Opinion

Why Sacking Steve Bruce Makes No Sense

Follow us on Twitter @claretandview // Words by Mark Jirobe (@VillaMarkPGH)

I know, I know. You’re fed up. 

You post things like “Bruce Out” and “WTF IS HE DOING” and things of the like after every game. You feel like your opinion of Villas’ managerial position is the only one.

You’re also wrong.

Among the congregation of the “Bruce Out Brigade”, there are few who are honest with themselves. They honestly claim that they once favoured Bruce at the helm, and hoped he did well. Now that Villa sits 18th in the league after seven games, they have started to change their tune. I get it, I really do. The “Bruce Out Brigade” wants instant results.

And fast, attractive football.

And hundreds of million of dollars to bring in their favourite player on FIFA. 

And probably a Claret And Blue unicorn, too. 

A lot of Aston Villa supporters don’t like to be told they’re wrong about anything when it comes to their opinion on the running of the club. I don’t blame them. Most Villa supporters I have rubbed shoulders with are unusually proud. There is no reason to be proud at this present era of the club, but they are. A great number of them are also smug and condescending when talking to other clubs supporters. Again… really not a reason for it these days. The reason lies solely on the fact that Aston Villa have slipped out of the “big club” conversation. 

I’ll let you loosen your fist before I continue. 

Calm? 

Good. 

Now that you’ve taken a few breaths and read the previous paragraph again, let me attempt to explain to you the reasons why sacking Steve Bruce would be detrimental to Aston Villa in the short and long term. 

The Financials

When Steve Bruce was hired after the sacking of Rome travelling Robert De Matteo, he had a long laundry list of things that needed done. First, he and the Aston Villa board worked together to hash out a plan to alleviate Villas’ massive wage bill. Thus far, he has made some great business decisions. 

That’s right, folks. Aston Villa is a business. There is no way to get around it. You don’t have to like it. But, it is the hard truth of the modern game of football. Long gone are the players who stick with one team for their entire career. Sure, there will always be exceptions to that. There are still loyal human beings who walk this earth. There are also loyal human beings who don’t boo the team they support at half-time because the team didn’t do exactly what they had hoped. 

Look, for lack of a better phrase… Aston Villa are in deep shit. They have been for quite sometime. For supporters to start calling for a managers head who brought in a number of players for a very low overall fee is not conducive to what Aston Villa are trying to accomplish. Dr. Tony, Steve Bruce, and the board are surely doing their best to improve the financials of the club. This includes the wonderful loan acquisition of Josh Onomah from Tottenham. Will Onomah become an Aston Villa player after his loan? No. Don’t even try to think he will. The young man has already been touted as our early player of the season, and for good reason. I still scratch my head sometimes in wonder of how in the hell Dr. Tony and Bruce managed to attract him to Villa, other than he wouldn’t even get a sniff of a game for Spurs. Onomahs’ time at Villa will accelerate his experience, and save Villa money. That is what you call a “sound business decision”. The club need to keep making those in the next few seasons to get back on steadier footing financially. A very smart move would be to sign some of the Young Lions we have seen in EFL Cup competition so far in the campaign. Callum O’Hare would be a nice replacement for Onomah once he returns to Spurs. The best part about that is the financials. Callum O’Hare isn’t going to barge into the board room and demand 45k a week. Josh Onomah will be in a position to do that, if he chooses to, when his contract expires. Not a lot of Villa supporters seem to be respecting what Steve Bruce has done in terms of financial gain and cutting loss. The negativity needs to change in the supporters section, the Facebook groups, the supporter ran Twitter profiles, and in the papers. Negativity breeds negativity. And one could argue the results on the pitch are negative, but…Villa are currently on a 4 game unbeaten run. It is not the most attractive 4 game run any of us have ever seen…but it could be far worse. We can at least agree on that. 

The Players

So let’s say that Steve Bruce gets sacked next week, and this article becomes a laughing stock. Let’s imagine that happens.

Wipe that smile off of your face. I’m trying to get a point across here…

Okay, so Bruce gets the sack…

Moving forward, Villa would most certainly act swift to appoint a new manager. So then, we have a new manager at the helm. And that manager is going to want to bring in his own players. And then that manager is going to want to ship out players who he does not think are good enough for his squad. And then Aston Villa would take some pretty substantial losses on the fees they paid for said players to come to Villa When a club is having a fire sale, teams come calling in droves to snatch up and check in on the price it would take to buy a player they may have had their eyes on. This happens with regularity, and there are more than enough examples over the last year to solidify my claim. With all of that considered, sacking Steve Bruce would reboot a very vicious cycle. Manager out, manager in, ‘these are not my players”, new players in, few old players out, “the team needs time to gel”, “tactics need worked on”, more lacklustre results, manager out. 

The revolving door at Villa over the past 10 seasons with managers is down-right embarrassing. I’m aware football is a “results now” arena. And I’m damn sure we all want the club to succeed on every level that it can. But kick-starting this cycle again and again will get Aston Villa nowhere fast. You think Aston Villa in the Championship gave your blood pressure a rise? What happens when we bring in a manager from a foreign country and he drives us down to League One, or worse? Most “Bruce Out Brigade” supporters will be the first ones to shout from the rooftops that Villa should be beating teams “on paper”. I agree. We have a pretty decent squad assembled for Championship football. Losing Jonathan Kodjia for the first 6 games wasn’t planned. Losing Jack Grealish until well into 2018 was not planned. While neither of these players are considered world-beaters in terms of results, one could make the claim that their inclusion would have done a lot of good. More good than their absence, at the very least. Give the players some support. I saw a top-tier player take a penalty during Champions League play this past week. He clattered the ball off of the bar and out. What did his teams supporters do? They started chanting his name as loudly as they could, giving him the support to carry on after missing a goal that would have all but cemented three vital points in group play. When is the last time you have heard anything like that happening at Villa Park? I’ll wait. 

The Board

Aston Villa has a long history of employing a number of proper football minds behind the scenes. This continues to happen, even with the reputation of the club not in the best of standings. Through hard work, great financial decisions, and a plan for the future, Villa seems to be in good hands in an attempt to get out of this mess. CEO Keith Wyness has been absolutely vital to Aston Villa in a multitude of ways. He has said on multiple occasions that he does believe that Steve Bruce is the man for the job, but the job isn’t a normal one. It’s going to take time. The board is aware of this. Somehow, through ignorance or blatant stupidity, there are a lot of supporters that are not aware of this. Dr. Tony has also stated that while results are number one, the change he is looking for is a long road ahead. To be fair, Steve Bruce has not held his position very long.  The “Bruce Out Brigade” loves to spew propaganda such as: “How much time does he need to turn this around?” To be frank, the work of turning Villa around is in infant stages. The only thing that should vacate the manager job at Aston Villa is a very, very terrible string of performances. Hopefully, the board is smart enough to identify that the aforementioned bad string of results has not happened up to this point. And I think they are that intelligent. I also believe they know there is a percentage of supporters who want Bruce out as quickly as possible. Everyone is aware of it. But, Dr. Tony seems like a man that when he has a plan, he sticks to it. No matter how hard the project is, he comes off as being persistent and driven in his endeavors. Sacking Steve Bruce makes no sense when you think about what Dr. Tony has paid for as an investment, and I’m sure the Aston Villa boardroom are on the very same page in the very same book. 

The Supporters

Does anyone remember how good it felt winning a FA Cup semi-final at Wembley? I get goosebumps just thinking about how great of a day that was for every Villa supporter I know. No one gave Villa a single prayer that day against Liverpool, and Villa proved the entire world wrong and left a few bookies a little lighter in the pocket, too. Wouldn’t you like to get back to that feeling? It feels so long ago, I agree. It feels like a lifetime ago. So much has happened. Benteke left, Sherwood was forced out by boo boys, Remi Garde wasn’t allowed to spend anything, Villa got relegated, then they hired a washed up coach for our first season in the Championship…we all lived through some pretty bad times as Villa supporters.

So, how do we get back to that feeling? How do we get back to Premier League football, exciting Cup competition runs, and generally being proud for a reason? 

Obviously it’s way easier to type it out on a keyboard than to actually do it. And this may come as a shock to a lot of Villa supporters, but it’s coming out the only way I know how to type it:

A great majority of Aston Villa supporters are a fickle bunch and don’t deserve to feel that way ever again. 

Whew. It felt good to get that out. 

They don’t cheer the team on, but choose to boo them. They don’t wait for a new signing to play, they immediately slag them off in any way they can. They don’t have patience, rather revert to knee-jerk decisions. They think playing FIFA for 21 days in the course of a year makes them a master tactician when it does not. 

Case in point: Henri Lansbury gets a red card for a questionable tackle. Supporters of the Claret and Blue begin literally drooling over themselves, start to fumble their phones out of their pockets to bring up Facebook and Twitter to say things such as: 

“What a prick. That’s an easy 4 game suspension. He doesn’t deserve to wear the Villa shirt ever gain. Terminate his contract. Why is he even on the pitch in the first place, he’s terrible!”

Because any of that drivel is helping matters. I swear…some Villa fans choose to stir the pot for trouble instead of taste. Fast forward a few days… Henri Lansburys’ red card is rescinded, and there is no suspension coming for him. The knee-jerk comments made by Villa supporters are enough to make the most football-hardened fans have an upset stomach. Just as easily after Lansburys’ red card, supporters could have posted things such as:

“Ugly challenge by Henri. He has to be better than that. Not the stage of the game to be making such a petulant tackle. Maybe the club should fine him a weeks wage?”

But, you’ll never see those things. The “Bruce Out Brigade” does not want positive thinking supporters. They want the doom and gloom. They feed off of negativity in such a deep state, that it almost seems overly dramatic teenage behavior. The entire culture of Aston Villa supporters has to change. I agree that we all want to see the club do well, and we can agree that the badge on the front of the kit means a hell of a lot more than the name on the back. But, this is not a passage that is preached. Supporters dislike players for asinine reasons, usually because they don’t think they are up the standard of Aston Villa. Again… Aston Villa isn’t necessarily Aston Villa at the moment. But, everyone in position at the club are trying to remedy that. Believe in the process. Believe in the board. Believe in a positive thinking attitude. Cheer the players on. Sing their name when something unfortunate happens. It would go a long way to prove to the players, and the board that we are behind them through thick and thin. No one wants to play for droves of moaners. I’m afraid that has happened at Villa, and that’s a cautionary tale moving forward.

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