Former Birmingham City boss Alex McLeish is understood to have returned from holiday to speak to Aston Villa over the club’s vacant manager’s position. If McLeish is to succeed Gerard Houllier at Villa Park, he will need to hit the ground running in order to win over many of the fans unhappy with the fact that he has managed Birmingham City. It’s never easy for a new manager when the fans aren’t behind them from the start – look how Gary Megson struggled at Bolton and also Houllier at Villa – so a poor start to the season would be the last thing McLeish needs.
Is Big Eck really qualified for the Villa job though? Villa fans will obviously not be jumping through hoops at the prospect of bringing in a former Birmingham manager but this is also the man who has twice relegated the Blues during his time at St Andrews. Yes, he won the Carling Cup for Birmingham, but this achievement will seem somewhat bittersweet after McLeish failed to keep the Blues in the Premier League. McLeish has had success in Scotland with Glasgow Rangers, but without being too rude about Scottish football, the SPL is a two team league in which I think even someone like David Platt could get their hands on silverware.
Still, some of the reaction from Villa fans has been a little strong: the message “Bluenose scum not welcome” painted outside Villa’s training ground might make McLeish think twice about taking the job. The fans should really get behind their manager until they have an actual reason to dislike him. Imagine how many people across Europe would have heard of Nottingham Forest if the former Derby man Sir Brian Clough was not welcomed to the City ground in 1975. The Reds would have had as many European Cups in their trophy cabinet as the likes of Leeds and Chelsea! What McLeish will do for Villa is organise their shaky defence. It was more their failure in front of goal than their defending that condemned Birmingham to the Football League – the Blues actually conceded one fewer goal than Aston Villa, who finished 9 points above their city rivals at the end of the season. Birmingham were better defensively than most of the sides around them in the Premier League and would have avoided the drop had they stuck a striker like Darren Bent up top to turn a few more of those draws into wins.
Maybe Villa should be looking towards the top six, but it’s not as if Randy Lerner has the likes of Rinus Michels and Jose Mourinho filling in application forms at Villa Park. First choice candidate Roberto Martinez has turned them down, while another man linked with the job, Steve McLaren, has taken over at Forest (following the moronic sacking of Billy Davies by the spectacularly inept City Ground hierarchy). So get behind the new gaffer Villa fans, even if it is McLeish. It does not take a genius to realise that stability is what clubs need in order to build success, so just hope whoever gets the job can stick it out for a while longer than Martin O’Neill or Gerard Houllier.