There is an old saying, “time waits for no one”. It’s true for me as it’s true for you only we don’t see it in ourselves. We haven’t slowed down, become more dodgy, or less brilliant. Then that one day we notice that fence or that hill or that piece of technology is suddenly beyond our grasp. For some of us it’s such a gradual thing that we feel just as we did 20, 30, or 40 years ago. For others it’s a short, sharp, slap in the face. For me it was when I couldn’t keep up with my crew and I resigned myself to the cab of the truck and contact via radio. Now it’s the fact I take an afternoon nap if I want the rest of the day to be anywhere enjoyable.

I think time has caught up to Aston Villa, and it did so seven years ago when Martin O’Neil left and Randy Lerner got tired of the rigours of English football. A succession of managers who, not slouches but comfortable in Lerner’s thinking as that is what he knew, failed to keep up with the times. (Lack of money didn’t help either) There are managers who have taken a different slant with less money and were successful. Forward thinking, willing to experiment, and less likely to fall back on tried and true recipes that worked in the past. And it’s possible for old dogs to learn new tricks re managers. Claudio Raneri, and Arsene Wenger come to mind.

Villa, I think, are in that hesitant cycle. People who make the decisions are afraid or unwilling to step out and face the future. Falling back on what was once comfortable, once worked, and was once successful is too strong a feeling to really change. Well for the fans it’s a “been there done that”. Old tactics aren’t working anymore. Filling the team with veterans who have been incredibly successful would appear to be a good idea but like I said time waits for no one. They might be a positive influence on youth but have they been an influence on the score sheet? Clogging up the middle because you’re not fleet of foot anymore isn’t the answer. Neither is fielding a back line that can’t turn on a dime.

It was a good bit of business for Stoke to sell Whelan. A ”so long and best wishes” for Terry from Chelsea and like a light bulb’s last bright blast providing an extension for Hutton. Still good players but past that elusive due date we all carry around. Who can blame them for wanting to extend a career and a wonderful life? Football is a ruthless sport as all professional sport is. Adapt or get left behind or worse, eaten. Unfortunately past brilliance isn’t a go to formula for success. Not learning that mistake is Villa’s downfall.

A light shone bright last week. It was the youth from Villa’s academy. We all knew they were there, we all knew they were good. But were they good enough? Conservative thinking kept them away from the first team. A few tidbits of appearances in a handful of games last year. If you’re lucky a place on the bench. And then last week circumstance brought them out into the light. And what a light it was. Clouds parted and the sun shone on Villa Park.

Unfortunately the comfortable past showed up and Villa reverted to form. Like him or hate him, Tim Sherwood has no fear in playing youth. Nor does he have any qualms in changing his tactics. Never one to stand still or blow hot air.

Youth is where it’s at. At least 5 players should be youth every game. They aren’t burdened by their history—they haven’t got one yet. They aren’t scared of making a mistake, speed and skill will correct it. The fans are on their side. Are they willing to accept youthful errors for a fast, exciting game? Yes, you have to balance a winning side with a sporting spectacle but does the spectre of not being promoted hang over management’s head and produce dour results? Would fans be more reasonable regarding promotion as long as they saw an entertaining game and continued improvement? I think so.

So, take the shackles off, let them play, let them be creative within a game plan that is offensively minded. Give them a place on the first team or close to it. Give them some ownership of team Villa. Do it soon or other teams are going to make offers too good to turn down.

Comments 101

  1. Ian,

    Very nice leader, thanks for that.

    I differ (as you might guess!) on a couple of points…

    1. What the previous managers did between 2011 and 2016 was (i.m.o.) very much down to how the entire club was run. How the chairman runs the club (and the kind of CEO he has appointed) will determine a lot in any business, not just football. And so it has been with AVFC. So – for me – talking about previous managers up to 2016 does not relate to the main cause of the problem – which was at the very top.

    2. “Conservative thinking kept [the youth] away from the first team.” Well, not really… the team against Norwich had the addition of only one youth from that which lost at Reading. Bruce had clearly had the intention of using Green and Bree and trying to get them to ‘play up’ consistently, and in the Norwich match he added just Davis. Though – it has to be said – Davis made a big difference.

    The Wigan match i.m.o. does not really count in this evaluation. Though they’re doing well in their own league I don’t think it follows that youth won themsleves a selection into the league straight away.

    3. “Youth is where it’s at. At least 5 players should be youth every game. They aren’t burdened by their history” – Yes, I’d like to think that too … but it seems not to be the reality that you can only expect so many to be bloodied all at once. It has to be a progressive thing. One of the reasons for my statement was apparent on Friday vs Bristol, where Davis struggled (frankly) to reproduce his Norwich form … though he did stick to his job manfully and came into the game a lot more as the game continued. But imagine 5 young players having that difficulty if they’re brought through all at once. Not – for me -a policy to be taken just yet.

    Bruce is clear that he wanted people who are committed to the cause of promotion and how to deal with getting it. Those we’ve signed who worked with him before speak highly of Bruce and are clearly happy to play under him. Let’s support ’em towards getting over that hurdle.

    If we haven’t made any great progress by October then of course a re-think will be necessary; but I don’t think it will come to that. Though I like the idea of seeing youth (and I’ve seen plenty of ’em at Villa over 60 years) I support Bruce in his endeavours to getting a balanced act together using mainly experience and some youth.

    Now we’ve signed so many experienced players we can hardly not use them!

  2. Mark- I volunteer to be the photographer with you in a pigeon suit
    More interesting than what’s going on til sept 9th.
    I suppose England are playing (yawn) – who’s Ireland playing?

  3. Ian
    Nice leader, mate. Yes it takes courage to step out of one’s comfort zone. I think you’re right that Bruce needs to do it.
    I’m not comfortable with anymore ex-Hull players coming in. It looks like Bruce is trying to create Hull Mk2 by falling back on what worked for him years ago. I think in Villa’s unique case, five youth players can start, because they’ve already played a lot together and they are ready. I think the team would actually be more cohesive for it.

  4. “Don’t look back”.
    We know what happened to Lot’s wife when she looked back.
    Even from a Darwinian point of view, we evolve or die out.
    Sounds like the country life overthere is bliss. All those cute critters and furry animals. Salmon sushi or grilled….

  5. Good leader Ian,

    Agree with JL on managers and in turn players, they are absolved of most of the responsibility because Lerner and then Fox were looking to retain Premiership status without real investment or even interest.

    In terms of youth, absolutely true to say they have no baggage and are very used to how each other plays which would allow them to be fearless. However, we have Bruce in charge and fear drives his decision making, the fear of losing is still greater in the way he sets up teams, there is a fear of not achieving the required target – promotion. Bruce is human while he may be rich enough to walk away and not really have Villa at heart, it would be a kick in the teeth for him to fail.

    It’s that fear that will dictate the lack of youth in starting 11s, this is not to say Bruce hates youth, he’s pragmatic enough to pick them when he looks at the cards he’s been dealt. Forced to play Davis v Norwich and it worked out, media/fan clamour for his retention forced Bruce’s hand against Bristol, the cup games are an aberration for Bruce, there continued progression is of benefit for Villa as our youth get both experience and exposure but for Bruce this is a headache as it places pressure on him to include whoever maybe the stand out performer on the bench at least and Bruce doesn’t operate this way.

    Bruce’s selection policy is based on trust, he in the past and probably still trusts Gabby, he didn’t trust Baker, I don’t think he particularly trusts our youth but that’s the catch 22, build up trust in the league and perhaps lose games on the way or continue to allow some to progress as far as the bench as reward. If we happen to get promoted this season. Team number 2 or 3 or whatever we are at now will continue to be a barrier for most of our youth as there will be no opportunity to allow trust to develop. The only saving grace in this is Dr.T going public on his requirement to include youth which I suggest is a Round/Little derived policy.

    Bruce as judged by two transfer windows now, was looking for championship experience in January and to shore up the midfield gap to forwards and in the summer looked for premiership experience in an attempt to bring in downward trajectory players who are unwanted at premiership level but may still be able to do a job in the championship.

    Clearly we’ll never be getting prem players on an upward trajectory so per Ian’s leader the assessment of players like Elmo, Snoddy, Whelan and Terry have to be very carefully made or we may find ourselves slipping further away. Especially when there is no resale value in Terry or Whelan so their contribution has to be greater than their monetary value.

    Looking at the Bristol game, after a few days I’m looking at it as a valuable away point and some small progression towards breaking our away trend.

  6. Iana,

    I think I’ve already answered that abo0ve in my response to Ian. 🙂

    Bruce is already using 4 young players but note that 2 of those he’s brought from outside, so he clearly didn’t see enough strength (attitude) in the Villa’s own youth players to fit the bill.

    That’s one of the things that Bruce is constantly telling us – that he’s looking for players who have the character to play at the top of their from pretty well every week. And I for one see the logic of that. There maybe plenty of youngsters who play well enough at the lower levels and in one-off Cup matches but there don’t seem to be many able to withstand the rigours of the league week in and week out.

    That has always been the case in the last 60 years … from the time of Mercer’s Minors. I’ve never known more than 3 youngsters to break through at the same time and be able to sustain their form, despite their obvious footballing skill. Why should today’s youth be any different?

  7. Darren,

    Good post. But I don’t think Bruce is affected by fear as much as you state, though I agree it’s an element.

    I think he shows the benefit of his experience at this type of promotion-chasing game and plays what he feels to be the best selection policy according to what *effective* resources are available.

  8. JL
    I’d still back the youth. Villa only came 13th last year with so-called seasoned professionals one year after being a Prem League team. I’m certain a team with more Villa raised youth could do the job. Colin Caulderwood claimed Villa youth have earned the right to be given a go. Obviously it needs to be a blend of youth and experience, but against Bristol, we were lacking a bit of athleticism and zing.

  9. Signings of Terry and Whelan were driven out of fear and mis-trust in my opinion, clearly we were defensively very capable last season, that is to say the bus we parked was correctly positioned and didn’t really need reinforcements albeit Jedinak was injury prone but again a signing of a player on a downward trajectory effectively replaced by another on the same road.

    Equally, what would have been wrong with promoting some of our youth into those positions and gaining the required levels of trust that in turn would have meant that Bruce didn’t need to sign either.

    We’ve seen the folly of youth in the cup games doesn’t actually mean losing so why not add these players in and around Chester/Baker/Jedinak instead of just the forward players like Davis/Green

    Granted Bruce has built up enough experience as a manager to understand how to not lose but as a former defender, I don’t think he has built up enough knowledge on how to be effective going forward with our players.

    The away point at Bristol was down to an individual piece of brilliance and a deflection while Villa didn’t lay down and die as in the past, the effectiveness of forward play still needs to worked on. Can we afford to be away from the top table for too long while Bruce figures out how to be effective with our forward players. Can we continue to rely on Terry and Whelan in these key positions over a season.

  10. Just to clarify, I mention Baker above as I believe he was an unnecessary sale in the same was Terry was an unnecessary buy and Baker could have been one of the defenders to bring our youngsters on

  11. Iana: “Villa only came 13th last year with so-called seasoned professionals one year after being a Prem League team.”

    Agreed, but Bruce has made the point that he has still been short of players with experience *and* the right attitude – hence signing of players like Terry and Whelan. I don’t think there was ‘fear’ involved here (Darren), just expediency.

    Players like Hourihane and Lansbury have taken until this season to settle in. Bruce has stressed that the attitude lurking at VP when he arrived was bad and changes had to be made, all of which have taken time to fit.

  12. Darren,

    Baker felt as though he had to leave to be guaranteed first-team football. From what Bruce has said he didn’t want to lose him, but the fact that Baker decided to go and the pressure of finances forced his hand. Meaning, of course, that the signings of Terry and Whelan were thought to be of superior value, and I still think that will prove to be correct, even it’s mainly their influence in the dressing-room.

  13. Bree is bought in and Hutton is the preferred choice, we have youths who play RB too

    Baker had to leave in order to play because of the arrival of Terry and Bruce not trusting him to be in the starting 11 or else Bruce wouldn’t have signed Terry, Terry’s arrival influence Baker’s decision, but what financial pressure, and existing player on a contract far less than Terry, so clearly there was no interest in Elphick and they had an enquiry on Baker because of Terry’s arrival and ability to generate some income through no fault of Baker.

    Why need players to influence a dressing room really, players only have to understand what’s required of them, buy into it and carry it out on the pitch. Clearly seasoned pros like Terry and Whelan may consider themselves the mouthpieces/eyes and ears for Bruce in the dressing room but if everyone was pulling for the club and the manager, dressing room influence wouldn’t have been needed. Who’s fault is that, the players or the manager, especially considering very few of any relegated or trouble making players exist to cause trouble? I don’t see other clubs buying players for the sake of influencing a dressing room why are we so different at this point.

  14. Nice leader Ian Thank you mate, Indeed this has been ten years in the making. Oneils time ( push for champs league) showed he had little time for youth he hadn’t bought and then with changing approaches in the first team play from various managers a cohesive passage to the 1st team was denied coupled with player discontent and even poorly planned attempts at money ball stopped a lot of progress.

    Fast forward to last season and we saw no particular use for youth either, Green sparkled at times but was quickly dropped for the new draft of champs players Bruce bought in Jan but failed to achieve a team out of until Jedi and kodjia returned ( a position we still appear to be in). Even when we had no real chance of placing a few made the bench but not the team as the only quest Villa had was to get Kodjia 20 goals. So much could and should of been learned in that final month.

    Move forward again to pre-season it was clear the first team was to be like a vets league team with Green for decoration, you could say our Goalies are young but thats the one position you do want experience imo. Hutton still preferred to Bree etc but what was clear to me was without youth in the side we created little, relying on a strong defensive stance to get through and the odd bit of luck (precisely what we saw at Bristol). The games with a strong youth presence mixed with the younger side of our squad looked bets with the likes of Samba showing up well as the experienced man amongst kids.

    First game of the season pretty much saw Bruces intent, a side full of old players (even Bacuna played) that at first appeared ok then blew itself out. We hadn’t completed one full game of 90 mins mind you in pre-season after the first two games played on the same day, even that tournament was 45 mins a game, and I questioned whether they could play 90 at the pace we did at the time.

    well we all know what happened next, more reshuffling of the older players and the addition of Odamah who shone generally but still the same faces playing the same way. Que injuries and the inclusion of davis and a few younger players and Hourihane gets his hat-trick how did we achieve this we played the ball quickly to Davis and got in around him. Defence still looked ropey and wheelan invisible but improvement.

    We then get the cup game that emphasises the quality we have in reserve yet again and several players are vying for a spot on Friday. On friday we instead change formation, park the bus, leave Davis isolated and Hourihane running about from players to player and Onamah exhausting himself. the result we barely produce a chance and get a deflected goal, it does not bare any resemblance to the previous two games.The set up was Taylor made for the way we played with Kodjia, not the players available yet Davis comes a close second being Onamah for MOTM.

    In short Bruce has not planned to use the youth in any meaningful way imo, It cannot be because he believes they are not tough enough because after the cup game he waxed lyrical about KMac’s ability to produce tough ready made youth players (nothing about their quality mind) He has mentioned that we had 4-5 youth players out there as way of an excuse against Bristol but he hamstrung them with as DOR said fearful tactics.

    Jedi will return and JT will improve just as last seasons defence could not cope without him, might take him a few games if he is indeed fit just as it did when he first turned up. I am left hoping Snodgrass can change the pattern of play even with the brakes on.

  15. DOR- Well said mate why are we so different? why is Bruce still chirping on about terrible away records (its seven years you know), explaining why he bought terry ( Doesn’t matter if he can’t play well) Its his effect on the youth apparently in cup games as they were clearly not favoured initially. Every week he is revealing more and more of how hard it was for him or is, hardest Job, players depressed on half wages yadda yadda, its like an excuse fest.

    I don’t think players need an eternity to settle in either otherwise we should of just kept the relegation team and waited for them to settle in we only bought them that season. How do other teams buy similar amounts of players yet look like they have never been apart?

  16. Some good comments DOR and MK,

    I am pleased for Baker that he escaped to Bristol City, where he will be part of what looks like a bright future, and he certainly improved under his loan spell there. I am sure that Lee Johnson will continue to develop him, as he is the other players at Bristol.

    I agree that most of Bruce’s motives are driven by fear, and he knows he is living on a knife’s edge with Dr Tony, and he gets very involved, which maybe Bruce finds hard to handle.

    I hope that Calderwood will encourage him to use more of our own young players who are really hungry for success.

  17. Darren,

    On the question of why “Aston Villa are so different”, I’ve covered this one before.” 😉

    If you’re comparing with the similar clubs, there lies the difference. There is much more expectation and, added to which a very much different set of circumstances that have accrued these past few years – down to Lerner.

    Perhaps you don’t choose to accept that explanation. Well, that’s your option.

    On the matter of Bree, he *is* being played – as at Bristol after h-t as an example. He is quietly “getting there”. I get the impression that Hutton is being eased out.

    On Baker you have basically said the same thing I said, but it was essentially Baker’s choice to leave rather than fight for a position.

  18. PP,

    Bruce driven mostly by fear?

    Forgive me – that’s most unlikely. A very experienced man in this kind of situation does not work from fear but from what he believes will work best, I believe.

  19. Anyway, I see that the knocking of Bruce continues, even after gaining two 4-goal wins of late.

    But of course, Bruce didn’t engineer those wins, did he? 😀 Silly me.

    All I can say is that when Villa really start getting their run going I expect to see on-going criticism of Bruce. I wouldn’t dare expect otherwise! 😀

  20. Thanks for the comments guys. Sorry I’m late to the table, I just got up.
    JL–on youth and getting “blooded” . There are 5 youth players who should show up every game who have been blooded. Grealish, Bree, Rushian-Hepburn, Green, and Davis. I think they should be pushed to the forefront and other youth players in position to take a turn.

    Darren, I agree with your assessment about fear and trust. Two things that rattle around in my head. When I first stepped into the command phase of my career I really had a problem with ability, skill, and trust. We were geared to not fail that was the nature of the job and I defaulted to trust until I was more confident in myself to give people more rope in a position I depended on. Show trust in a person and chances are they will rise to the occasion, they have the knowledge and skill.

    O’Neil did what he thought was right regardless to what Lerner was comfortable with and that’s why he left. Garde took it up the backside and did nothing .

  21. Ian- yep two four goal games preceded by 2-3 embarrassing ones and we have conceded about 8 goals so far and I expect that was also engineered by Bruce? for the life of me I don’t know why he doesn’t just stick to engineering the 4 goal ones? could just be the level of the opposition we have faced so far? if so then it doesn’t look good for us does it at an average of a point a game and 1.4 points a game over the 40 he’s been in charge, .33333333333333333 a game without the youth players this season and 2 points a game with them. Small sample size I know 🙂

    On a more cheery note the pigeon has gone, last seen copying a female that landed in the garden last evening I am choosing to believe he is gonna live happy ever after, or at least until he does that stupid pigeon thing where they fly into your car.

  22. Septembers games are by far the easiest sequence of games we have this season so Bruce really should be seeing a big return this month, if he doesn’t and is still here by the end then it only gets harder from October onwards. September could save his job but be a bit of a false dawn due to the opposition or if approached with the intention of going at teams imo it could be the start of a promotion push and see us rack some high scores up.

  23. JL,
    Of course you are entitled to believe, and under normal circumstances you would be right about a man of his experience, but these are not normal circumstances.

    Bruce was given a remit to get Villa promoted in ONE season, and he failed, but was given an extension by Xia, on the basis that it would happen this season. He was allowed to recruit and spend on more players, and had virtually a free reign to do so, but the results had to be forthcoming.

    Xia, like all Chinese businessmen does not tolerate fools gladly, and is not happy at the results so far. and being 18th in league, after giving his whole hearted support to Bruce. He will not hesitate to dismiss him if he does not reach his targets for September.

    I am sure that the fear in Bruce’s eyes after the Bristol City game was very clear, and he knew that Xia was very unhappy after the two previous results, which were more about Calderwood’s influence, rather than Bruce’s, hence the statements from Calderwood about the youth. I am not sure that Calderwood and Bruce are actually seeing eye to eye at the moment.

  24. Paul,

    Sorry, I don’t hold that Bruce failed at all. You and MK obviously see that to be the case but I certainly don’t read it like that. In fact he didn’t have a whole season to do the job and the faces of the players were pretty down when he arrived from what he said.

    With some improvement these last 3 matches, let’s at least give him a bit more rope! The more rope he has the more there’ll be to haul him out of office if he does fail! 😀

  25. Ian: “on youth and getting “blooded” . There are 5 youth players who should show up every game who have been blooded. Grealish, Bree, Rushian-Hepburn, Green, and Davis. I think they should be pushed to the forefront and other youth players in position to take a turn.”

    Well, that’s your opinion and that’s fine, but I do not see the sense of that.

    To start with Davis appears to have taken over from RHM in that role, and with Codger to return I just can’t see the sense of it.

    Grealish has done absolutely nothing in reality apart from 2 or 3 very smart goals. I did hope that this season would see him step up, but by the time he returns it may well be too late.

    That leaves Bree, Green and Davis … who are already there. Plus Onomah.

  26. why sack RDM after 11 games if the new manager was not expected to rescue the season? could of and probably should of backed him and given him until dec. Why are the glum faces a problem for Bruce but not an excuse for RDM? he had even more glum faces to deal with and if you had signed for a manager you liked and another walks in the door 6 games later would you not be a little apprehensive? you have just moved your family to start a new life in most cases.

    Kodjia in my opinion is not the answer to our problems anyway unless he can score 70-80 goals he requires to much focus from the team, yes he will get you 20 but at a price. Hogan and Davis are far more team orientated, will get their fair share but will create far more space for others to score.

    Doyle hayes is bar far the best mid we have and I would play him with Onamah and hourihane. I would forget a DM role and go for more dynamism

  27. Aston Villa boss Steve Bruce has taken another swipe at the “vultures” that have been critical of his team this season.

    Last week, Bruce spoke of the “ridiculous abuse” that he faced following Villa’s indifferent start to the 2017-18 campaign.

    The Villans picked up just one point from their opening three Championship matches of the new season, which led to widespread abuse on social media.

    Bruce has led his team to four points from their last two league matches, however, in addition to victory in the EFL Cup against Wigan Athletic.

    The former Manchester United centre-back has admitted that it has been “a mixed start to the season” for Villa, but he is pleased that ‘a good week will now keep the vultures away for a while’.

    “It’s been a mixed start to the season. But I think we are better now,” the Birmingham Mail quotes Bruce as saying.

    “The players from the relegation squad have moved on by and large. It was important for them, in their careers, to move on and get away the cloud which has hung over the place for too long. In that respect we are better.

    “To be honest I did not expect the vultures to circle as quickly but I suppose it is the manner of football, which I understand. I am under no illusions anymore.

    “When you are up against it you have to batten down the hatches, get on with it and try and ride the storm. Thankfully, we have had a good week, which keeps the vultures away, for a while.”

  28. Well, it’s Brentford up next. Look forward to that match. I’ll see you guys againthen. I think we’re harping on about Bruce’s weaknesses too much now ad nauseum.
    Still hope lots of young players get a chance. Good luck to Snodgrass at Villa. Hope he scores lots of goals and assists. Adomah is pretty good though.
    Good luck to Bruce and the team.

  29. Ah, JL…You provocateur, you.

    In short, no I don’t think Bruce ‘engineered’ either of those wins. But if he did, he would’ve also engineered the Cardiff and Reading losses. Meaning jury is still out.

    Now of course I recognize that some will never think that Bruce is what need. Me, I’m agnostic. Show me the results, and I don’t care who the manager is. I really have no “feelings” or predisposition about Bruce, other than that he seems a likeable enough fellow.

    But, as I’ve bored everyone to death with, my view is that he’s persisted with certain things too long, and I say too long because the performances, and not just the results, haven’t been what he, or we, would’ve wanted. That’s about it.

  30. Iana- I agree mate, there has been enough written about how if we just stay positive and allow SB more time, more money, more players, more experience but without any discern-able progress to talk about it will all end well Vs the supposed negative view of people like me that see not much has changed and hear endless streams of excuses coming from SB himself as to why its not working and none explaining the strategy beyond we need experience (if thats a fact then why did we not go for that in Jan rather than solely the leagues top performers?). Leads me to think SB will bumble along until he does or doesn’t drop on something if allowed. I would be fine with that if there was this overall ethos being tied into the first team from the bottom down but it just appears to be a separate entity from Bruces ideas.

    JC- I concur, it just isn’t convincing enough for me, we seem to have got neither the single minded ness and leadership of warnock nor the detailed planning of a Wagner. I can’t say I am purely results driven because the net result for me would be me choosing to glance at Villa’s results vs looking forward to watching them play. Right now I would take the results path just to see what the next phase is because this one is not much better than what we have seen in recent years imo. I continue to be disappointed by the opportunity missed but would at least see the reasoning if the results had steadily got better.

    Its all become a bit like looking at an ink blot and stating what you see, some see an animal or bird somewhere in there I see an inkblot.

  31. Hi JL, why would I compare Villa with smaller clubs, I’m comparing Villa with every club that exists whereby there is absolutely no requirement to buy players to boost the dressing room, either the players buy into what the manager is doing or they don’t. Sure, there are different levels of expectancy but that is separate needing players to influence the dressing room.

    And if the manager can’t persuade the players to buy into it, he has two options save face by getting some cronies in and influence it that way or resign because he can’t do his job. Clearly, Bruce has chosen to buy experience, players he knows (ex Hull) in the hope his message is taken on board that he is right in how he sets up his team.

    You are going to have to drop the Lerner years influence at some stage, very few players exist from that time, the manager and the owners aren’t influenced by Lerner. The reality is the players including those bought by Bruce in Jan didn’t buy into what Bruce was doing last year although he has time to see if they’ll buy into it this year. I still believe that our midfield and forwards are playing based on experience as opposed to direction because it seems far from coordinated in attack.

    On Baker, if Bruce says I can’t guarantee you games, then it’s not a case of staying and fighting, the manager has made up Baker’s mind for him, the presence of Terry has made up Baker’s mind, I wish Baker well but he is a victim of Villa’s circumstance as opposed to someone who has pushed to leave the club he has been at since a 13 year old.

    I guess Terry just sticks in my gut, racist, adulterer, obtaining the captaincy without earning it, a negligible contribution to the happy happy land dressing room that Bruce seems to need.

  32. DOR- I question why experience only comes in players over 30? Hourihane was captain of Barnsely, and Chester ours until JT waltz’s in and although the cup games have been played against lower opposition we have shown greater cohesion and more intent with less age on the pitch. Some players perform because they feel needed or are given responsibility, some also lose that drive when they no longer feel valued nor in charge. The influx of now less physically able experience doesn’t appear to have increased our ability to see games out while the addition of youth has seen us put games beyond the reach of the opposition.

    There is a balance to be had and I believe it exists somewhere within January’s signings and the youth, with a maybe 1/2 older players. Bruces best period of results came with one old player Jeinak playing and Kodjia up top, I think he can achieve similar but have a better cutting edge with or without Kodjia if he can blend jan and youth players.

  33. An interesting leader Mr.Gibson.We missed a trick not playing youth at the latter part of last season when the top 6 hopes evaporated.
    Let’s hope the current crop are the real deal and don’t fall away like Isiah Osborne,The Fonz who is on the bench at Blackpool,wee Barry and GG who is still with us.All the 4 I mention had ample opportunities,I hope the present contenders get the game time.

  34. Very good leader Ian, which sums it all up. A disinterested owner (Learner) and incompetent people in high profile positions who allowed the club to decline whilst living on past glories. A repition of the sixties, I thought I’d never see it happen again.
    I do think the decline stopped twelve months ago and the current manager has ensured the playing staff associated with relegation have been shipped out with a few exceptions. I can see what the manager is atempting to do with the players he’s brought in which is to put in place that experience which didn’t exist. We didnt have the established senior players at the club and the level of expectation at this club of ours makes it difficult for players who were performing well at clubs with different ambitions.
    Not sure about filling the side with young hopefuls is the way to go though, maybe one or two at the most. Just my opinion.
    Far to early to sack the manager, ten games will be the indicator.
    Benitez to West Ham…..any truth in the rumour ??
    The journey continues, Archie

  35. Darren: “You are going to have to drop the Lerner years influence at some stage”

    Quite right. I only mention it in the context up to 2016 and the run-over into 2017 but it’s got to the point where whatever problems existed from that time should have evaporated.

    We simply have to wait for the killer team (that we must now surely have) to do the killing! 🙂

  36. Can Bruce tell Snoddy to shut up, he’s a Villa player now, show a bit more class. Let’s hope he’s not as disruptive inside the dressing room as his anger venting suggests he is in public.


    Honestly, hope we don’t have to wait too long, the attacking signs were there against a very poor Norwich side who still scored two and again against a lower league Wigan side who made several changes in the cup.

    Have we found our level despite the millions spent and the high wages paid that we are now a Leeds or a Forest, where past glories are all that are left as we look longingly at Stoke or West Ham and the millions they make from just being in the Prem.

    I had a little debate with another Villan on Facebook and he seemed very accepting that a point away to Bristol was a good result and the argument was we are no longer the big club we think we are, my point was how far have we fallen if drawing with Bristol is acceptable and why should we accept that level of performance given what we have spent.

    If only Bruce could consistently find a formula that works and stick with it, he needs to finds his preferred starting 11 soon and develop some clear tactics on how to support our front players and not just wait for Kodija’s return, we can’t be that one dimensional anyway.

  37. don’t know what you mean DOR, Welcome to Villa Snoddy our new LW 🙂

    “Robert Snodgrass has laid into under-fire West Ham boss Slaven Bilic, saying he did not know what position to play him in.
    Scotland winger Snodgrass moved to London Stadium in a £10.2million deal from Hull City in January having scored seven Premier League goals for the Tigers in the first half of last season.
    However, Snodgrass struggled to impress at West Ham playing largely on the left wing and was shipped out on loan to Championship side Aston Villa last week.
    The 29-year-old says the warning signs were there from his first appearance in a Hammers shirt and questioned the nous of Bilic, who is under pressure with West Ham having lost their opening three league matches.
    Speaking on international duty, he said: “I was coming on against [Manchester] City and he [Bilic] said ‘where do you want to play, on the left or right?’
    “I thought ‘you have just signed me and I have played on the right or behind the striker at Hull City all season’.
    “That was my debut and alarm bells were ringing right away. I found it very strange and I realised from the off that it wasn’t going to happen.
    “Every time I played, I was on the left. I don’t know why he did it. I joined as Dimitri Payet left and maybe it was a case of ‘you can play there’.
    “But I’d only filled in on the left on a couple of occasions. I hate that position but when you are Scottish you are brought up to play anywhere.
    “It’s fine to play for one or two games but you need to play in your right position, especially on the back of scoring nine goals for Hull.
    “At that stage, nobody had scored more goals for Hull or West Ham. The manager was under a lot of pressure and I later said that out of respect I didn’t want to go in and see him during that period.
    “But when I eventually did speak to him I said I thought he would have known I wasn’t a left-midfielder and that he must have watched me after signing me for that type of money.
    “His answer was basically that when people are confident they can play anywhere.”

  38. Just when you thought the experienced players were here to help with us not collapsing, Is the Hurly Burly a bit like the okey kokey? 😉

    “Aston Villa boss Steve Bruce has said that John Terry will eventually adapt to the “hurly-burly” of Championship football.

    The 36-year-old Terry joined the Championship club from Chelsea this summer and has so far had a mixed impact in terms of his performances for the club.

    He endured a testing game during his club’s 1-1 draw with Bristol City last Friday and was very lucky to have not conceded a second half penalty.

    Bruce has also highlighted this struggle but added that he feels that the veteran will eventually adapt to Championship football.

    He said, “John is doing fine. He will get used to the hurly-burly. This was never going to be an easy option and I think he realised that when he signed.

    “I don’t think he wanted an easy option. He could have taken that and moved abroad. It is not just what he gives on the pitch, it is what he gives off the pitch and the young lads. I have surrounded the young ones with really good pros, which I think was important.”

  39. I’m with you Darren, how far have we fallen, and why should we take a draw at Bristol as a good result. I’m just flabbergasted at the way a lot of Villa fans are just accepting mediocrity and the most boring Villa team in years. We obviously have the talent we showed it by accident twice this season when the team was forced to play by a different play book due to injuries. Also, at the beginning of last season , we didn’t get the results right away, but we were at least attractive to watch and unpredictable to boot. I’m not sure how long we should give Brucie to get us clicking, too soon like we were with RDM doesn’t work, but how long can we wait, another half dozen games and he’s had a year, and we haven’t improved one iota, and if any thing have gone further backwards in my opinion. Anyway, I’ll pay the fifty pence for the bullet if it hasn’t improved by the end of September.

  40. ‘surrounded the young ones with really good pros’ – ladies of the night? (that may be a reflection of my mind, more than anything else) 🙂

  41. I just read that Bruce is having trouble getting the senior players to put a full day in on game day and has decided to use the younger players. Sounds like he’s lost the dressing room. Time for Terry to step up. He does want to manage, right? Well show some leadership there.
    Several managers in the past few years on Villa’s payroll have been droll and here’s another. Out of touch with today’s players. Too bad Houllier did the funky chicken and had to go on medical leave. Too bad Sherwood was let go, trying to flog a dead horse with what he had on hand and maybe too bad RDM was booted before things turned around for him.
    Every player has his price as do the teams. Just because they cost a lot and get paid more than they are worth doesn’t produce an instant winner. Of course the young players want to play and player with vigour, they have their entire career in front of them. Be careful or Villa will be just a stepping stone.

  42. Ian – where did you read that mate? I agree we have lost plenty by not playing them and there are a few now that are on 1 year contracts.

    I have to say that its no surprise to me that JT has failed to live up to the pre-season hype, I don’t think anyone could it was that embarrassing, especially the one where we hadn’t conceded with him playing??? that was a set up for disaster if ever I saw one. The recipe of a tough demanding league and old and injury prone players? we are done recruiting too says the Doc only outs.

  43. Darren: “I had a little debate with another Villan on Facebook and he seemed very accepting that a point away to Bristol was a good result and the argument was we are no longer the big club we think we are”

    Well, I do think it was a good result – but only in the context of where we are just at the minute – putting new players together, that is. Compared to losing at Bristol 3-1 at exactly the same point last year it was surely a good result.

    But it’s not that we have found our level, in my view. I think it’s jsut that extra gelling factor that’s required. There are those that will certainly decry that p.o.v., but we’ve still not played with a settled team long enough. 2 or 3 games more may see the fruit of keeping the same side together.;

  44. Mark –express and star
    How can you expect anyone to gell when they don’t know from one game to another what Bruce is thinking? He’s been buggering around for a year now to no great rush up the table. Don’t any of his assistants help him out with team selection? How can you consider it a good result using last year’s loss to the same team? Last year counts for SFA. 2 to 3 more games? They’ve already shown what they can do against Norwich and Wigan. He’s a nervous Nellie who will get left behind—again.

  45. On the money Ian.How can aa team gell,when they play 4 games with B4 then change to a B3 for the first time?????????
    As I stated on Friday,the B3 was selected with a negative grab a point mentality,we went there with an underdog mentality as if Bristol were vastly superior.IMO it was not a “good” point,a welcome point ,but a missed opportunity to attain 3 points.
    Only one side went for the win 1st half,,we went to contain and defend. The selection reveals this IMO,SB got it wrong and deseves a little respect for changing it,but it wax so flippi obvious when the lineups were released.

  46. His team selections colour the thinking of the players. Pick a defensive formation and everyone thinks well poo, another boring game to play. Show me one player who wants to play bar the door over attacking football.

  47. Brasil- Lets say he set up to use wingbacks in an attacking 352 not went out to defend (bare with me)
    Taylor and Elmo the oldest wingbacks in the league, Samba, JT and Chester to cover the width of the pitch with Wheelan trying to cover all three. Chester the youngest at 28.

    Surely that lot has to give you pause for thought when picking them for this task? for the life of me I can’t understand why he thought it was more solid than how we had been playing? and if it went Pete tong then you have to use a sub to change it, Bree on the right to start instead of elmo would at least give you that choice of an attacking player for Samba?

    Favorite comment of the night “I used it at hull but we are not ready for it???” that one was trotted out last season Steve.

  48. Hey John
    Not complaining so much. He had some good attacking games last year and now has had two this year but his MO is to revert to a defensive style of play. I would rather see an attacking game and a loss instead of a defensive display and lose in the last minutes. How often has that happened?
    The talent is there use it.

  49. Have to agree…Don’t think people are “complaining,” so much as diagnosing and/or disagreeing.

    Now of course, tones of incredulity or accusations of stupidity…Yes, they can cast a harsh light on the conclusions, but really you just have supporters who are trying to puzzle things out. Because apart from just sitting and watching, that’s what you do.

    Everybody rates players, evaluates performances, and managers’ records, tactics, and selections. All standard stuff. So loads of us are armchair tacticians, and when you look at the options regarding players and tactics, then measure those up against what you see employed and how it’s worked, you might have questions.

    And again, bottom line is everyone wants to see Villa succeed. For myself, of course I’m always behind the team. But we all have opinions on what the starting XI should be and how they should be deployed.

  50. conte of Chelsea described himself as a coach and not a manager, only my opinion but I believe its what we need at this point in time . Bruce is supposed to be a man manager yet seems anything but to me with his comments .

    “I’m totally committed to the club,” Conte said. “I’m a coach, I’m not a manager. The best of my work is on the pitch, to try to improve my players, to try to improve my team.”

  51. Always thought manager/coach were interchangeable in football. Here we have a coach, assistant coach(es) and a general manager. The GM is responsible for the running of the club including buying, selling, and trading players. Their salaries,bonuses, and needs. Dealing with agents too. The coach(es) works with the team and their product on the ice or gridiron. There are coaches for the different positions be it offence, defence, or goalkeeping.
    I thought the director of football took some of the work. The GM so to speak.
    Lad off the manager.

  52. Ian- The new Manager/coach theses days appears to have a technical and psychological handle on the game vs the old style wind them up and send them out in a formation type. Maybe with the younger generation the latter no longer works so readily? maybe that’s why SB is bringing in so many ex players and friends to bridge that gap? Or he is just out of touch.

  53. Ian: “Not complaining so much. He had some good attacking games last year and now has had two this year but his MO is to revert to a defensive style of play. “

    Well, you see, I don’t see that Bruce did revert to a defensive game.

    En contraire, with Onomah, Green and Davis up top (and Bree second half) it looked a lively bunch i.m.o. And a draw is a damn sight better than a defeat exactly one year after this previous Bristol visit.

    Villa’s 2 four goal games were at home, of course, and it should always be expected that it’s more difficult to get the same result away. It just doesn’t follow that what you can do at home will always be possible in an away match.

    Let’s see what develops…

    I – for one – am far more hopeful than not.

  54. Ian-
    I cannot say Bruce had any games last season that matched say the Norwich game for attacking intent, we played on the counter and a few games worked better than others for a win and a few we got lucky in, but most of our threat was Kodjia and Adomah two free-wheeling players.

    Sure enough we had some attacking players on the pitch against Reading but they were handicapped by not being joined by the rest of the team who looked so uncomfortable they barley ventured out of our half. Wheelan who is supposed to be picking the passes and was holding hands with the defence as he clearly saw the threat.

    We had Hogan, gabby, elmo, onamah,lansbury on the pitch against Cardiff, all attacking players, clearly just putting them on the pitch doesn’t make the intent attacking, all last season Bruce had players with attacking reps dropping back and defending adomah for one, this season he has brought in two players that are more rounded playing like that, hogan was in our penalty area clearing the ball against Cardiff in open play?!

    Yes a draw trumps a defeat but last season we played very well for an hour with Grealish taking the lead, Ayew missed two sitters before Bristol woke up and had a go. Set up to win then change the game when you have the lead late on if need be, but only as a last resort.

    I would say the biggest problem we have is the defence cannot push up to far for fear of being bypassed, so regardless of intent/formation we will concede because we are slow at the back. An incredible lack of foresight by SB while remodelling the defence.


    It looks like we are trying to offload a few. McCormack, Elphick, Richards, Gardner and possibly Hutton could go today.

    The only link that seems strong with regards to ins is Peter Crouch. I have to say, I’d be happy with that. We look very strong on the flanks now, so a big guy to compliment Hogan would be great. Davis has started brilliantly but we can’t pin our hopes on one so young and inexperienced. With Kodjia to return, we would look very decent up front, with plenty of variations and options to choose from.

    My only real concern is the lack of engines and energy in midfield. I’m disappointed in Whelan so far. It looks like his legs are gone. Not a good trait for a high energy defensive midfielder.

  56. Droyd- I have to question the policy of buying all these over thirties players, the only reason our team has not hit an over 30 average age for a match day team is we have played a few 19 year olds. Most players have a team of players in their prime 25-29 with the odd oldie and the odd youngster, our policy appears to be pushing us toward a reliance on the youngsters rather than being able to rely on the older players, surely that wasn’t the intention Pre-season? we are skint thats for sure if we don’t sell and the only sellable players we have are the ones in their prime generally or the Youth. GG for instance looked a different player when played as the holding midfielder and doyle hayes beside him. Crouch is not a bad Idea if its say him and wheelan/Kodjia on the pitch with some youth and mid 20’s players.

    In pre-season we struggled to score goals but looked solid against lower opposition on the whole and our main attacking threat was a ball launched out to the wings or Over the top which did not need the defence to come out. That has failed and now we have seen introducing more youth gets goals but the Older players are still sitting in. We beat Norwich 4-2 great result but the defence still concedes to many with or without the forced changes.

  57. i dont know how anyone can be disappointed by whelan,he does as wrote on label spends 90mins in and around centre circle passing backways mostly,our problems lie in bruce favourite back 4 too old slow and plainly useless in huttons case,bruce broke up baker and chester to finance terry and samba why ,bruces ego,same as why after winning 2 matches he changed tactics and some thought tim was dim when it came to tactics

  58. so much for doc and bruce saying we would work with panel 19/20 plus a few young lads
    johnson bunn steer
    hutton delaet bree taylor
    terry chester samba elphik richards
    whelan jedi gardner ooamh elmo adoamh snodgrass houriane lainsby grealish birr
    gabby kodja hogan mccormak
    27 senior players add
    green davies rhm beadu leyden
    thats seriously bloated

  59. Hello JG- yes its bad but at least we are not giving them away I suppose although I wish we could give a couple away 🙂 GG probably going to Barnsley it will be interesting to see how he does there I rate their manager and style of play, should suit him better. I think we will keep Elphick with our back-line being so thin. Apparently we are just about this side of the FFP red line hence no big spending. If we don’t go up this season then I wonder what that means for next?

  60. To be fair, the family jewels were sold byMON, apart from Benteke, right now we have very few players that are saleable because the level they are at vs. their current wages means the like of Torquay can’t afford Richards, I expect we’ll be loaning out a few and covering wages for some time to come until contracts are finished such is the s**te we’ve bought in recent years.

    We’d do well to tie up a few kids on longer contracts like Mark? said

  61. Family jewels were Milner and Young, but post MON only Benteke and Delph stand out for me but others may remind me of other decent players we’ve had.

    I’ve a DVD ready to send to Money City of Gabby highlights, I’ve changed the year to 2017 given his highlights were some time ago

  62. so GG to Barnsley and sarkic to wigan on loan. RMC and Elphic still here among others, not good money wise but I have a feeling we may need them both. Also no other loanee’s going out from the youth team. Not what the management wanted but lets hope Snodgrass is the final piece to Bruces Jigsaw and not another bit we have to cram in.

  63. How many pieces have we got for the 11 piece jigsaw, bloated squad remains cos there is no value in our players. I hope Bruce finds his first 11 soon and a winning home and away formation, as there will be a few players grumbling about not being picked if we don’t turn the corner very soon.

  64. well ,its about time bruce put his EGO aside and do whats best for the villa play rmc let him earn his wages.You never know he might be what we are missing goals.

  65. DOR- This regime has created its own problems just as the last by paying big on mediocrity, worse than that we still have some of the last regimes overpaid mediocrity. Could surely have been avoided by building a team not buying on Rep, maybe then the players arriving would have come because its Aston Villa not just a big wage increase or in the managers case a chance to spend big. No use now whats dones done and this season being a hugely pivotal one in our finances it better work out .

  66. Rob, Mark…

    Agreed. Whether RMC is going to play his way back into consideration, can’t say, but would be just our luck to loan him out to a playoff hopeful and have him find form.

  67. JC,

    Where’s the evidence for him “finding form”, John? He went to Forest and didn’t do much there apparently.

    If the feller doesn’t fit at Villa then don’t play him! Money wasted? Yes, but if upsets the applecart that should not be good reason to have him play. It doesn’t fit the old Villa Way doctrine at all.

    People here are wanting Davis and RHM to succeed and Codger is to come back, and we have Hogan (and Gabby!) so why the heck do we need McCormack?

  68. This is the path the club has taken(rightly or wrongly) promotion or bust so they should play whomever they need to to get the job done, simple as. With dwindling funds and an ageing team we will have to cut back further if we don’t succeed, Ross hasn’t been great but neither is Gabby. Hope he’s over his personal issues if indeed he does get called on. There is no room for moralising particularly when Bruce made a big thing about second chances with Gabby.

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