We hoped for a Happy New year, and that’s what’s been delivered – so far at least.

Yes, there’s nothing like a defeat or two for the gnashing of teeth to re-commence, but when a win or two materialises either all goes quiet or some other reason for dissatisfaction is often found by the fans. It’s Villa, isn’t it? The fans are fickle, aren’t they? Well, not so fickle that despite all the vicissitudes and false promises of the last few years, they still go down to VP in quite large numbers. And that’s how it’s always been, except when matters were really dire in the Autumn of 1968 and the odd occasion at other times.

The Chairman made it clear that promotion had to be achieved within two years of his arrival, and targeted major achievements within five years, but a softening of stance on this issue has been detected of late. That perhaps indicates that his initial enthusiasm and willingness to spend-spend was perhaps a bit lop-sided away from reality. But what the chairman has done that impresses me is that early on he focused on the need to change the low sense of self-esteem that seemed to exist within the club when he took over, and the rigorous yet progressive re-organisation of the club’s management and coaching that’s needed to bring the Club back to its real home – the top tier. As a true field-marshall, the chairman even stopped by to give his troops a morale-boosting talk before Christmas.

On the pitch the play may not be “Total Football” but it’s a system that’s been honed to wear the opposition down and to secure as many points as possible in order to get back to the top as quickly as possible. In fourth place and being just five points behind an automatic promotion place, and with 19 games to go to build up a storming finish, the Villa is well-placed. We’re not there yet, but perhaps the New Year indicators symbolise that this is a new era that’s being brought together as we watch.

Before the New year we had a daunting injury list, with Kodjia, Terry, Hogan, Jedinak and Green being perhaps the most honourable members of that sick band, but though we’re probably going to be without ‘Codger’ for the rest of the season, the fighting wounded have otherwise returned (or are returning) to the fray. Added to that, the arrival of coach Steve Agnew appears to have brought an improvement out of Hogan (and others), and perhaps Hogan is now shaping up to be the goalscoring power that he was supposed to be when he signed. It’s just as well: after all, the chairman is no longer able to shell out twelve-million pound purchase fees for misfiring pea-shooters!

The turnabout in attitude amongst the players since the summer of 2016 is quite startling in my view, but has been achieved mostly by the disposing of quite a few players introduced by previous managers, in the process. Of late, the kind of silly errors that were still occurring a few months ago has virtually been eradicated. Apart from Grealish and Hutton, there is no semblance of the side that existed before the current chairman arrived, and both the players named in fact now seem to have ‘upped’ their game.

I think we talked 2 or 3 years ago about leadership needing to come from the top, with Lerner being distant right to the time of his exit. The new ownership seems, indeed, to be made of something both more durable and more communicative. And able to keep Bruce on his toes. In contrast to what went before there’s no hint of the Villa being a plaything for Dr. Xia!



I know you will enjoy my latest book, “The Villa Way – 1874-1944”. Please look into my bookshop (click here) and purchase a copy. 

Michael of Herne Bay says: “Being a villa fan, I thoroughly enjoyed John Lerwill’s latest publication on my club. I have all of John’s publications to date, and they take pride of place in my ‘Villa Library'”.

Comments 66

  1. From previous post:
    Ian – Absolutely, Agnew is one of the most important signings that Bruce has made IMO.
    His positive impact has happened very quickly, & can only increase.
    Yes it’s nice to look forward to a Saturday as a positive thing, after so many years of jaundiced tendencies & feeding on hope most of the time.
    I never want to see another yellow Villa away kit.

  2. we have to remember just 3 games we were in real trouble,,,, if we had lost the boro and city games and other results had gone the other way we would have been in a very precarious position
    but the virus struck the underperformers and the rest is history,,,,
    such is how fortunes can change,,,
    i am critical of bruce at times but the appointment of agnew and his tinkering with benny banana
    could turn out to be very significant,, especially if thor does stay
    the squad looks good now, its happy, and its value seems to be returning,, hogan mccormack elphick benny banana all doing better and even tishibola for the reserves,, and gardner is starting to play better for bansley
    so there is some future sales come the end of the season if they continue to improve,, rather than just being released,,,
    its hard to tell what bruce plans next,, and who is coming in,,, but as it stands it wont be a disaster if no one comes in,,,, but its worth strengthening just in case of injuries and suspensions

  3. Just watched the Leicester game, using VAR, I look forward to it in the EPL & championship.
    It’ll do more than overrule offside & over the line stuff, & will make the defences stop holding where the ref can’t see it, as there are 4 cameras.
    It will benefit skill.

  4. ian g
    we still dont have goalline technology in epl,so would guess VAR is long way down road,last week league cup semifinals bristol city v man city couldnt use VAR

  5. Hello All.
    JL-Nice leader. The Villa Way is a good read. I recommend it.
    It’s a tight league but Villa is right in the mix.
    I was right into Airfix models too. HMS Cossack was the first one I ever built at age six. I got this thing for the Battle of Waterloo so collected all the little 1/72 figurines and painted them with Humbrol paint.

  6. Yep. Stan Lee still had a lot of influence in things Marvel. Don’t know if he does now. I think Disney bought all the rights. I think Spiderman and the Hulk were my fave Marvel characters. The Green Lantern and Superman for DC.

  7. JL
    It didn’t do that last night in the Leicester game John, so it depends on circumstances.
    Players rolling around pretending to be injured is worse for wasting time for instance imo.

  8. El Mohamady, Whelan and Jedinak on the injured list at the moment, but could make Saturday’s game, also Terry had a slight knock to his ankle.

    I hope Bruce leaves them all out, rather than take any risks, when we have fitter and younger players available for the match. Better to keep them for crunch matches.


    Good article, which brings out the most important point, that we have a chairman who is involved and there is no hiding place for anyone not doing their job properly. At long last Villa is being run as it should be, a business in the sport and entertainment world that needs to give value for money, if it is to succeed!

  9. I know Bruce isn’t everyones cup of tea football style wise but ive always thought in every other respect he is just what we needed.

    We have been building the whole club from the ground up…it was poison and the atmosphere moral behind the scenes terrible.

    Bruce is a people guy and a genuine likeable guy. Having him around talking to the tea lady etc helps that side of things massively.

    And just like the poison filtered down from randy the goodness from the dr is slowly filtering down too. Slowly on the pitch we now have players that try! And put a shift in, which hasn’t been the case for yonks.

    Don’t know what the future holds re going up but off the field I do feel we have our villa back.

    Did think the other day Kodjers injury could be ok for us…cant see him being sold if not playing at all?!

  10. There was a very impressive interview with some chap who works at villa now…..doing all commercial stuff and tickets and things. was a great interview….seemed to know his stuff.

    1 thing all new staff has said even the dr is they couldn’t belive the mess we were in.

    We could really have been a sunderland

  11. JG
    Yes there’s a lot of ‘I read the Daily News & believe every word’ in the world.
    Maybe real life alters the plot with SB [& others].

  12. Andrew
    Villa was in a mess well before Lerner bought the club according to friends of mine that used to work there.
    I think Lerner just wasn’t as good at fixing the mess as he thought.
    For me there hasn’t been a manager since Brian Little that weren’t mercenaries & full of it, with the possible exception of Remi Garde & the Chelsea wallah.

  13. A Minister for Loneliness has been appointed by the government.
    That should help make it worse.
    Villa has some responsibility in the community in more ways than currently acted on, & not just as a PR exercise with carefully scripted & media orientated actions, that might help some, but is not across the board & a matter of course.
    Acorns is the only one I can think of that isn’t in this category.

  14. IanG
    A Minister of Loneliness. You’re kidding, right? That said, there’s plenty of loneliness. What is a Minister of Loneliness going to do I wonder?

  15. Trinity
    Be very lonely probably, as noone will want to get involved in the Government.
    Sounds good, but not a lot different to putting a sticking plaster on instead of treating a major wound.
    Pretending to govern for all again.
    Yes there is a lot of loneliness about, but there always was, & these days more among the elderly as families dissolve due to separation.

  16. This is the Trump version:
    ‘The New York Times reports that the Pentagon is proposing widening the permissible use of nuclear weapons to include responding to cyberattacks and other non-nuclear attacks to U.S. infrastructure.’

    Then there’s football…

  17. ian g
    even if whelan and jedi are fit i hope thor plays nice to see 2 midfielders in opposition half in games,i mean barnsley are struggling we are at home on back of 3 league wins surely we should set tempo of game

  18. IanG: “It didn’t do that last night in the Leicester game John, so it depends on circumstances.”

    Absolutely … but I fear what it may well develop into.

    Remember when substitutions were introduced in 1965? One sub and *only* to replace an injured player. In due course players wee feigning injury to be replaced and since 1981 the subs rule has gone mad. I still prefer the idea of keeping 11 players on the pitch as those started the match, unless injury prevails.

    So, what I am saying is that the chances are that (like all rule/methods changes) it is likely to get abused in time. But by then people will have become inured to all the technology and prefer it to swings and roundabouts.

  19. JL
    The same has happened with Rugby Union with substitutes.
    The only thing I would use in football from Rugby is replacement blood injuries so there’s 11 players on the field

  20. IanG: “Villa was in a mess well before Lerner bought the club according to friends of mine that used to work there.”

    In staff relations and amount of ambition that is probably true Ian.

    But to infer “it was [all in] a mess” is not my understanding. There were certain aspects of Doug’s rule that certainly needed changing is how I heard it, but it was the lack of ambition that was the major issue.

    But Doug chose a replacement who was not so very different from himself in business, but worse in some ways because he (Lerner) trusted people to run the show who he shouldn’t have trusted.

  21. Well, well, well,

    Real cup football..!! great blood and guts from Norwich..!!!…..it isn’t over until the fat lady sings…!!!

    Just why we still love the FA Cup..!!

  22. PP

    all bar bruce love fa cup
    just watching norwich and noticed no hoof ball all norwich players comfortable with ball ,when they attack its 4/5 players going forward,same with bristol city last week in fact nearly every championship side bar us can play football

  23. JG,

    Disagree with you for once, none were penalties, although often would be given. Willan , was one normally given , but the referee sees the same as me, Willan dives over the feet, and could have stayed up, but dives over them to go down instead. There is no real contact in any of the cases, which is why he gives out cards instead. Maybe we will see players starting to stay on their feet more often, like O’Hare did the other day, but should have had a penalty!

    Great game ! good for football! good for tv!

  24. Zimmerman, Lewis, Pinto, Angus Gunn and Murphy outstanding for Norwich, only failure was Olivera who should scored at least one, if not two during the 90 mins, and then the penalties would not have been necessary.

  25. IanG
    Do over 65s get free transport in the UK. In NZ, pensioners get a Gold Card which entitles them to unlimited free local bus and train travel. I think they’re allowed some limited national surface transport for free, too.
    It helps a bit with dealing with loneliness as long as one is mobile enough to get to a bus stop or train station. As a result of the Gold Card, a lot more senior citizens are getting about.

  26. Trinity,

    The UK is strange, as if you live in Wales, you get free bus travel within Wales from the age of 60, and I think the same applies in Scotland. If you live in London you get free bus travel in the UK from the age of 60 again, but if you live elsewhere in England, you do not receive a free bus pass until you receive your state pension, which is now around 66.

    Train travel is where you can buy a discount senior citizens card and get a third off travel.

  27. Is it just me, or are Villa crazy to sell Elphick to Millwall, and replace him with a Man Utd untried youngster with potential, who will NEVER be our player!

    Elphick is tried and tested, back to the top of his game, and the only REAL replacement for Chester and Terry. We also have a youngster of our own Jacob Bedeaux, if we want someone with potential, as it seems we are not going to use Sulliman.

  28. PP
    under bruce anything is possible,why has ooamh played as many games we have 19 left need to win14/5 of them no need to take anyplayers in or let any go sack calderwood if they need wages

  29. Elphick to Millwall? As JG says, anything is possible under SB. I thought he liked experienced players so to replace one with a young gun leads me to muse that perhaps he’s seen the light at last. But why not use one of our own? Has Agnew had a word in his ear about lack of pace at the back?

    Expecting a tough game on Sat. Barnsley have recently held Wolves 0-0 and also obtained 0-0 at Brentford, neither of which we’ve managed. So the bus will be parked and we could do with an early goal otherwise frustration will creep in. Hammill needs to be shackled.

  30. Agree JG,

    We seem to have strange deals over some of these loanees….Onomah seemingly having to play in as many games as possible…..Perhaps it is paying back the £2million we paid sick note Jermaine Jenas..who was exactly the opposite…!!!


    You are spot on. Barnsley are not going to be the pushover many think. Saturday is going to be a grim battle, and we will need 11 fully fit players throughout..!

  31. Don’t you realize that the black strip on the back of those travel cards have your name and address on it? It’s cheaper to give out free transportation with that card than send out a missing persons alert every time you step out.
    Just kidding. I used to tease my old man.

  32. Elphick has always rated with me. He is in the same boat as McCormack only didn’t get into a pissing match with Bruce. If he goes the club will suffer.

  33. Trinity
    As PP answered you for me, I will only add that in NZ they don’t appear to want a pound of flesh & blood in the process.
    England appears to have the worst process & deal of all the home nations on the UK mainland [divide & reap].
    Also in Brum it is not unlimited [what there was was for the whole 24 hours, but not anymore, especially after Rupert Murdoch had run a campaign saying that the financial situation was the fault of pensioners, & that pensioners should be included in the national tightening of the belt, that doesn’t include the reasonably wealthy or the filthy rich].
    The NHS is so rationed that various groups such as pensioners are no longer a priority, but are often denied treatments & preventative treatment in some areas of the country as they are no longer available for them due to policy [but emergency care due to this cost a lot more money].
    It does tend to make one want to live to 100 just to be annoying.

  34. Mark
    Interesting piece, even if a little puzzling as to the extent of FFP & how far is this phenomena going to go.
    Then who really benefits, & as far as players being sold, something happening that SB said wasn’t going to happen is not unique.
    Who knows what the whole phenomena’s aims are beyond the obvious.

  35. IanG- yep its puzzling but after the surprise £80m+ loss in the last tax year I’m prepared for anything. Elphick and Thor are saleable, still think they will sell a few rather than have to give them away next season if not promoted, our wage bill is still substantial. Saw an article that showed length of contract and so many like Gil and Richards have two years to run.
    The Man utd lads loan looks as though it could happen and he’s a CB or DM, so an odd signing to me if all are staying at this point?

  36. What will Bruce’s final 11 be for Saturday’s game. Most positions seem to be agreed by all blogs and media pundits:

    Johnstone, El Mohamady, Chester, Terry, Hutton, Whelan, Snodgrass, Grealish, Hourihane, Adomah, Hogan.

    The only positions in question are will Bjarnason play instead of Whelan, and will Taylor replace Hutton at LB.

    For me, I would rather see Bjarnason in place of Whelan, and Elphick for Terry, who will be better saved for the Sheff Utd match, instead of risking his ankle again in this one.
    It will also give the chance to further blend this team for the next rush of games.

  37. MK,

    Pleased to see Steve Bruce have a good press conference with the Mail and the Express……no-one else turns up..!!

    With the pressure off him a little, he was a changed man, and gave an insight into his thoughts, and hopefully, from what he said, Bjarnason should be in as the DM.
    Sorry to hear about Steer’s injury, could be out for the rest of the season. Kodjia back about now, but not training yet.

  38. Harry McKirdy has gone on loan to Crewe until the end of the season, and looking at the team and report on the under 23 away game at Soton, which the boys won 4-1, we have a very strong squad there at the moment. Will have to watch the highlights!

  39. PP- didn’t notice the lack of hacks there mate 🙂 I take no notice of what Bruce says in pressers, he said the same about Elphick and talked about JT’s ankle injury then played him last time out so if one of wheelan or Jedinak is fit I expect they’ll play, how many times have we heard him talk about O’hare then not even make the bench.

    Good game to watch tonight hope its a draw so we can pull back two points on Derby if we win tomorrow. Also hoping Rowett gets the curse of the Monthly manager award, Very good manager who I wouldn’t mind at Villa someday or next season if the worst happens, either way Derby need to stay down.


  40. Mark, really interesting article on Rowett and he’s a manager I’ve also had a lot of time for since seeing how he performed at Burton.
    His style of play is organised and hard working even if it’s not the prettiest or most creative football.
    Rather like Bruce, he believes in pragmatic, effective football and recognises that results are what matters.
    It’s not always popular with the fans but he know his own mind and is prepared to stick to what he believes in. . . . I respect that. https://www.google.co.uk/amp/www.derbytelegraph.co.uk/sport/football/football-news/gary-rowett-say-criticism-over-837824.amp

  41. Robbo- I don’t think he is defensive minded by default like Bruce can be, he’s pragmatic and his best trait is the ability to get the best from what he’s given. Had we got him last season instead of Bruce I would not of been surprised if we had made the playoffs, he seems to have the ability to get what he wants over to his players and form a tight group while instilling confidence. If you gave him Liverpools team then I think you would see some good stuff but harder to beat. Effective football is just as good to watch if the qualities there and I include Man city in that. What he is getting from that Derby team is quite something net profit of about £8 mil on transfers spent £12.5m for 7 players we will be needing that kind of ability. I have never wanted pretty football but it has to look like football is all I ask 🙂

  42. Good comments MK,

    Great result for Villa tonight, good game between two very good teams, who never stopped playing football, the amount of passes, especially from Bristol City which found their targets, was outstanding for the Championship. At the end a group of honest players, and two exceptionally good mangers, who both aquitted themselves with total honesty when being interviewed by Sky, after the game.

  43. This Derby team is going to really challenge Wolves for the title, and I do not see them going off the boil, having such depth in their squad, and Bristol in the end were very lucky to survive in the end.

    Villa are going to have a real battle on their hands to overtake Derby and Wolves, so let’s hope we start tomorrow, and hope that Steve Bruce gets it right..!!

  44. Love the latest from MOMS…

    On John Terry’s recommendation, that Gabby is one of the best forwards he played against, Chelsea may sign him as a striker……!!!!!
    Wouldn’t it be wonderful if truth turned out to be stranger than fiction….

  45. PP- If there is light at the end of the tunnel its derbys next few games, they could yield some draws going on form but will rely on us winning pretty much the rest of our games including the derby,Cardiff and wolves if we are to stand a chance of second. If we play as we have recently then I could see that being a possibility we have so much quality.

  46. MK,

    Sounds about right, and a good win today would ease even more pressure on Bruce, and I feel we may see a different manger. He will grow with confidence, which feeds through to the team, and the whole club. Somewhere we have not been in a long time.

    Just getting ready to leave, will return with a report on the match this evening…..VTID up the Villa!!!!

  47. thors in

    Johnstone; Elmohamady, Chester, Terry, Hutton; Snodgrass, Bjarnason, Hourihane, Adomah; Grealish; Hogan
    – Subs: Bunn, Elphick, Taylor, Whelan, Onomah, Lansbury, Davis

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