Steve Bruce has criticised the level of abuse he received following Aston Villa’s poor start to the season, and insisted he has the pedigree to prove he will turn it around.
Villa failed to win any of their first three games in the Sky Bet Championship this season, but have since turned it around with back-to-back wins in the league and Carabao Cup.
And ahead of their trip to Bristol City on Friday night, live on Sky Sports Football at 7pm, Bruce spoke out about how over the top the abuse, particularly on social media, has become.
“We’re in a social media world and people have a platform now, but what it does is escalate into ridiculous abuse,” the Villa boss told Sky Sports. “We’re all fair game and thick-skinned enough as managers to know you’re under pressure if you lose a couple of games, but the level of abuse aimed at me was quite remarkable.
“But I suppose that’s how it is these days, and it’s important that the people who employ you don’t listen to that rubbish. I’ve said I’m determined to turn it around and I know, with my track record, that if I’m given time I’ll get it right.”
The poor start to the season Villa suffered did lead to question marks over their statement summer signing of John Terry, who surprisingly dropped down to the Championship after nearly two decades of success with Chelsea.
Eight goals have been conceded in their four league matches so far, but Bruce has heaped praise on the former England captain for his impact behind the scenes.
“A couple of bad results don’t paper over the affect he’s had,” said Bruce. “What I needed is someone who has been there, done it, worn the T-shirt, and show them how it’s done. For the younger lads in the team he’ll have an affect on them big style, because of how he’s done it, how he’s gone about his work, and how he is.
“For example, we went to Colchester away on a horrible night, probably the worst of the year, but he drove to the game himself and turned up in the dressing room, even though he wasn’t involved. He took the young lads and shook them by the hands to wish them luck.
“He could have sat back and not given a monkey’s, but that’s the reason why I brought him here, to bring that mentality. Before I got here that mentality was losing, but that won’t happen on my watch. I needed somebody alongside me in the dressing room who thinks exactly the same way, and I’ve got that person.”
Villa were pre-season favourites to win the Championship in 2017/18, but their start to the season caused many to re-assess that status.
They find themselves 16th in the table at this early stage, and Bruce, who has only been manager at Villa since last October, says there’s still plenty more work to do to get the club going forward again.
“I was under no illusion what a great club it was, because I’ve had the fortune to be living around the corner for 15 years,” he said. “The difficulty was, as in any job, is that the reason you come in is that there’s trouble. And not just in the last three or four months, but it’s been dwindling along for a long time.
Bristol C vs A Villa
August 25, 2017, 7:00pm
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“The club has been used to getting beaten, and to try and arrest that has been the most difficult [job]. Of course there’s then the whole rebuilding job, which takes time. It’s a great club to work for with big expectation, we’re Aston Villa at the end of the day. There’s a demand with being a big club.
“If you drop out of the Premier League there’s going to be big change, and if you don’t get back quickly with the squad you’ve assembled then it becomes a very difficult circle to be in.
“There are big clubs with big history and tradition playing in the Championship, some would even argue that there are bigger clubs in terms of what they are and what they represent than some in the Premier League.
“So, in that respect, it becomes very difficult. There’s no divine right to drop out of the Premier League and then march back and take the Championship by storm. It’s the most unforgiving league, and that’s why the bookies can never call it.”
Bruce has won four promotions to the Premier League during his career, twice with Birmingham and twice with Hull, and he’s backed himself to make it five with Villa.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to get a few promotions and, let me tell you, I’d rather be managing in the Premier League,” he said. “The only job in the Championship I would have taken is Aston Villa.
“I’m determined to get back [to the Premier League]. I’ve been there, done it and I know what’s required. We’ve struggled to get a few results, two weeks ago the whole thing was doom and gloom, and all of a sudden we’ve won two games on the trot and now it’s euphoria.
“We’ve got to stop that roller-coaster and it’s up to me to get the club on an even keel and turn it around. And I’m sure we will do.”
Don’t miss Aston Villa’s trip to Bristol City in the Sky Bet Championship on Friday night, live on Sky Sports Football and Sky Sports Main Event from 7pm