With some Villa supporters still frustrated by the previous season, it was as early as the third game of the season that they were calling for Steve Bruce’s head.
Suddenly according to some, the following Norwich City game was a ‘must-win’ and if Villa didn’t win it, then Bruce should be sacked.
Villa won 4-2.
A couple of draws later and suddenly, the same fans on social media were declaring the Middlesbrough game was a ‘must-win’.
Again, they reckoned that if Villa didn’t win it, then Bruce should be sacked.
Villa drew 0-0. Yet, Bruce remained the boss.
Love him or hate him, whatever your views on Villa’s current boss, it’s not productive stumbling game-to-game issuing ultimatums without considering what is currently Villa’s best chance of promotion.
We need cool heads.
At the moment, while it’s still early days in the season, the manager who only just bought in his second batch of players a few weeks ago is currently the best bet for success.
Is any sensible Villa board seriously going to sack a manager three or six games into a season, after a manager has just had a preseason and a summer transfer window? A manager that the Villa CEO Keith Wyness stated last season he would keep even if Villa were relegated?
The answer is no.
While Villa under Bruce have been unbearable to watch at the best of times in over 40 games, the dynamics of a new season suggests there is a strong chance of improvement on the previous one.
Six of Bruce’s summer recruits played in the 3-0 win at Barnsley. Five of them (Johnstone was obviously also on loan from last January) were fresh to the team from the previous season.
In terms of an unconvincing start to the season, Bruce also has key returning players like Jonathan Kodjia and Mile Jedinak to add into the mix.
The stakes are high, as promotion must be achieved this season, so consideration of any management change should not be taken likely.
As MOMS’s writers have stated numerous times on the website the first real performance review of Bruce, if things started to turn sour, would be the second international break, the 11 game mark.
With games in September against struggling teams like Brentford, Bolton, Burton and a team that had a big change over the summer, Barnsley, it looks more than likely that Bruce will pick up enough points to quell the storm of online ‘hysteria’.
The only realistic time that Bruce’s dismissal would be entertained would be if Villa lost touch with the play-off spots before the turn of the year. Then at least any new manager would have a January window and a decent amount of games to launch a promotion scramble.
MOMS has been running our annual survey over the past few weeks to get supporters views on various issues and it was only natural that several questions about the Villa boss were included.
The two we’ll deal with here are:
‘What’s your opinion of Steve Bruce?’
‘How long do you give Steve Bruce, if Villa continue to be outside the top six?’
In another question, Villa fans gave an average score of 7 out of 10 for Bruce’s chances of getting Villa promoted this season and that kind of level of sentiment reflects in their overall opinion of him.
If the “mass hysteria” that Bruce referred to wanted him out, in terms of the survey of almost 400 fans that answered the question, only 5% were #BruceOut.
Only 3.3% of fans view him as an ideal Villa boss, although we haven’t had one of them for quite a while. So this suggests Villa supporters view him as the man for the job in hand (promotion from the Championship) rather than the man they’d want as Villa boss per se.
When you look at the results there is a binary paradigm of opinion almost split between those who view him good enough for the task in hand and those who are uncertain and uncomfortable with him.
It’s not a distinct positive vs negative outlook, as very few think he’s ideal and not many fully commit to wanting to sack him.
That might explain why each individual result has brought a wave of reactionary opinion of the Villa boss. There is after all, a lot of grey in the spectrum of views on Bruce.
Of course the stakes are high and Bruce’s mission statement reads PROMOTION in indelible ink.
His tenure as Villa boss is underlined by the equation of him staying while he is the club’s best hope of achieving that. If he is not, then any replacement must have a chance to pull off the same mission within whatever is left of the season.
It’s tricky timing and that seems to be appreciated by the responses of Villa supporters when addressing the question of how long would they give him, if Villa remain outside the promotion places.
Only 6% want him gone now, but obviously that is not going to happen.
12.1% wanted to give him the often quoted 10 game minimum.
The ‘until October’ category in results below admittedly is close to that same period, as it’s 11 games until the end of September and Villa only have three games in October (including two away derbies against Wolves and Blues).
Combined together with the 10 games category, it makes up 29.5% for appraising him in Autumn.
The most popular response was to give him until the end of the year, which as MOMS suggested earlier in the article, was probably the most logical approach.
Bruce is unlikely to leave us out of touch from promotion in the immediate short-term, so lets see how it pans out. Last season, his real issues only happened in the months of January and February.
So the Villa board would be able to make a more sober decision in the run up to Christmas and it would give any new boss the option of the January window to at least make some tweaks.
In the meantime, Bruce has plenty of time to gel the current team with the new additions and get the results to fully prove he’s the man for the job.
The Barnsley game was the first time for a while that Bruce ventured to play his favoured 4-4-2 with his preferred two up top.
Previously the Villa boss has admitted that he might not have had the personnel to pull it off effectively, but Robert Snodgrass and Keinan Davis are key to now enabling such a transition.
Snodgrass adds a lot of bite to the midfield for a wide man to supplement his qualities going forward, so he beefs the midfield up. While Davis brings players into the game and also poses a physical presence for Villa in their own box when defending set pieces too.
So in short, both strengthen the all-round functioning of the team.
In MOMS opinion, the line-up against Barnsley finally seemed to be Bruce finally finding his ideal starting XI.
It’s taken him a while, but the defence has three clean sheets on the bounce and a midfield in Hourihane, Snodgrass and Adomah has goals and assists written all over it.
Then when it comes to the potential new forward partnership of Davis and Kodjia, what defence will look forward to playing against them?
While it seemed that winter was already coming for Bruce, it looks increasingly likely that this forthcoming autumn period will ultimately have the biggest say in his future.
Judging by the findings of MOMS survey, it seems that most fans at least are clearly prepared to give him that time.