Aston Villa head coach Steve Bruce has been named the Sky Bet Championship Manager of the Month for January.
Never one to worry about the doubters, Bruce’s tactical nous and organisational skills helped Villa land a maximum 12-point haul from four games and move up to third in the Championship, conceding just a single goal in the process.
Aston Villa assistant manager Colin Calderwood, who picked up the award on Bruce’s behalf, said: “We’ve had some tough games in Bristol City and Sheffield United, teams in around us, and the importance of those games brought us to a new level of performance.
“We had difficult moments in those two games especially but we ended up coming out with positive results and I think it’s that type of thing that helps get runs going. Our performance level has been good but the quality of our goals has been excellent.
“This is as talented a group as any, certainly going forward, but it’s the togetherness of the dressing room which is a telling factor and that’s something that has been fundamental in a lot of the successful clubs throughout the country.
“The dressing room has been good and been noisy, with the right level of concentration and fun within it, and when you’ve got that it’s a great platform. Behind the scenes, that’s one of the biggest things I’ve noticed as a coach or a manager.”
George Burley chairs the Sky Bet Manager of the Month judging panel. He said: “Steve Bruce is using all of his considerable skills to breathe new life and vigour into Aston Villa, who are really in the mix for automatic promotion.
“Excellent wins against fellow promotion contenders Bristol City and Sheffield United made January a month to remember for Villa fans.”
Sky Sports’ EFL pundit Don Goodman said: “Steve Bruce’s first full season at the helm at Villa Park has been far from plain sailing with ups and downs along the way and even discontent in some quarters.
“But in January, Steve let the results speak for themselves and Villa were a fearsome force, winning all their games and charging into automatic promotion contention. He has a proven track record at this level and it would be foolish to doubt his promotion credentials.
Sky Bet EFL trader Mikey Mumford said: “Steve Bruce has always maintained his stance of getting on with the job at Villa Park.
“And it seems he and his side chose January to really turn on the afterburners and announce themselves as serious automatic promotion candidates.
“It started with the 5-0 thrashing of Bristol City on New Year’s Day, Bruce and his players then didn’t look back, registering one-goal wins in difficult trips to Nottingham Forest and Sheffield United.
“Four victories by aggregate score of 10-1 is a remarkable return and there’s no question Bruce is a worthy winner of this award.”
The Sky Bet Manager of the Month judging panel comprises former Ipswich Town manager George Burley, Sky Sports’ EFL expert Don Goodman; EFL Marketing Director Drew Barrand, League Managers’ Association Director Olaf Dixon and Sky Bet EFL trader Mikey Mumford.