too much and we get a few quid in Jan to strengthen his position and cover for left full again if we aren’t producing the desired level ourselves. (Shame on me for not knowing more about our current U23s, something i’ll address and as I said before, Dr.T should invest in screening them games via the youtube channel)

  76. JC,

    I don’t doubt what you say (about direction from Xia) has played its part, but we’ll never know what exactly.

    However, you could also turn it around the other way and say that Bruce spent so much money on players to fulfill Xia’s direction of getting promotion pretty quickly.

  77. JC,

    The main reason the ceiling was reached, was probably that the results were worse, rather than better. If a manager is getting the results, you back him all the way. Dr Tony was saving any new funds , in case he sacked Bruce!

    I will defer to Bruce for the moment, and hope he has learned from Saturday. He now has a few more games grace to put things right, and build for the future of this club. If he shows that he is building positively, then the fans will give him the support he needs.

  78. JC: “Bruce spent the money to get up, and once the ceiling was reached, there wasn’t any more money. Cue youth.”

    Which brings us full circle as Bruce himself has said that simply spending is not the answer. 😀

    I think there’s more to Bruce than he’s given credit for. The natural Villan urge is to be suspicious: they’ve been suspicious of every manager since the 60s, including Saunders!

    As I’ve said, though, I agree with pretty well everyone here that Bruce is unlikely to be the manager we need to get back to the very top.

  79. If Villa get promoted, Bruce will be gone as he promotes himself as a manager who gets promoted only. It’s a sad thought to me that a lots of the players who are on a promotion team get rejected after promotion. It’s almost as if you need a different type of player in the Championship compared to the Premier League. Different styles.

  80. Good points, Ian.

    But that was true back in 175 after promotion. During the first season back in the top-flight that was the start of big changes … not quickly, but enough.

    It’s too early by far to say who of our lot could stay with it, but the youngsters now bloodied and Hourihane and Chester may well be the kind that will be good enough.

  81. JL- if we are being accurate he spent the money and failed, He said he was surprised he got all his targets in Jan but get them he did. Back then I thought why if we are now building for next season don’t spend to much use some youth Players but I think there was FFP on the horizon as it runs over 3 seasons and I think spending may have given us some advantage for our books.

    Simply spending is not the answer indeed, simply getting the players you have bought and the ones you have to play decent football and win is. Coaching is definitely not his forte. We are selling anything not tied down at the moment so Dr Xia’s comment where he and Bruce Agreed to reduce the squad to Nineteen players and use the youth was simply Dr Xia saying no more money and best sell a few of teh 32 players we have sunshine or its no xmas prezzies for you my lad.

  82. I think if we asked Hogan about playing with the kids you would get a similar response to hourihane, I also think actually playing him as an attacking mid was a genius ploy by Bruce, Having bought him to score gaols and get assists the least he could do was let him in the oppositions half 🙂

    Bruces pressers are terrible, listen to one of smiths or Wagners they explain everything thats went on in the match perfectly.

    Oh boy,

    “Steve Bruce performed a piece of managerial brilliance this weekend, by holding back until the last minute until telling Keinan Davis he was starting for Aston Villa.”


  83. Just noticed that “175”, now I know I’m getting on but it sounds like John sat down for a fish and loaf supper.
    No one is going to push Bruce’s boat out right now so he has to do it himself. Of course he didn’t tell him sooner he was waiting to see if Gabby would come through

  84. MK,
    Spent the money and failed…exactly why he is not getting anymore, as I said earlier.

    I love it….Bruce left it until the last moment to tell Davis he was playing…..that has to be the finest piece of bulls###e of the weekend from him..!!!

    On Friday night, he did not even know who Davis was, let alone that he played for Villa!

    Let us see what tomorrow brings…

  85. pp
    never mind friday night,he couldnt give his first name in interview after match
    ,used to play sunday league football our manager turned up week after week with 3/4 new players,teamtalks where just introducing every one

  86. IanG,

    Elmo did set Hogan up for one against Duisburg, nice little cross on the ground that Hogan met near-post. And he did play with O’Hare in that one as well, I think. Was watching the two games at the same time, so I may be missing something else.

  87. Picking Gabby first is a recipe for failure, especially when changing a winning combo. He is an impact player and unreliable because of being regularly injured.

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