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Why Aston Villa’s Pursuit of Alex McLeish Should Cause Villa Fans to Panic

Photo by andyshaw1964

I find the situation at Villa Park in regards to who will be the next manager of Aston Villa particularly fascinating. Here you have an institution in English football, a club with a rich history, deciding to pass on the interest of experienced football managers such as Steve McClaren and Mark Hughes. Instead it appears that Aston Villa have settled on Birmingham City manager Alex McLeish as the likely new boss (that is, if Villa is willing to pay Birmingham City £5 million in compensation). How the mighty have fallen.

A club with the stature of Aston Villa should be aiming high and signing a Mark Hughes or Steve McClaren to lead their club forward. But to me, the whole drama regarding the search for a new Aston Villa manager smells of Aston Villa owner Randy Lerner laying down the law and deciding not to pay a king’s ransom for a manager of his club. If that is true, then it’s no surprise that Hughes and McClaren were turned away so quickly. And it also gives an indication of the pay scale that Lerner is willing to pay, which would be for a manager at McLeish’s level.

Aston Villa’s pursuit of McLeish says a lot about the future ambitions of Villa. Does the club have visions of winning a League Cup trophy, like McLeish did with Birmingham, to pacify fans and regain entry to the Europa League? It’s obviously within Aston Villa’s reach but the club’s decision to pursue McLeish doesn’t provide much hope for Champions League qualification or a push to break into the top four in England. Let’s not forget that during the last few seasons, there have been windows where Villa looked on the verge of breaking into the top four during the seasons until they lost points and fell back down again.

The most worrying aspect of Alex McLeish becoming the next manager of Aston Villa is the playing style that his teams employ. Out of all of the 20 clubs in the Premier League season last year, McLeish’s team played the most dour and defensive brand of football. At times, when McLeish allowed his footballers to push forward, Birmingham showed signs of life. But far too often, McLeish was too defensive minded. That may have worked in the League Cup and at St. Andrews, but it’s going to be rejected at Villa Park. Aston Villa fans enjoy an attacking and entertaining brand of football. They love to see their wingers push forward with speed and attack the Holte End.

Reading between the lines, it looks like Randy Lerner is significantly wanting to cut down on wages at Aston Villa by hiring a second-rate manager. The potential acquisition of McLeish screams of Lerner wanting to establish Villa as a financially well-run club who are comfortable with a mid-table to upper mid-table finish each season with the hopes of maybe a League Cup trophy in between.

This is not the Aston Villa I know. The club have been through plenty of ups and downs in the past two decades, but the Aston Villa I know is a club who are more adventurous, who play good football and who — from time to time — strike fear in the heart of their opponents. The path that Aston Villa is heading down, if McLeish is hired, is a sobering one. A realization by Lerner (and perhaps Villa supporters) that the best years are well and truly over, and it’s a return to the normalcy that the club doesn’t deserve.

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  1. JC

    June 15, 2011 at 12:52 am

    I was hoping we got rid of this guy from the league. Now he’s lurking again, like a bad case of herpes, waiting to infect us with more brutal-to-watch defensive snooze-fests.

    (to the tune of Mrs Robinson) Where have you gone, Ian Holloway….

    • Nik Arur

      June 15, 2011 at 12:58 am

      You bring up a good point. Why haven’t top clubs been throwing Holloway’s hat into the ring?

      • omakbob

        June 15, 2011 at 12:34 pm

        Me too. I’ve been on a Villa message board, and they just dismiss him out of hat, but no reason is ever given.

        Maybe they believe that while Holloway knows how to attack effectively, his defensive prowess leaves a lot to be desired. Its never stated, but thats what I’m inferring…..

        I hope they at least give Rijkaard a good look

  2. Slate

    June 14, 2011 at 9:25 pm

    As a supporter of Birmingham, I am glad to see McLeish go. I don’t hate the man but I believe he had reached his ceiling at BCFC.

  3. King Eric

    June 14, 2011 at 5:02 pm

    I’m sure big Sam would have relished the opportunity for the Villa job – just what he’d be looking for, but not so sure given their current position if Lerner would be looking for him. I think Hughton would have been a good shout for West Ham too. Lerner needs to listen to the fans though on this one as they are the ones who ultimately put the money in his pocket. There are talks of a boycott for season tickets if he does in fact hire McLeish. I’m pretty sure 99% of them would take Mark Hughes over McLeish.

  4. Gary

    June 14, 2011 at 4:34 pm

    What is it about American owners that they just don’t get about the passion of English supporters. When the majority of the supporters are against a decision you better have a good reason to go against them or face their wrath. It was the American ownership that hired Hodgson at Liverpool against the sentiment of the supporters and look what happened there.

    If Randy Lerner is smart he would immediately rule out Mcleish or I can see this getting ugly for the club.

    • Clampdown

      June 15, 2011 at 9:53 am

      It was also an American that hired Kenny at LFC.

      What is it about the English that they continue to make such silly generalizations?

      • Nik Arur

        June 15, 2011 at 10:21 am

        Quite right. I think it’s unfair to rope all Americans in together because of your opinions on Lerner and Glazer (who I’m assuming is the other American owner you’re referring to.) In addition to Henry with Liverpool, Ellis Short (an American businessman) owns Sunderland, and they’ve gone from a 13th place finish in 2009/2010 to a 10th place finish this past season. Not saying that’s an impressive improvement, but it is an improvement nonetheless.

  5. oliver

    June 14, 2011 at 3:18 pm

    “A club with the stature of Aston Villa should be aiming high and signing a Mark Hughes”

    I can’t work out if this is a dig at Villa or just a sign of how low the author thinks they are

    • The Gaffer

      June 14, 2011 at 7:50 pm

      It’s a compliment. Oliver, I’m guessing you don’t rate Mark Hughes highly at all. I do 🙂

      The Gaffer

  6. Luke

    June 14, 2011 at 1:34 pm

    Randy lerner is going to become a hated man at Villa if he goes ahead with the hiring of McLeish. He has all but given up on the club challenging for the top 6. Selling your best players shows he has no intent on Villa challenging for Europe.

    I also cannot understand the reason why Lerner would want to go after McLeish. As pointed out his teams play very boring football. I can see this thing turning to another case of Hodgson at Liverpool. The fans didn’t want him and when he couldn’t get off to a good start they turned on him and he had to be fired. Lerner should take a lesson from that.

  7. Jason

    June 14, 2011 at 12:38 pm

    It looks like Aston Villa supporters don’t want Mcleish either. Season ticket owners are planning on returning their tickets should McLeish be hired. This is definitely not the way Lerner wants to treat the supporters after selling Young, maybe even Downing soon and who knows what else he has in mind.

    I cannot understand what it is that McLeish will bring to the club that other potential managers won’t. Unless I’m missing something I just don’t get it. Sad times for Villa supporters.

  8. Clampdown

    June 14, 2011 at 11:11 am

    What a difference a year makes. In 2009-2010, McLeish was a genius, destined to manage a bigger club, another brilliant Scottish manager. Now, he’s crap.

  9. Flvillan

    June 14, 2011 at 10:39 am

    If in fact Randy Lerner is tightening the club’s finances, then why not hire Chris Hughton? I’d rather have Hughton as a manager than McLeish. Also, I imagine that all of the top rated candidates have spoken with Houllier and/or Martin O’neill regarding their experiences with Randy, the board, and the players at Villa. It would be foolish for them not to. Especially with all of the turmoil surrounding the team last season.

  10. Soot

    June 14, 2011 at 9:39 am

    Did Scooby Doo write this article? Ruropa League Shaggy!

  11. Tony Walker

    June 14, 2011 at 8:46 am

    I am a Villa fan and agree that should we get the likes of McLeish (god help us NO!) then RL needs to take into account the lack of income of the next season. Which will lead into cheaper/less gifted players and ultimately, a nice trip out of the EPL and to oblivion. Yes, McLeish did a fair job at Rangers, but as the ex Blues Manager, rubbish football too, the crowds at VP drop will drop considerably, especially in season tickets attendees who I can assure RL that the ardent supporters will return them! We had 3 good years under O’Neill and whilst his football was very Cloughie (hit on the break and only use 14 players the whole season!), it was expansive and a joy to watch! Hughes could do a good job there as could Shteve Mac! But it is hard to understand what Lerner’s thinking is here even considering a manager whose only success was relegation twice and Arsenal giving them the Carling Cup!! Why is he happy to consider paying £5m to SHA for a manager that emailed his intentions to leave, yet not consider paying the £6m and get Ancelotti out of his break clause?? Why not consider Rijkard who is still jumping up and down for the job?? Why oh why do you want to cause a war in a city that you obviously know very little about…. And I thought you new the history of the Villa – obviously you need some more schooling!

  12. Terry

    June 14, 2011 at 8:45 am

    By the way, were not panicking, we just dont want Blue nose scum bags to be involved at Villa Park

    • omakbob

      June 14, 2011 at 11:04 am

      Have you been to VillaTalk anytime in the last week? The panic level there is off the charts.

  13. Valiant Villan

    June 14, 2011 at 8:04 am

    Once again an article on an American site that lacks factual accuracy. If he was to go for McLeish it would mean a componsation package of aroung £5m so it’s hardly the cheap option. Also you say ambitious managers like Mark Hughes and Steve McLaren? Excuse me but if you asked any fan across the country whether they’d want Steve McLaren you would get a resounding ‘no’. The fact that he’s joined Nottingham Forest in the Championship is about the right level for his ambitions.

    Don’t get me wrong I absolutely believe there are better options out there – particularly someone like Frank Rjikard but please don’t try to suggest a McLaren appointment would be a sign of ambition!!

    • The Gaffer

      June 14, 2011 at 9:08 am

      What factual accuracy does it lack? The article mentions the £5m compensation package.

      The Gaffer

      • Dave C

        June 14, 2011 at 9:55 am

        Well it’s not so much lacking in factual accuracy, but it’s certainly lacking in factual support for the claims made. Is McLeish really a cheap option? We don’t know, unless the author has some inside info on the salaries demanded by McLeish, Hughes and McLaren.

        And I know this is just a matter of opinion, but I’m not sure if Hughes or McLaren are really a class above McLeish. The author obviously assumes so, but doesn’t really say why.

        • Tony Butterworth

          June 14, 2011 at 11:16 am

          That’s exactly what I thought Dave. Hughes (in particular) and McClaren are definitely not top class managers. What bothers me about the whole thing is that Lerner did not, supposedly, want to recruit a manager with a current team and was not happy with the way Hughes left Fulham, then he turns to their fiercest local rival ???

          In the end I agree McCleish is the wrong choice but not for the reasons given. I think there are other options out there, I read Simon Grayson, now perhaps Billy Davies, there are definitely better options.

    • Nik Arur

      June 14, 2011 at 9:11 am

      I find it odd that you think so little of an American site yet you choose to follow it…..

  14. Nik Arur

    June 14, 2011 at 7:45 am

    One way of explaining his defensive tactics at Birmingham City may be that he simply lacked offensive firepower within his squad. James McFadden is a decent forward but other than him and perhaps Zigic (on a good day) their attacking lineup was left wanting. Perhaps McLeish was employing these tactics because they were his only viable option to win games, rather than it being his managerial style. He may be able to do more with Villa.

    That being said, there’s no question that Hughes, McClaren or even Roberto Martinez should be of more interest to Lerner and Villa. Obviously these are more proven, Premier League-caliber managers. Unfortunately you’re right in saying that Lerner is more interested in a bargain than a first-rate manager and that he’s not doing all he can to make Villa as competitive as possible. I’m not a Villa fan, but I would like to see a more competitive League with more clubs challenging for the title and places in Europe.

    • Terry

      June 14, 2011 at 8:43 am

      Hi lads, if this eejit is enrolled as manager of AV. I invite you all 7 days from such appointed for a ritual burning of the shirt outside VP. Wise up Randy, listen to the fans who put the Dollar in YOUR pocket.Terry

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