In the wake of football’s most expensive match, Steve Bruce finds himself and his team just 90 minutes from the promised land of the Premier League, and it is hard to say any man deserves victory more than him.
Losing one parent is hard enough, but losing both in the space of a few months is something you would never wish upon even your worst enemy, and enduring this as a public figure isn’t going to make it any easier. The death of Bruce’s mother Sheenagh came just 3 months after his father Joe had sadly passed in early February, and with a vital chunk of the season in and amongst all this, Villa fans could have been excused for fearing the distractions could all be too much for Bruce.
But with everybody behind the manager the camaraderie was stronger than ever, and a faultless victory over Birmingham just 5 days after Bruce’s father’s passing demonstrated the focus and commitment from everybody involved.
The way Steve Bruce has handled the heart-breaking circumstances is something to be greatly admired, and should his team win the coveted Play Off Final on May 26th, it would be no more than the man deserves. Bruce spoke of his mother’s affection for Wembley and how she would have loved for him to guide his team there, and he’s achieved that much. But to go that one step further and guide Aston Villa to promotion after just 2 seasons away from the top flight would surely make the manager’s year, and make all the pain that much easier to cope with. The way Bruce has led the team this season has been incredibly noble, leading by example from start to finish.
Steve Bruce’s Battle
When Villa were placed in 8th in December of 2017 after defeat at Brentford, it would have been easy to lose focus and become desperate, but the calm head on Bruce’s shoulders, along with the calm heads he bought into the dressing room, helped point the season in the right direction. Finishing comfortably within the top 6 has given Bruce and the team a serious chance of promotion, and with the experience that Bruce insisted on getting in the dressing room in the form of John Terry, Robert Snodgrass and others, Villa are in a perfect position to grasp this opportunity with both hands.
Getting through the semi-final tie against Middlesbrough without conceding a goal just goes to show how dedicated and focused the team are, and Bruce is largely to thank for the organisation and game-management that saw the Villans book their Wembley place.
It’s hard to say that Villa would be in such a good position if Steve Bruce wasn’t the one holding the reigns, and if the players fulfill his and every fan’s dreams on Saturday, there is no doubt that it would go down as one of his greatest achievements. Play Off success would end Bruce’s turbulent season in utter jubilation and firmly plant him in the Aston Villa history books forever, making his year one of the best, despite all the pain he has endured.