The financial crisis which threatened to consume one of England’s great clubs appears to have eased off for now. Billionaire duo Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens may have averted economic ruin in the short term but they now face a big decision.
Steve Bruce is another regime’s man. If history tells us anything, they don’t last very long. Despite Bruce claiming he had “cause for optimism” following his Friday meeting with the top brass, it now appears that the new owners have their eyes on a new man.
Chalk and cheese
Theirry Henry is the name currently on every Villa fan’s lips. The former superstar player turned assistant manager of Belgium, has recently turned his back on a cushy studio career in order to cut his teeth in club management.
Villa could well be his first stop. If there is truth to these rumours, it would be one hell of a story. Henry would turn plenty of heads if he were to replace Steve Bruce. The two men couldn’t be more different. One a gritty defender, who has moulded his teams in his own robust image. The other was a world-class, era-defining forward who will no doubt wish to bring in a different style of football to the Midlands club.
For some, this will be seen as a savvy, albeit left of field appointment. And it may just be mad enough to work.
Villa are a big, big club. They should be pushing for a top six spot in the Premier League, not languishing in the second tier. No side is guaranteed success but Aston Villa can still draw players in with the gravity of their name. Coupled with the coup of landing a stellar name like Henry, Villa could become a very attractive proposition indeed.
Henry has connections and friends everywhere. Generations of young players grew up idolising him and would jump at the chance to work under him. It could well be the start of better times at Villa Park.
Then again, it could backfire horribly. Henry is an inexperienced coach and his playing career will have given him nothing in terms of a comparative experience to life in The Championship.
It’s a 46-game slog contested between a real mixed bag of sides. Some, like Derby County, Bristol City and Norwich City try to play a bit, some adopt a more direct, combative approach. Either way, it’s a monster of a league which can be a real nightmare to escape from.
Henry is a student of Wenger and Guardiola. He played at the highest level for his entire career. A proven winner, but untested in these challenging waters, it really is a sizeable first job to take up.
If the Frenchman is to be successful in such a tough league, then he will likely have to adapt his approach. An all out attacking, possession-focused style will not always be possible. If results begin to suffer fans will appreciate the style a whole lot less.
Whether or not he could keep the steel that got Villa to the play off finals would be interesting to see.
If Henry were to take on the role, his first task would be keeping the likes of Jack Grealish and James Chester at the club. Villa are about to begin a third season in the second tier and some of their better players will no doubt be looking for a bigger move.
Henry would have to persuade them that he is the man who can guide them there and improve them as footballers. With Premier League predatory club’s prowling, Henry will have to manage a situation entirely alien to him.
Learning on the job
Steve Bruce is not everyone’s cup of tea, however, his sides are tough to beat and his record is excellent when you take into account the clubs he’s managed.
He offers a steady hand and a clear playing style. Henry cannot provide this. At such a young age, he would be learning on the job at Villa.
With the stakes so high as the parachute payments dry up, the question for Villa’s new owners will be whether its a risk worth taking.
You can read more of Anthony Kelly’s work, here.