The past week was quite telling. We had John Terry teasing us and Steve Bruce kept his underwear clean. Now we know that playing football in Russia is where it’s at, according to Terry, which must have come as a shock to Bruce. Bruce is now scouring the free market for a CB he thought he had in the bag. Tommy Elphick must be laughing. I know for a fact Ross McCormack is. All of this falls on Bruce’s shoulders. His best friend told him to pack sand and all the king’s horses and all the king’s men won’t put Villa’s rear end back together again.

There has to be ambition amongst the manager’s society, but unfortunately most of the thinking is self serving. Like most players, managers are motivated by their own personal agenda. For example, does anyone think that Bruce, Warnock, or Big Sam Allardyce will ever manage a top six team in the Premiership? Didn’t think so. What is their motive then? They are motivated by putting a reasonable amount of points on the board, try not to ruffle too many feathers and portray themselves as a steadying influence on the team. They work this mindset into all the teams they manage regardless of the amount of spending they are given. They are old, stubborn, boring, wear sensible shoes and try like hell to keep the pay cheque coming in. That’s not to say all older managers follow that line of thinking.

On the other hand you have younger managers—late thirties and into the forties—who have a totally different outlook with a totally different agenda. A few years ago Roberto Martinez was the manager of Wigan. A man with ambition and an agenda. Roberto was looking after Roberto. A “pleasing on the eye” style of football was played at Wigan. He did well against the top ten teams in the Premiership. Not necessarily winning, but putting on a show that caught people’s eye. Wigan got relegated, Martinez’ reward was a managerial post with Everton for his efforts on the backs of Wigan and their fans. His motive was to impress the big teams and push his boat out and he succeeded.

Well, that’s a rather black-and-white assessment on my part. Obviously there are managers out there that don’t fit that mold. Aston Villa have a hard time trying to pick the right manager. Being a “big team,” they should be able to command a top-tier manager, but they can’t as they dwell in the Championship. They know that a forward-thinking manager could blow up in their faces and that a plodder will raise the ire of the fans. Unfortunately, the better-safe-than-sorry path is one that will almost always be chosen as money and finances become the number one consideration. A conundrum for the team owners.

This brings me to Wolverhampton Wanderers. A team that had been adrift for several years, even trying their luck in League One. What an embarrassment for the fans. Then along came a brilliant manager with a boatload of brilliant players. A transformation from a mediocre product to otherworldliness for the Championship. Were the owners that astute or was there something going on behind the scenes? All the fingers (well at least mine) pointed to Mendez the super agent for many talented footballers and managers. Was it his doing that catapulted the Wolves into the Premiership? Did he arrange lower pay packets for players with the premise of Premier League football the following year in order for Wolverhampton meet FFP? For me, something is smelly.

Now, if agents can have that type of persuasion on the inner working of a football team and players they represent, what can they control on any team? An example of their power (and really I have no proof of this) is David Eusted, a goalkeeper that used to play for the Vancouver Whitecaps. Eusted is a good goalie. Always seems to be one step ahead of the opposition and blessed with lightning reflexes. While having an exceptional season he got dropped never to see the six-yard box for Vancouver again. In my opinion his sin was changing agents. His former agent has several high profile team members on his list including the manager. Both agent and manager have been friends for years. Eusted’s lack of play for the rest of the season seems to lie with his changing agents. Again you can’t prove this but a coincidence nevertheless. It makes me wonder about Bruce’s game-day player choices. Are they all his? Or is someone pulling strings in the shadows?

Comments 46

  1. Thanks Ian for the wonderful write-up. FFP, super agents and the FA are all an unholy mix and you have to feel for the smaller teams who have gambled and lost (not Small Heath though). Look at our financial situation, NSWE are pumping in money but what if we don’t get promotion this year? Does that mean we get a penalty or worse? How can there be no transparency into the whole system?

    Super agents can get you the ingredients but you should know how to use them. SB has an embarrassment of riches for this level and has no idea what to do with them. I know MK will bring up RDM vs SB, but my opinion is that SB wasnt a bad choice in 2016. But is he relevant today, no. Will we see him leave before Xmas, probably not. His track record has been cyclical and we will likely see an upturn after the international break.

  2. Sick n Tired of the JT story, is he going to do an Antoine Greizmann type video announcing his next club. We sure are scraping the over 30s barrel to find a genuine defender when there are many available defenders under 30 if you look at transfermarkt.

    Great leader Ian, agree that it may be a conundrum in club ownership around what direction to take the club manager wise, but if you look at the wider picture on how successful football is being played now, taking Pep at the pinnacle in terms of standard of player available to him, most progressive managers are looking to play a similar style at a different level, there is nothing progressive in the way we play, we’ve played the way we have back in the 90s where Alan Wright would launch the ball up the wing to enable a cross to come in for a big attacker. We don’t have the big attackers but equally we have very good ball carrying midfielders in the likes of Grealish, McGinn and Hourihane but the emphasis is still on getting the ball wide as quickly as possible.

    IMO, the club’s ownership decision should be about modernising how Villa plays the game to the benefit of the existing playing staff, this is not happening under Bruce. Do I want Villa to win absolutely, do I want Villa to play progressive/attacking football absolutely, do I want Bruce to claim any credit for us winning games absolutely not if he can absolve himself of responsibility by blaming the players when we lose. He’s burnt any bridge he had with me re some of his post-match comments.

    Bruce has burnt many a bridge with the players individually and as a group, it’s obvious to all, if you mention Elphick, Adomah or McCormack, there’s your proof, so how would the owners persist with this situation, surely they can see different rifts in the club or at least be made aware of them, all the troublesome player power is gone from the club but probably the players need to get back some of that power.

    Finally, non-Villa related – Roy Keane you are a poxbottle.

  3. Thanks Ian

    What’s become increasingly plain to me is that the man brought in to stiffen a team a hairs breadth from scoring more under the previous manager ( woodwork hit 8 times in 11 matches plus most chances in the division) has now with more attacking players become less able at attacking a much worse at defending. Bruce wasn’t a bad idea for someone just not for the squad he inherited. It was to far away from his needs and ability imo.

  4. Ian, you may be closer to the truth than what you think. How else can one explain the lack of selection of Bree, the viking, De Laet or O’Hare?

    Spud might have been a reasonable selection immediately after our relegation. The team spirit was rotten, the players out of control and anarchy pretty much reigned. Which is why our last season in the PL was abysmal. Spud may have shaken up that particular vipers nest.

    Instead, the new owner entrusted the rebuild to RDM. So he restructured the team in a more attacking format but the owner froze and ended the chapter before we saw the longer term results. At that point, the real costly mistake was made. Spud was appointed and handed an attacking team that was far too open for his liking. So he took the wrecking ball to it and rebuilt on defence first, second and third. And we’ve been watching turgid footie ever since.

    I can’t be sure how long he has left. If we go on a good run, he’ll survive. If we go on a bad run he’s finished. I am sure though, that Compass are working away quietly in the background identifying and sourcing his replacement.

  5. Villalore, Plug:

    I think Compass (thank you for that, forget who coined it) are looking at replacements, yes. Timing depends on how they viewed this season.

    My guesswork, as you’ll know, is that they’ve decided to see what things look like come January. If we’re in it, then Grealish stays, etc. If we’ve fallen away, the sales and rebuild begins. In between now and then, though, they would likely still make changes based on the same logic.

    Like you say, Villalore, Bruce tends to get results in bunches, so a rebound will buy him time. But they’ll be listening to Purslow, etc., and will have to decide if they want to ride it out til the January window, or whether we’re underachieving and could still gain promotion.

    My take on doing it slow/properly: They want up, will regroup and change course if we don’t. No choice. But this year they’d like to go up, and then try to be “sustainable” going forward.

  6. I think the time Bruce gets will be entirely dependent on how much he’s pissed people off, previously it was maybe one or two and with JT and Snodgrass keeping the camp happy it was less work for Bruce. Yes he may get some results on the back of His new players trying to impress? or they might just realise they are the only ones trying. Bruce has never been in this position at Villa, He’s always been saviour or everyone’s mate, third season in with little change on the field his blusters wearing thin.

  7. first class Ian
    10 days on from last shocking performance and still no sign of a aging centre half to fill massive hole in villa side,and by reports bruce has been on holidays too,nice work if you can get it millions a year total failure and still kept on

  8. Of course Bruce is enjoying his holidays, as he has no worries…

    I get the feeling that he has had a secret deal with Terry that has kept their names at the forefront in the press and deflected away from the real problems at Villa Park. At the same, it has allowed Terry to up his premium for playing at Villa. There is no way, originally that Edens and Nawiris would probably have agreed to paying him a £3million plus contract for a season, but now there is no choice. Smart move Bruce/Terry.

    Like the Mitch Clark piece MK, which applies to all our good youngsters…no first team development. Bruce thinks he is Mourinho managing United…!!!

    The farce will continue, and Bruce may even get lucky and win a couple of games now!

  9. MK,

    You’re right, it is a different situation for Bruce. Always a problem for incumbents, crows coming home to roost, etc. As you say, for a while you don’t own a problem, and then there comes a point when you do.

    We’ve talked a bit about the role Jedi plays in the side and the dressing room, and certainly Terry’s was much bigger. How much Bruce relies on these players, what the agreements and understandings are…It’s hard to know, obviously. But players know who they think should be playing. We always knew who helped or hurt our teams, whatever the level.

    Had read the bit about Clark, and was a little surprised by his candor and detail. But it’s happened to so many kids. Which doesn’t automatically mean that they are good enough. It does, however, seem to say that their situations and expectations could be managed better.

  10. Also interesting what Clark had to say about the U23s. Basically useless. Seems that young players absolutely have to go out on loan to have any sense of what actual football is about. And of course you’re leaving their development up to someone else, which ends up making them not that much different than any other player beyond already having them under contract.

    So, little wonder managers keep overlooking them. There’s apparently no system in place to prepare them for real football. Maybe that’s surprising only to me. But it explains why they come in and get hurt, etc. They’re not prepared. Jack wasn’t prepared, either.

  11. I hope Compass do not entertain the return of JT. Unless of course it’s as manager.

    We need younger guns in defence. Tuanzebe should be CB each game getting used to playing with Chester. If either gets injured then De Laet is my preferred cover rather than Jedi.

  12. Thanks for the comments guys. It’s nice to know we all think along similar lines.
    I don’t want Terry now as it sounds like he’s playing one against the other but then I guess that’s his agent talking. I wondered about Moscow as he had talked about his family and as they were in school why a move? And the picture of medics taking blood? That was a drip not blood taking.
    You might as well give Hutton a go in the middle if you want experience there he seems more versatile than Jedinak.

  13. JC- Two things, one that players have come in at times and done well only to be dropped (thor, Elphick, Clark, Delaet, Bree…….) presumably Bruce has dangled the carrot when he talks to them of a run in the team? and then when they haven’t particularly done well due in part to massive team changes he broadsides them, man management at its finest.

    On the youth playing men? I wish we would move to a B-team situation like Brentford mirroring the 1st teams style and playing all comers not in a league rather than the U23vsU23 situe.

  14. Ian – I think a 6’5″ piece of wood hammered into the penalty spot would help us at present, at least they would have to get around it not straight through

  15. MK – Each of these comments from our young players out on loan builds up a picture of what life is like at BMH for the uninformed. It paints a pretty damning image of our coaching staff. Remember when Clarke went to Newcastle? He made a single comment that he’d learnt more in his first week under Benitez than he had done in his entire time at BMH. If an ordinary Joe like me can see through it, I’m sure the owners can too. In the meantime, Spud keeps getting richer.

  16. I’ve always liked Joey Barton. Good player with a bit of a nasty side. Now he’s a manager. He’s not a thick man but any means. Give him a year or so, see how he does and I would give him a look.

  17. Plug- yes mate you cannot help but think that way when reading those comments, might be a bit of anti-bruce bias but I try to be as objective as possible.

    Ian- yes mate Joey may be a knob head but I think your right.

    One thing thats occurred to me is Bruce has brought in some decent enough players this summer but non with prior allegiance and knowledge of his methods(ex hull etc). If they are not the kind to just get on with it as he seems to prefer then we should see not a lot happening.

  18. I like the look of this set up, does away with the winger heavy reliance we have too and plays to our Mid-fielders and forwards strengths. Would also mean that O’hare, RHM and Green could be used without causing much problem. would need Bree or delaet at RB and Hutton on the left until we get a real LB or possibly clarks tried there again.

    Could see Hourihane breaking forward into the box with McGinn dropping balls over the top or through to Grealish/Kodjia/Bolasie Doyle Hayes would also suit this role. Even old man Wheelan could slot in and allow Birkir to have Connors role. No need for four forwards, bliss.

    “What’s the solution?
    So what can Bruce do? One tactical switch I would like to see is a narrow 4-1-2-1-2. This would be with a midfield of Birkir Bjarnason, behind the combative John McGinn and Conor Hourihane spearheaded by our talisman. A striking duo from Jonathan Kodjia, Tammy Abraham and Yannick Bolasie would also look incredibly exciting.”

  19. Thanks, Ian.
    Yeah, there’s a puppetmaster. I think Villa has fallen victim to its own sponsors, the friggin bookies. They’re makin loads off fixing results. Is SB involved? Not directly, but he is told what to do, so he does it and remains in the job. Villa wins enough games to look plausible.
    They’re worse than the Aussie cricketers.

  20. and so the saga continues…..De Laet off on loan to Melbourne City, and meanwhile, of course, JT’s pal, Frank Lampard has asked if he fancies joining him at Derby. That for me is a no brainer in Terry’s position…..Bruce or Lampard…..potato head or football brain….

    That then leaves us with the possibility of Huth, or some 6’5” German….. or rumours of Richards being used.

    Villa Park has become a very eerie place to talk about future positives.. Still we must wait and see.

    Talking about how we treat our youngsters, I remember reading Nathan Delfouneso’s story of how as a youngster he was put out on loan, living out of a suitcase, with no support back-up at 17/18 years of age.

  21. PP – I’m lost for words. If De Laet’s move is anything to do with FFP I’d do things a little differently. Dump Spud and Calderwood and let them sue for their severence money, stalling payment until next year thus avoiding this year’s FFP conflict. Do the same with Turpin and RMC. With the shed load saved, hire JT and match him up with Agnew as manager and coach. De Laet at RB, Tuanzebe at CB.

  22. Well if Delaet is off down under my flabber is absolutely gasted, How can the Manager call him the best player in pre-season then give him not one chance in the 1st team?? no wonder Elphick fecked off.

  23. MK,

    Everyone who can feck off, is fecking off…!!

    Would you want to stay with this crock of shite…..The plan now seems to be… no more in…anyone who wants out can go…Let the season play itself out, whilst flogging Jack and anyone else in January. Then a brand new man can come in and have plenty of time to prepare for next season…cos this one is probably over…

  24. Excellent writing again Ian,thought provoking and….well…you know,bang on the money.
    Why move DeLaet on?He is effective,competent and a good pro,everything SB has grown to dislike.He-DeLaet-probably has a mind of his own and dislikes the tactics(try not to laugh),selections and man management of SB.Therefore he has no place on planet Bruce.
    Paul,agree with your suggestion,this season is possibly already a write off in terms of promotion.No bad thing in my eyes,if it means we can ditch the dinasour.Maybe we need to take a step back to progress.

  25. Thanks for the post Ian. I look in here every day on the off-chance I will see the news I now want to hear – SB gone. Mind you I haven’t a clue as to who should replace him.
    We do not seem to have an inexhaustible supply of British managers who would fit the bill or even want to.
    Some foreign manages have been successful – Nuno Espirito Santo for one and the new guy at Watford seems to have made a good start as has Bielsa at Leeds. Some have emerged here that we never heard of before in a managerial context like Pochettino but there have been many who didn’t, most of them to quote from Elton ‘like a candle in the wind’.
    I haven’t a clue but I just hope we find one, either before the January window or in the pre-season next time even if it is in Division 1

  26. Hi all.
    Thanks for the interesting leader Ian & so far in this thread, for me, you winning the best comment award with: Bruce should carry a plant around. Pmsl. Have a great weekend everyone.

  27. PP- If promotion is not the aim then why Bolasie ? doesn’t fit the young and hungry etc I am baffled by his every move, I guess we will see tomorrow whether things have progressed or regressed further. One things for sure we are now playing certainly no better than RDM’s team and probably worse in truth.

    Clive you have to hope if we get a foreign manager he doesn’t get the Garde treatment from the players, I don’t think they would personally but this is Villa.

  28. After watching Spud’s pre match presser I have the following thoughts:

    Tactical silence.
    System/formation silence.
    Best eleven unknown.
    Maris piper.
    8″ scaffold board.

  29. Getting the feeling that Bruce so wanted Terry, that in order to meet his wages, he has been willing to loan out Elphick, De Laet and anyone who would help to meet the £60,000 per week needed to pay his wages. Unfortunately, Edens and Nawiris are still not happy that it meets FFP, and Bruce has been told no, unless he is willing to come for far less, then you cannot sign him.

    Bruce is now in no mans land, and is not sure where to turn, and if he fails to get the right results from the Blackburn and Rotherham games, he wont be signing anything, other than his resignation..

  30. Completely nothing happening now, and Bruce saying he has enough defensive cover with Tuanzebe and James Bree for centre backs with James Chester. He has plenty of cover for full backs with Hutton, El Mohamady and Neil Taylor, He does not want to be stock piling defenders…….

    No, he only does that with mid fielders and attackers….!!!

    One or two injuries and Villa will be totally in the mire. All recruitment is off now until January, or Bruce goes..!!

  31. I agree with this chaps take on Villa and being a villa fan, its all got a bit to like the Brexit in Brexit out argument where nothing of worth is being said much other than I’m right your wrong with no real facts and no progress.

    this statement is where my hats hung and has been for a good while now.

    “Steve Bruce is a good manager, but a bad manager for the specific job at Aston Villa.”

    He didn’t suit the squad, simply as and its to far away from what he likes for him to change in less than 6 years with a suck it and see approach imo. Yes constraints haven’t helped him but also the money available was enough for him to get good players in but not always the players we needed, he s a bit of a magpie, if that makes sense. We still are a mile away from having a plan.

  32. Ah…it’s doing my head in.

    Undeterred, however, I’m getting a fresh sheet up for this evening’s game. Look for that to go live approximately three minutes before kickoff. Maybe five, if I’m on my game.

  33. PP- read this in the Delaet article on Mons

    “It almost begs the question, does Bruce have something against players that have won the Championship title? Something he has failed to do as a manager.”


  34. Thinking about it Bruce has a very big problem or two, the defence is an obvious problem but keeping all the big names happy will be a massive problem if they are not doing the business.

    Look at this list, Kodjia, Abraham, Hogan, Bolasie, Albert, Hourihane, ElGhazi, Grealish, McGinn, Thor, wheelan, lansbury, Elmo all looking for a place in a team that plays one up top so far. I think Bruce will shoe horn players in to suit names.

    I would hazard a guess that the loanees have been guaranteed to play, Tuenzabe has actually been given guarantees by Bruce that he will play. Whats the chances Bolasie and Abraham haven’t been told similar? ElGhazi, McGinn , and Grealish also nailed on I would guess, Leaves an awful lot of disgruntled players in the camp.

    I think thats the last we will see of any U23’s too, bar maybe Bree who strictly speaking Bruce bought to play anyway.

  35. aw naw,6 defenders verses blackburn god help us if bruce gets into pl as manager 9 defenders and a defensive mid would be set up
    hutton taylor chester axel
    elmo jedi
    mcginn grealish albert

  36. Line-up
    Nyland; Hutton, Chester (C), Tuanzebe, Taylor; Elmohamady, Jedinak, McGinn, Adomah, Grealish; Abraham.

    Subs: Moreira, Bree, Whelan, Hourihane, El Ghazi, Bolasie, Kodjia.

Leave a Reply