Aston Villa: Steve Bruce learned from his first game in charge - against Wolves

Steve Bruce's first game, against Wolves on 15 October 2016, took place in front of the full glare of the TV cameras
Steve Bruce's first game, against Wolves on 15 October 2016, was in the full glare of the TV cameras

Aston Villa boss Steve Bruce has learned a lot in his first year as manager of one of the biggest clubs in the Midlands.

And, as he prepares for a reunion at Molineux with Wolves, against whom he began his reign a year ago, he says the lessons were there to be learned from his very first game in charge.

That Championship derby ended 1-1 after an exchange of penalties. But Bruce says that his side should have lost.

"They could have beat us three or four if I'm being honest," he told BBC WM.

"After that game, I had to think long and hard. Wolves rampaged through us.

"I had to make us more solid, difficult to play against and difficult to beat.

"I needed to halt the momentum, to stop the slide, as even a club like ours could have been pitched into a relegation battle. That's genuinely how I felt.

"There have been times over the past year when we have been nowhere good enough, I'll admit that. But that put us on an even keel rather than on the downward spiral of being beaten every week."

The Villa 'rollercoaster ride'

Following relegation from the Premier League in April 2016, the journey for Villa fans has been the classic, proverbial rollercoaster ride of emotions.

  • DOWN: A bad start under Roberto di Matteo, triggering his sacking on 3 October 2016.
  • UP: A good start under Bruce, following his appointment on 12 October 2016.
  • DOWN: An alarming dip at the turn of the year, triggered by the loss of top scorer Jonathan Kodjia to the Africa Cup of Nations.
  • UP: An end-of-season revival to comfortably avoid relegation, topped by the derby defeat of Birmingham City.
  • DOWN: A faltering start to the new Championship season under Bruce, encapsulated by back-to-back losses.
  • UP: A timely seven-game unbeaten Championship run, capped by four league wins on the spin.

Bruce's first anniversary as Villa boss

Villa were 23rd in the Championship after three games, following their luckless 2-1 defeat at Reading on 15 August.

Going into this weekend's round of fixtures, they had climbed to seventh. And, ahead of his latest return to Wolves, the club who infamously had second thoughts about appointing Bruce as their own manager in February 2012, the 56-year-old Geordie is as aware as anyone of the long-term nature of the job he has got at Villa Park.

"I'm still here," he smiles. "Which has got to be a positive. And long may it continue.

"It's been a tough year. It has been difficult. But I do believe there are signs of recovery.

Paul Lambert
Until Steve Bruce, Paul Lambert was the only boss to have lasted longer than 12 months in the past seven years at Villa Park

"It's so important that this club has stability," added Bruce, in his eighth job in management, chasing a fifth promotion from this level. "For too long, the club has been going along a path where there has been too much chop and change. "That's a recipe for disaster.

"I know I'm not going to be everybody's cup of tea but we've got a decent mix of young and experienced players and I think we're going along the right lines."

More importantly, of the 10 different men Villa have had picking the team since Martin O'Neill walked out in August 2010, he is only the second to see out the year.

For varying reasons, Kevin McDonald, Gerard Houllier, Gary McAllister, Alex McLeish, Paul Lambert, Tim Sherwood, Remi Garde, Eric Black and Di Matteo were all moved on - and only Lambert (June 2012 to February 2015) lasted longer than 11 months.

Steve Bruce was talking to BBC WM's Richard Wilford

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