Another View From The Board.
I’m Neil James, Director of Affiliate Memberships. As I write this article it’s a grey, miserable, rainy day here in Warwickshire but I’m feeling pretty happy right now as I’m still basking in the (old) golden glow of our stunning victory over the Wolves! It’s a pretty good time to be a Villa fan right now and we should enjoy these moments as (let’s be honest here) we haven’t had too many to savour in recent years!
Since our last View From The Board article (just before the home game against Ipswich) a lot of the River Tame has passed under the Aston Expressway, and in that time we have won 11 games out of 18, only losing 3, and picking up 37 points from a possible 54, leaving us third in the table, 7 points off top spot, 10 games to play and Cardiff yet to visit fortress Villa Park. In terms of league positions between the Ipswich and Wolves games not much has changed actually – back then, we were 4th, 6 points behind leaders Wolves, with a game in hand. But in reality the difference between the Villa of then and now is huge. The shackles seem to have finally been thrown away and the team allowed to play with more freedom and attacking intent. Throw in the welcome return from injury of Grealish and Terry and the Villa of 2018 are beginning to look like a very good side indeed with positive momentum building at just the right stage of the season.
For my sins, I am a regular at pretty much all home and away games and my view of the season so far is that it has resembled a spaghetti western. There has been the good – Wolves at the weekend, the defeats of Blues, Sheffield Wednesday, Norwich and Bristol City; the bad – disappointing defeats against Wolves, Cardiff, Derby and Brentford amongst others; and the downright ugly – the month of December which did not provide us with much festive cheer as well as scruffy, apathetic cup defeats in both FA and League cups.
What I have found most fascinating this season, however, is the difference in opinions of Villa fans about our manager, Steve Bruce. I’d go as far as to say at one stage it was practically a 50/50 split either in favour or against him. I think we’d pretty much all agree that the style of football under Bruce in the first few months of the season left a lot to be desired, and at times results were poor. However, I think we’d also pretty much agree that over the past couple of months our style has improved massively and we are now an attractive side to watch, with plenty of goals coming from all over the pitch. Is that down to Bruce? Or the introduction of Steve Agnew? The return of Terry and Grealish? Or at the risk of stating the obvious, is it simply a combination of all these things?
And ultimately, is Bruce the right manager to lead us back to the Premier League? Only time will tell and we’ll know for certain in May. Has he done enough in recent times to convince some of the doubters that he is the right man? If we go up, is he then the right man to take on the Premier elite? It would be interesting to hear the views of the fanbase on these questions.
I don’t remember a manager of recent times splitting the fanbase quite so much as Mr. Bruce. Perhaps as a nod to those dark, dark days under David O’Leary we should reinvent that famous Holte End banner, with one slight alteration – “We’re not fickle. We just don’t know if we like you that much yet…..”
What we would finally like to say is that football is just that. A game. Bruce behaved with magnificent dignity given what was going on in his personal life at the time.
Losing a parent is a tough thing for anyone to take. To do it in the glare of the media, with a high profile derby game next up, is testament to his character.
We might not always agree with his team selections. Or the formation he picks. Nor how we can sometimes seem reticent to get on the front foot and go after the opposition.
We can definitely confirm though we have huge respect for him as a man. And, if he will meet the AVST board for a chat, we would welcome it. It has been a long time since everyone at this club was pulling in the same direction.