Norwich City chief wary of vibrant Aston Villa
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Alan Irvine admits Norwich City can expect no favours from old boy Steve Bruce or his resurgent Aston Villa.
Bruce has guided a expensively-assembled squad to five wins in the last six and Irvine predicts it will take a marked upturn in City's sparse productivity on the road to halt that surge.
'They are the form team in the division,' he said. 'They look as if the new players have settled in now and relationships have developed. They obviously spent a lot of money in the summer and January to bring in good players and that has been reflected in recent results. The signings were excellent, all players tried and tested in this division and with the capacity to go higher.
'I thought it was going to be something that would take a bit of time when Steve first went in and the January window would be important. They did some great business and we are now starting to see the team they will have going forward, rather than the one he inherited. Things weren't good and he didn't have a magic wand to wave. I know speaking to people who were there previously change was needed at the club and Steve has been given the funds to do that and he has done it well.'
Irvine is a big fan of Bruce.
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'Our paths have crossed in both divisions and I like him,' he said. 'He has done a very good job over the years. He has had some difficult times, as we all do, but he is extremely experienced. He is a real football man, he understands the game, he shows he can build teams to get out of this division and I like him as a person and looking forward to seeing him.'
Welsh defender Neil Taylor was one of Bruce's January recruits, but the 28-year-old was at the centre of a World Cup qualifying storm for his reckless tackle on Everton's Seamus Coleman over the international break, that left Coleman suffering an horrific double leg break and earned Taylor a red card.
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'I don't think he meant to do that. Not many players would go out to do that. I have sympathy for both,' said Irvine. 'I know Seamus. He is a great guy, terrific professional and still the same boy who came over from Ireland all those years ago. I had quite a lot of contact with him when I was at Everton. I was really, really sad for him and disappointed but knowing Seamus he will accept that as something that can happen in the game. Neil Taylor does not have a reputation who would deliberately do something like that. He made a poor tackle but every player is capable of that.
'I don't know him as a lad so I don't know whether it will affect him. He needs to get back playing as soon as possible. He probably needs one game to go out there and play and put it behind him and Steve will make that call on how he sees him since coming back from international duty.'