At the start of last week MOMS was asked to appear on a couple of national radio shows to discuss the rumours of Thierry Henry becoming manager of Aston Villa. According to the Daily Star, the former Arsenal star had verbally agreed to the job. Little context was given though in the paper beyond Villa having new owners. The radio requests were turned down, as in MOMS’ opinion, it was too close to the start of the season for the new owners to even entertain anyone else, never mind taking a risk on a manager with zero managerial experience.
Maybe it’s a case of being jaded by common sense, but it seemed a waste of time entertaining it beyond making a joke tweet.
— My Old Man Said (@oldmansaid) July 23, 2018
Of course, the ex-Arsenal man is a major name in football, so the rumour was juicy enough to be reprocessed by many a newspaper and outlet, without them caring if it actually had any legs. After all, it guaranteed clicks and readers.
Welcome to the modern day news cycle, where football fans play willing victims and haplessly spread the rumour on social media (and then the token multiple update stories), without really considering its worth.
The only real entertainment from the episode was how various media figures (aka Bruce buddies) declared it was an insult to talk about Henry being in frame for the Villa job, while Bruce was still the boss. It didn’t stop them taking a big swig of hypocrisy by going on the radio themselves to discuss Henry and Bruce. Wasting their life and ours with more hot air.
— Jim White (@JimWhite) July 24, 2018
What Did Common Sense Actually Tell Us?
From outside eyes – i.e. the incoming owner’s – with less than two weeks to go to the start of the season, the idea of keeping Bruce would have been viewed as a sensible low risk strategy for the immediate future. It would give them time to get a feel for the club and actually start to think about the kind of direction and manager they want to go with.
The new majority owners would have viewed the 4th place finish and play-off final of last season, as proof that Bruce would be competitive in the short-term and that he would at least know the squad he has at his disposal. A squad that due to FFP restrictions, would unlikely see too many additions.
Tony Xia, who still owns 45% of the club, would have also vouched for Bruce staying on as Villa boss.
Bruce knew the logic of all of this and has since told press that while he may have been in the dark about the new owners, he received no news that suggested they were going to change things.
Lets not forget, managerial changes also cost money and you’re not going to want to depart with around £2m straightaway unless you have a replacement you’re 100% sure about.
In many ways, Tony Xia’s financial implosion has worked out for Bruce in terms of staying on. If Villa were on a sound financial footing, there’s a chance he would have been sacked after the play-off final failure – you wouldn’t have been surprised in this day and age of disposal managers.
Likewise, if the new owners had come in a month or so earlier, then the current Villa boss would have been on less certain ground.
Of course, Bruce will have to be around the promotion places throughout the early part of this coming season to be comfortable with his position as Villa boss.
What supporters will not want to hear is a repeat of the excuse culture that has prevailed during Bruce’s time at the club. The excuses are already lined up for next season – financial mess, zero spend on transfers, FFP and potentially the loss of key players (although fingers crossed that doesn’t look likely now).
It’s not totally convincing blaming FFP, when you consider the often forgotten about January window of 2017, where Bruce signed six new players (Hogan, Bree, Lansbury, Hourihane, Bjarnason and Taylor). These players have ultimately been under utilised when they were meant to be the bedrock of Bruce’s new team – out of the six, only Conor Hourihane actually started the play-off final, and at the start of last season, Bruce had even preferred to start Leandro Bacuna instead of him.
Still, now at least, Bruce has had time to get familiar with such players and perhaps integrate them better into the team this season.
The notion that has been spun by James Nursey of the Daily Mirror that a reader’s poll in the Birmingham Mail saved Bruce’s job last week is more than far-fetched. That said, polls ran by both the Birmingham Mail and MOMS a few weeks ago, synced up and showed the majority of Villa supporters – around the 70% mark – thought Bruce was the best option while the club was in a financial pickle.
At the time, Bruce, recognised as an old Championship warhorse with promotions to his name, seemed the club’s only chance of stability in uncertain times.
Now the scenario isn’t so gloomy, Bruce will benefit from the backing of fresh and eager to please new owners. He also still has a squad strong enough to challenge the top spots. So, it’s time to focus on what the Villa manager can make happen on the pitch.
The mission this season remains the same – PROMOTION. After all, that is how future polls on Bruce will ultimately judge him…and it maybe be the only thing to put off any actual real calls to Thierry Henry.
Follow MOMS on Twitter at @oldmansaid