Not a phrase I must admit I ever thought I’d hear myself saying, even in a macabre nightmare. But it is and let’s hope that it is second time lucky for Dr Tony – or Tone, as the footballing world surely calls him.
I wonder if Bruce’s past will catch up with him when the good times roll out of town, as they surely will at some point this season. OK, so they haven’t arrived yet but a new manager brings impetus and a good run can’t be too far away. The good come with bad for short spells at which point the moaning about the manager begins. Steve Bruce has a bit of baggage to contend with and I’m sure that some have been searching the web intensely to find ‘anti-Villa’ quotes from his days as Stig of the Dump.
So what to expect of Bruce? Appointed this week, an immediate change will be difficult. There will be an injection of fresh hope and players wanting to impress him; results may perk up. Performances will certainly have to; it’s a tough four weeks or so before the next international break. Wolves, Reading, Fulham, Birmingham and Blackburn. The most straightforward is saved to last.
The sixth manager in twelve months, Bruce’s first task is to steady the ship. Two months ago, Rotherham were beaten at Villa Park; the new dawn quickly faded. Difficult to beat, for sure; 7 draws and 2 defeats is better than 2 draws and 7 defeats but just three wins instead of draws would see us in 10th rather than close to the relegation places.
The size of Bruce’s task cannot be underestimated. Expectations are high, ours are inflated by his managerial record at this level. He knows how to get out of the Championship. Mind you, so did Roberto Di Matteo although his plan seemed to be taking us into League One.
An amiable man, it’s hard to pinpoint why RDM failed at Villa Park. We can see the results on the pitch and my own interpretation of events is that he couldn’t convey his ideas to the players, at least not in a way which translated into performances. Whether that is because too many new players came in or was down to purely to RDM is not yet known.
Players are self-serving at the best of times and won’t be inclined to hold their hands up to their part in his downfall. Bruce strikes me as having a touch of the ‘old school’ about him; capable of dishing out the hairdryer treatment which may be exactly what the squad needs. Certainly an element of fear of the manager and their futures.
Mentality is his biggest challenge. We are too fragile defensively and as the new strikeforce continues to struggle to bond, we have to tighten up at the back. That requires leadership; from the manager, from the captain. It’s something which has been sorely missing in recent games. Late goals have been our downfall although in fairness we solved that problem at Preston; they scored twice in the first half.
Tone has rectified the managerial problem, in the short term at least. Hopefully, in the long-term as well. There may be short-term pain but if the season ends well, we won’t mind. We’ve just got to keep our eyes on the prize. Time for it to be delivered.