Former boss hits out at criticism of his Villa Park reign and defends time in charge despite being sacked in October by new owners
By Graham Hill
STEVE Bruce says only Millwall and Burton Albion spent less than Villa last season.
The former Villa boss says he got them to a play-off final against Fulham on a shoestring budget.
That is despite owner Tony Xia spending so much on wages – including free transfer John Terry – that Villa ran into severe financial problems after failing to seal promotion.
Sheffield Wednesday boss Bruce comes face to face with Villa at Hillsborough for the first time since being sacked in October.
And he has been making a fierce defence of his time at Villa Park.
Bruce told the Sheffield Star: “In 2018, I think only Millwall and Burton spent less than Aston Villa and we still got to a play-off final.
“We were one game away from promotion.
“Whatever criticism is thrown at me, I can back it up.
“But it doesn’t matter really. It is what it is.”
Bruce says he is now happy to draw a line under his Villa reign – preferring to concentrate on his 13-game unbeaten Wednesday side.
He added: “We’ve all moved on. By the end of next week, I’ll have done 900 games.
“It’s part of the journey, which I’ve been on and, as far as I am concerned, it’s gone.”
That could be hard to believe as Bruce is sure to want to put the skids under Villa’s play-off bid if he can after falling out with the club’s fans.
That culminated in a cabbage being thrown at him from the seats ahead of his final game in charge against Preston.
Bruce said: ”Football managers are like everybody else.
“If you get sacked in your job, it’ll disappoint you and hurt you.
“Absolutely. If there’s something about you, you don’t like it. You’re disappointed.
“I knew with a bit more time, and the players that we had brought in, that we could turn things around so that’s the disappointing thing for me.
“I have to accept it now that it time doesn’t happen anymore whether you are at Aston Villa or another club.
“The cabbage thing was before that game against Preston when I was on my way to the bench.
“At the time, you think you deserve a bit more respect than that.
“But respect in our society unfortunately seems to have left the building.”
Bruce knows his side must beat Villa to have any chance of gatecrashing the play-offs.
He said: “I think they’re all must win games if we are going to be realistic.
”We have to win them all. I’m sure there’ll be one or two twists and turns.
“All we can try and do is do what we have done in the last few weeks which is keep the momentum going and keep ourselves in there.
“We still have a chance. It’s only a small one. But unfortunately we are running out of games. Sod’s law, I have got near enough everybody fit and the season is coming to a close.”