Sometimes I’m right—the old broken clock, if nothing else. But I really never thought Jack Grealish would put in a transfer request, despite all the cr*p in the papers the last few days. I also didn’t think, or at least refused to wrap my head around the idea, that Jack would be leaving once Sawiris and Edens showed up. I’m not really sure how they pulled it off, but…

There are a lot of layers here, so let’s start by saying I’m not looking to go overboard. It’s easy to do, especially at such a critical juncture for the club. So let’s just say I’m happy.

Happy because the kid is Villa enough to stick with the side when it might go against his best interests. How many times have we seen that over the last decade? Whether or not all the click-bait hype over “Jack’s Disappointment As Dream Move Collapses” was true, Jack didn’t force anyone’s hand. Should he have?

Maybe. But he didn’t.

Looking at it from Jack’s perspective, anything could happen. Last season might’ve been a blip, his high-water mark. He might never be worth more than right now, and not trying to quietly force a move will have denied him a lucrative contract, if nothing else. We all know that’s tough to reject. Whatever Villa negotiate with him, I dunno. Maybe it’s the same, assuming it’s less.

There are other risks, but I don’t want to bring them up.

In the end, what it seems like to me is what I’d hoped it would be. Jack simply is too loyal to the club to disturb the side at this late date. Maybe he would’ve asked for a move, and maybe Sawiris and Edens would also have changed their tune, had Spurs’ bid been higher and more to the club’s benefit.

Regardless, Jack is here. Until January, at any rate. And like I said, it makes me happy. I like watching him play. I like that he’s one of ours. I like the idea of seeing him grow to his full potential, and maybe now in claret and blue. I like seeing a young man with a sense of decency and obligation.

After all, Jack’s obviously had a bumpy path, and looked like he might waste his talent. Villa stood by him, and following the freak injury, we suddenly started to see the player we knew was there. He dug deep, learned some lessons, and came back a new man. Sport often gives us too many negative things to take away. Jack is proving to be one of the exceptions, and it’s a credit to him and his family.

And it’s also only right that if Villa don’t get up, Jack gets to leave. It’s the least we can do for him, ease his path out. He deserves a chance to show he belongs on the biggest stages.

As a result, I think we’ll see a committed player intent on proving his worth and taking his game to the next level. Here’s wishing him every success.

Hull City and Wigan
My apologies for not getting a post up sooner. Had a match review largely written, then ran into a bit of a disaster at work and had to put in some very long hours to put things right.

Bottom line, hardly a vintage performance, but the start Villa had to have. Three points on the road in the season’s opening fixture is no small thing. Coming back from 1-0 down is no small thing (for Villa, anyway). It’s a favorable run to start the season, and Villa absolutely must take advantage. They managed to start off on the right foot.

However, it looked a bit shaky. What struck me more than grinding out a win was a strange lack of cohesion. Was it nerves? Could’ve been. Rust? That, too. Lingering shell-shock from the playoff final? Entirely possible. An overall sense of uncertainty and bewilderment given the wild emotional swings over the short close-season? I wouldn’t be at all surprised. And of course there were the changes at the back.

While I was disappointed by the team selection, I think we all saw it coming. Well, I don’t know that we saw Tommy Elphick magically reappearing in the center of a three-man backline, but otherwise it was a typical Steve Bruce side. I still think there’s no reason on earth Birkir shouldn’t be starting over Whelan. I still think we’ve got ways to put better players than Elmo and Taylor out. Perhaps Bruce is trying to re-introduce Green slowly, but I’d much rather see Uncle Albert wide right and Green on the left than watching Elmo try to be a winger at this stage of his career.

Am I being negative? Perhaps. But you’ll have noticed that whenever I slate players, they end up scoring wonder goals or providing some other vital intervention. So I’m going to keep on. Elmo did get his first goal in claret and blue, Cafu had another, and Elphick, while looking rather dodgy in the middle, did what he was supposed to do and took his unexpectedly easy chance calmly and cleanly.

Wigan? Well, I’d have thought I’d stop writing this by now, but I’ll be curious to see what side Bruce puts out. I disagreed with his last starting XI, but we took home all the points. At the same time, I don’t think that side will be one that gains us promotion. With Axel Tuanzebe and now John McGinn up for consideration, Villa could field quite an interesting side. But to do so, Bruce has to let go of his dependency on aging veterans. Where McGinn fits in now that Jack is staying, I don’t know. One assumes Hourihane, Bjarnason, or Whelan will make way at some point. Lots of people like to ask what Hourihane brings, but his tally of 11 last season is hard to dismiss, and as I’ve said so many times, he, Grealish, and Bjarnason just click.

Then there’s the matter of Kodjia still looking a shadow of his former self. I know he’s got to play if he’s ever going to regain his form, but those minutes are leaving us lacking up front. Might well be worth letting Green take that spot in the near term.

Anyway, this has gotten rather long so I’ll just leave it there and turn it over to you.

Comments 62

  1. good post as per usual jc
    just wish bruce would shut up,saying he understands how grealish feels,he tried his best to unsettle grealish all summer with his constant downtalk of villa

  2. Cheers, JG.

    My guess is that the players are pretty well clued in, meaning whatever Bruce says for the media doesn’t have much impact. Jedi was obviously quite obviously willing to talk about the pressure in the final, all the financial implications of losing, etc. So I think Jack and the rest would’ve had a very good idea where things really stood all along.

  3. JC
    Thanks for breaking through the barrier to write for us.
    I also hope that SB doesn’t rely on veterans whose use by date has past. Any manager could bring in over the hill but once proven players. Arguably it’s the lazy thing to do when done in bulk. It might work to get a promotion, but it hasn’t for Villa. Yes, ther are other factors, but surely SB must realise he needs to develop the squad from within.

  4. I read this blog most days ,and see most on here have played football at different levels in the past,we all wished that we had the tremendous talent of super jack.But now he has shown that he is also an honest, loyal and honourable man as well as a great player.Thanks jack you are living our footballing dream for many of us.UTV.

  5. Another great article John. Let’s not forget keeping hold of Chester was also a major accomplishment. This Villa team has some great young talent – Jack – Green and I have been watching Mcginn on YouTube and be looks fantastic. I just hope Bruce utilitizes the young talent and we play a more expansive style of football like Fulham did last yest.

    And keeping hold of Grealish was a major achievement. He is such a talisman for this football club and especially the younger supporters. In super Jack they have someone who they can identify with and that is important for the long term prosperity of this magnificent football club.

  6. Thanks JC – I hope that jack being in this league does not stop Southgate giving him a run, he’s rather unique in his playing style these days and if he is to eventually go I would like him to have a wider audience and more choice. That said would love him to fulfill all his ambitions with us if possible and hope he stays injury free this season, if we can take some of the burden off of him then that will go a long way, McGinn, Green , Ohare just might prove to be what he needs to shine even more.

    Like you I’m itching to pick that side for Bruce 🙂 Like Richard S said I hope we adopt a more fulham like approach as we have the players or are not far off imo, thats the stumbling block we have the orchestra but not the conducter, heres hoping.

  7. On the likley team today? if Bruce goes to his usual thinking then he won’t change a winning side, or he could go the other way and introduce all of the new players in one go.

    Myself I’d like to see green start on the right thor in for wheelan, go 442 with jack out left Hourihane and thor as box to box, and put RHM up top with Kodjia. Hutton left, Delaet ( if possible)at RB and Chester and Elphick at CB, Steer in goal at this point as he hasn’t done much wrong. Jack and Green would be given free licence to switch about with RHM too so that it is 442 mostly when defending and 433 when on the counter.

    Then depending how the match goes give Mcginn a run on the hour.

  8. Mark – Steer in goal?? No chance; he now plays for Charlon.

    And Jack needs to play in the centre – he is our playmaker.

    Green and Albert can play on the wings.

    Jimmy up front.

  9. Thanks JC, an excellent summary of the last week and sums up my thoughts completely.

    Today we watch with interest to see how Spud sets up and which players start and which ones fill the bench. MK, Steer won’t be here as he’s gone out on loan to Charlton I believe. So I guess it’ll be Nyland between the sticks with Moreira on the bench. The outfield players are anybody’s guess.

    I’m not expecting an easy game. It’ll be a battle. I do hope he plays the younger guys. Let’s go Villa.

  10. RichardS – I’m not sure grealish is really a playmaker in the normal sense and spends a lot of time on the left anyway. I’d prefer a more central playmaker myself. Grealish played wing for years and I’d play him in a free role.

  11. Richard S.,

    You’re right, I was remiss in not praising Chester’s willingness to stay and the professionalism he’s shown throughout. And, tbf, Hutton set down an early marker.

  12. MK…

    Agreed. There’s no reason Southgate can’t have him in the side and giving him a chance. Failed to mention that aspect, which is also huge for Jack.

  13. I just think there needs to be a settled side, JG, and by the end we saw most of the right components were out there.

    McGinn looks a very good pickup. We could be a real handful with both him and Grealish in the middle. Glad to see Bjarnason get a goal, he’d had a very up-and-down game, like several others. But he’s the kind of player, as we’ve seen, who gets better the more regularly he plays. Kodjia looked to have made a step forward. Still not the same, but he could’ve had one.

  14. Didn’t watch but bruce deffo did the throw them all in part of his go to tactics. Not only that he made 6 changes in all to the starting 11 last week. Thank Gawd we got the win in the end but can we please have some structure or a plan please.

  15. Iana…

    Hope you’re well, mate. Gets a bit frustrating falling behind with so much going on.

    And agreed. There’s talent in the side. Two lackluster performances, two comebacks, six points. Bruce just needs to stop tinkering and outsmarting himself. But was good to see Tuanzebe come straight in, likewise McGinn, and Green starting.

  16. MK,

    Was kind of funny. I think mainly just a lot of changes. Got a new keeper, Tuanzebe coming in, Bjarnason back, Green starting, McGinn starting, Jedi back in, Taylor out. Just uncoordinated, lack of understanding/anticipation, some heavy touches, poor clearances.

    We weren’t particularly defensive. All the subs were attacking: RHM, Adomah, Hourihane.

  17. I didn’t necessarily agree with keeping Kodjia on and sending him out to the left, but he did have a couple moments. Just thought it was going to leave us too exposed down the flank with game in the balance.

    I’m guessing Elmo playing on the wing is precautionary, but nothing else seemed overly defensive unless you count playing one up top.

  18. And if McGinn holds up, he might be the closest thing to a Milner we’ve had since Milner. Excellent delivery, box to box, tenacious, composed…looks a very good player.

  19. JC. Spot on. It was a strange game and hard to summarise, but coming from behind in our first two game muss surely auger well.

    When Johnson started for us I came on here and had a go about his tentative approach, poor kicking and apparent inability to command his defence or dominate his area.

    He turned out ok. . . . so I guess I’d better hold off from saying the same things about our new young keeper.

    Even before the game started though I was apprehensive about bringing him straight in and wished we still had Steer in place.
    Clearly the club have seen something in him and it must be tough for a young player coming straight into a team with mature experienced individuals in front of him and a huge arena such as Villa Park.

    Here’s hoping that he settled in fast and improves in just the same way that Johnson did

  20. Kodjia was really frustrating in the first half. Seemed totally out of sorts and lacking any of his old spark
    It was great to see a bit of the old cockiness seeping back into him in the second half and he was unlucky not to get on the score sheet a couple of times.
    Worth persevering with but nice to see RHM coming into the side and not looking out of place at all.

  21. Grealish looked a class above, but I hope he gets a bit more protection than today’s ref provided. I think he’d forgotten to put his cards in his pocket in the first half so the Wigan players knew they could get away with anything!

  22. JC. . . . nice comparison of McGinn with Milner. He looks a real find. I love his energy, his vision and physicality and he looks like being a teal asset

    And I do have to say . . . . I really do like Allan Hutton!! 🙂

  23. Robbo- Isn’t the keeper 27? not so young these days but plonking Jedi in front of him not the best idea just yet.

    JC- I watched the Sky highlights and all they showed was McGinns delivery’s, he is very accurate, I’m impressed, and saw one interchange with him and Grealish for a shot which bodes well, we could have a very expensive midfield in all at Villa with him Jack and Hourihane worth around
    £70m I’d guess, he’s a bit of a bargain well done whomever scouted him.

    I am waiting for Ohare and Hogan to get fit along with RHM we could have a very decent side there.

  24. A win is a win is a win. When was the last time Villa started the season 2 and 0?
    I’m thinking the team is looking for their preferred side. Happy to see a much younger IX and offensive minded subs. They will get untracked. Like robBo said, they could be a bit overwhelmed by the crowd and stadium. This is going to be a season to remember IMO.

  25. To be fair I think we have been a little lucky so far and our quality has pulled us through. If you look at shots on goal we have scored 6 from 11, thats a great conversion rate. On the other hand we have conceded 3 from 6 shots against us. We have a good run of games to get it right.

  26. Just been watching Leeds spank Derby away 1-4 and I can’t help but be Jealous. They have a manager that has come in this summer and instilled a style of play and fitness in a few months we have never seen at Villa since I don’t know when. He likes a young Squad and looks to promote youth with no problem in playing 18 year olds. Right now they look like they could go through walls as easily as the teams they are playing.

    OK I know we have had our problems this summer (mostly self created on and off the pitch) but its galling to watch someone show you how simple a process it can be with a clear plan.

  27. Mark
    Leeds have spent a donkeys age in the championship. Look how long it took them to change. That could happen with Villa. Hopefully lessons have been learnt the last two years

  28. MK, Ian…

    My guess is that Edens will be somewhat activist. I doubt he’ll just sit back. Now it can be bad, it can be good, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he has something to say about the team being picked after a certain point. And going forward, I don’t see paying a lot of money for players that aren’t going to contribute immediately.

  29. And I’m not suggesting Edens wil try and pick the team, but he’ll be wondering why x, y, z are on the bench when they cost millions. He’ll seriously be doubting the wisdom of bringing in aging players on anything more than a one-year deal.

    He will be thinking about how things work in the states, where there’s lots of churn, lots of young players coming in to make an immediate impact, and a high value placed on 2-3 marquee players that define the team. Grealish and Chester are perfect examples of that philosophy.

  30. r0bb0,

    The keeper situation was a funny one, but I thought Bruce was right, in the end, bringing in a new number one and a backup/competition. He pointed out both Steer and Bunn had been injury prone, and Steer immediately goes out on loan. I think it all might end up being a smart developmental move.

    And like you said, Johnstone clearly grew into the role as the season progressed.

  31. Mark: “Robbo- Isn’t the keeper 27? not so young these days but plonking Jedi in front of him not the best idea just yet.”
    Oops! Yes you’re right.
    For some reason I thought he was only 23. . . . . that’s slightly more worrying then.
    Clearly he was suffering from some nerves, and they won’t have been helped by the Jedi backpass
    I remember using the rugby full back analogy with Johnson early on, with every kick successfully going into touch!
    It was so bad at one point during the game that a kick that actually stayed in play drew ironic cheers from the crowd!
    He can’t be like that normally so I suspect you’re right JC, and he’ll improve as the nerves subside and he settles into the team and the role.

  32. Mark, you’re right about Leeds. They look real favourites to top the league after their first two, dynamic games against two of the highly tipped teams this season.
    It ‘looks’ as if that style of play requires extra physical effort. If so, will they be able to sustain it for a whole Championship season?

  33. Leeds are looking really dangerousnd that comes down to the philosophy and style of the manager

    We decided to stick with Bruce who I admire for sticking by Villa over our turbulent summer – however this is the guy who evangelised about having older players in the team to add the vital experience required to gain promotion – a flawed strategy.

    Now Bruces states the new owners want youth and exuberance – so I am confused why we decided to stick with a manager who does not believe in their
    new philosphyy??

    It’s harsh to be critical after two laboured wins – I kinda wanted Henry at the Villa to bring a new brand of youthful football

  34. A late, late show. Feel sorry for those who left early and missed us grabbing the extra 2 points. My take on the game is that Spud is still putting square pegs in round holes. Tuanzebe is supposed to be a better CB than RB. Jedi is definitely a better holding midfielder rather than a CB. I’m still waiting for Codger to contribute but the new man McGinn looks like the midfielder we have been missing. I’m pleased he played the viking who got us over the line. Thought the new keeper looked tentative but he needs time to settle and not be afraid to bawl out his defenders if necessary.

  35. Changes afoot for the game against Yeovil. Standard Spud practice. He has enough players to put out an entirely different squad.

  36. RObB0, I agree about Leeds. Bielsa I remember was Steamer’s choice for manager and in no time he has them flying playing exciting football. It’s based on flat out effort that may or may not be sustained over the seaon as you say. Warnock managed to do just that last season though.

  37. Richard, I think they stuck with Spud for continuity reasons in the short time that was available to them after the takeover. I’m in not doubt that he doesn’t have much time to come up with a team that has gelled and competing at the top. After all, he’s already had almost 2 years. I can’t help but think we have the squad to do it. We have 6 goals in 2 games with a CF that is not delivering. So that’s promising. But the opposition has been lower half of the table stuff. Brentford will be the first test. Spud has an appalling record against them.

  38. Robbo- The point about leeds is not just there style/effort but the ease that they transitioned into it with 2 buys and 3 loan players. He had them on three times a day training sessions apparently. Now they might find it hard going or get injuries but I remember Huddersfield playing a high tempo high press game so we will see.

    Leeds are way better going forward than they were though. I’d like to see what Beilsa would make of our lot. Certainly not the laboured hoof ball from the keeper we seem to employ. Some were saying that the keeper didn’t look very adept at that part of the game, we do put the keeper under a lot of pressure.

    Plug- we only have Brentford and Swansea at home until Nov out of the top sides, nearly 3 months of easier games, those games are as tough as it gets but I agree they will be a huge test for us on current form.

  39. RichardS – Its like Bruce can’t help himself when he talks, 1st jan window was about goals from midfield and a new forward line, when that failed to produce the problem was they were not able to handle being at Villa so he needed experience, That proved flawed now its back to raw young players that apparently by McGinns performance are not worried about being at Villa at all 🙂

  40. Some great comments guys, and many of which I agree with, especially about Leeds with their amazing manager.

    I take my hat off to Bruce, as he put out the side yesterday that was at least reasonably young and hungry. He played his new keeper, as he needs to pick up experience quickly, Tuanzebe did ok, and will certainly get better, and of course, De Laet was still unavailable. Chester was his normal steadying the ship, scoring a great first goal from Mcginn’s superb free kick. Jedinak was the only player that struggled, and I would rather have seen Elphick in his place. Hutton had a good game, as usual, but for me, Bruce’s bravest move was playing McGinn, Bjarnason and Grealish at the same time, giving Villa the opportunity of letting the new midfield an opportunity to play together and start gelling, and what a revelation it turned out to be.
    McGinn was outstanding, and could be the bargain player of the season!!! His tenacity, energy and ability was outstanding, his dead ball kicks were on the money, as was his distribution and tackling. He never gave up and he put Jack in the shadows.
    For me, once again, Jack often overplayed the ball, trying to get fouls, rather than move it on. He did get involved a lot more and if he stops trying to beat the extra man, he will become the player he should be.

    Bjarnason will make such a difference, as he was there at it, tackling distributing and making the difference when it was needed.

    Elmo had a reasonably good game, and for me, didn’t do anything wrong. Green, again was a live wire and got involved and showed nice touches. Kodija is still getting back into the game and it will take time, and I like that Bruce is bringing in Hepburn-Murphy who will grow as the season progresses, along with Green ,there is a new future this season.

    Uncle Albert did his bit when he came on, and Villa now have a good strong squad for the future, and I am sure Bruce has learned his lesson on squad rotation. I only see us going from strength to strength, as we now have a very good core of players round which the team can only get better, as they grow.

    I never felt that we would lose yesterday, as there seemed to be a great spirit amongst the players, and no-one looked nervous, or uncertain. Mistakes happen, and they overcame them, and played right up until the final moment, looking for the win. We were never going to settle for a draw. Loved the goal for Bjarnason, and really showed what the new Villa is about.

    Wigan had also made a very good start to the season, winning against a very good Wednesday side, and they looked good .

    I have the feeling we are going to see a very different Steve Bruce this season, and I am happy to give him my backing. His substitutions were all sensible yesterday, and Whelan remained on the bench, but will be there in the team on Tuesday to give his experience to what will be an interesting team, as De laet, Taylor and Bree could be in while many are rested ready for Saturday.

  41. PP- Thanks for your take on the game sounds like you enjoyed it and thats can only be good, I can’t make my mind up whether Bruce was brave or stupid with selection certainly his defensive swaps didn’t help the débutante keeper much.

    I think Thor gives us a quicker turnaround when we get possession than Wheelan and more energy, not surprised wheelan stayed on the bench though as we had to come back from a losing position and won it in the last minute. I wonder if we had more fit strikers whether they would of all been on the pitch by the end as we saw last season when chasing games? 🙂 the fact he has nobody to call on probably helps his decisions there perhaps.

    Wigan are a decent side but Sheff weds? they have done an FFP like us I’m afraid, no signings at all and only outs so far and they are pulling up the drawbridge, I can’t see them being a threat, Boro, Forest and Leeds look like the form teams and we appear to be bumbling along as per but at least winning, would love to see us come out the blocks organised but somehow potentially the best horse in the race appears to have blinkers on and its legs tethered together 🙂

  42. And your comments MK, constantly degrading the team and manager et al is why I and so many others have decided not to be part of AVL any more.
    Have you ever been a ‘real’ supporter of the club? Have you ever been a season ticket holder? Do you know where the ground is? Have you ever put yourself on the line for AVFC? I think the guys you met at the AVL get together were correct and maybe you were lucky to get away with no-one giving you a smack.

    And yes, I know you will protest your innocence and put me down for what I have said as per usual – and eventually people just can’t be bothered with trying to talk to you and give up coming on AVL.
    Oh, and cue JG giving his normal abuse ….

    See you in Oxford sometime maybe? Not far from Aston you know ……………..

    Yours in dismay at so called Villa fans …..
    oldvilla

  43. OV- And who exactly was at the meet up? not you for sure, as far as I was aware I got along fine with all involved but thanks for your little insight if true shows you can’t take people at face Value if thats what was said. Plenty of others not in attendance were mentioned on the day by all human nature we are such lovely creatures. I know plenty have quit because of you too so looks like we are both detested eh.

  44. ov
    funny that when you are not on here absolute peace,your mate jl tried TVB and got hammered for same stuff he was putting on here wonder why,
    how many post have you put on here that you wherent moaning about someone,never ever put up a post on bruce management skills[haa haa]or what he was doing so well in your eyes

  45. Mark: “PP- Thanks for your take on the game sounds like you enjoyed it and thats can only be good”

    Irrespective of the style of football, you can’t help enjoying a game where your team comes from behind and wins in added time.

    Yesterday had the extra emotion of Jack’s appearance in the stadium after all the ‘will he won’t he’ over the summer.

    Someone said that they felt sorry for those who left before the end. . . . . well they could easily have avoided that disappointment. . . .

    Very few actually did leave early because even with the clock running down you could sense that we
    ‘Just might still do it’

    That’s a different feeling from so many recent seasons because from front to back, we have players who ’can’ make something happen.

    Having said all that, I do have sympathy for some of the things you feel.
    Steve Bruce is no mug and in his own mind must know what he’s doing. Its probably just that I don’t understand football tactics well enough to be able to get inside his head!

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