A few eyebrows were raised when Roberto Di Matteo was dismissed and Steve Bruce was rumoured to be replacing him at Villa Park last month. No one doubted his credentials, but considering this was a man who spent seven years just down the road as manager at Birmingham City, it was an appointment that could have potentially set a proverbial cat amongst the pigeons.
Just two miles separates the pair and both sets of fans have long memories. Bruce’s time at Birmingham had not been forgotten and some were not keen on the Northumberland native taking over the reins at their beloved Villa Park. Thankfully (we can say in hindsight), Bruce was given the job and he has quickly set about turning Villa into a force in the Championship following relegation from the Premier League last term.
Bruce is yet to see his Villa side suffer defeat since taking charge in mid-October. Wins over Reading, Fulham and Blackburn coupled with draws over local rivals Wolves, Birmingham and Friday’s draw against Brighton has endeared Bruce to the fans as he has overseen a stark improvement in performances and results.
With the improvement in fitness and higher intensity levels seemingly the main reason why Villa are on such an impressive run of form of late, many pundits will be wondering how far the new boss can take this weary sleeping giant of a club this year.
From relegation fodder to 9/2 contenders for promotion according to the Championship betting, it’s fair to say that one area Bruce needs to work on is turning draws into wins. Seventeen games have passed in the Championship this campaign and for Villa, ten of them have resulted in a share of the points.
During September, Villa played five matches in the league and drew them all. In three of those games they held the lead with just five minutes of the game to go. An inability to close out the game which ultimately cost Di Matteo his job.
Steve Bruce has gone someway to tightening up Villa’s final quarter of the match. In his six games in charge the latest his side have conceded a goal has been in the 71st minute (by coincidence this was against former club Birmingham City). Perhaps this can be attributed to the marked improvement in Fitness and intensity Bruce mentioned above?
The fans and board alike were expecting to be competing with Newcastle at the top of the table this season. There is still time, Villa fans are quickly learning that the Championship is a marathon and not a sprint, one defeat does not mean the end of the world.
Villa sit sixteenth in the league but are remarkably only five points off the play-off places. On current form they are just behind Newcastle, Brighton and Reading and if results go their way could easily find themselves in the top six come Christmas. Beyond that who knows, but if Villa keep performing at the level they are doing then automatic promotion is still not out of the equation.
From public enemy number one during his Brum days, Steve Bruce is quickly turning into Aston Villa’s saviour.