Forget the rivalry, McLeish is the wrong man for Villa
Aston Villa need an attacking manager, but McLeish’s Birmingham fired blanks
Former Birmingham City boss Alex McLeish has been appointed manager of Aston Villa, throwing the footballing fraternity of the city into turmoil. Villa fans are in open revolt about the prospect of a former Birmingham man managing their side and there have been threats of legal action from both sides.
McLeish unexpectedly quit Birmingham at the weekend, and within days was in talks with Villa. The news caused outrage among Villa supporters while Birmingham announced that they would be suing their cross-town rivals and prepared to defend themselves against a possible charge of constructive dismissal from McLeish.
The Blues believe that managerless Villa "tapped up" McLeish while he was still boss at St Andrews. The club said: "This conduct, if condoned, will open up floodgates and set a very bad precedent. It is also an attack against the intelligence and integrity of not only the Villa fans, but most importantly our fans who are badly let down after relegation."
For once the Villa fans are likely to agree with Birmingham. Anti-McLeish graffiti has appeared around Villa Park and at the club's training ground and several hundred fans have staged prostests over the appointment.
Even Manchester United boss Alex Ferguson has got involved in the row. He backed the decision of Villa owner Randy Lerner to hire McLeish, who played for Ferguson when he was manager of Aberdeen.
"You want to listen to the supporters but you want to listen to the sensible ones and say, 'Look at the manager's CV and look at what he's achieved at other clubs and, for just one minute, forget about the fact he was at Birmingham'," said Ferguson.
"At the end of the day what will count is this: can he do the job for Villa? Believe me, he will prove that he can do the job. And that's what it's all about."
But Villa fans may point to McLeish's record at Birmingham, who were relegated last season. While Villa like to think their club has a history of playing attractive passing football, McLeish doesn't, at least not in the Premier League.
During Birmingham's two seasons in the top flight under McLeish they managed a dismal total of 75 goals in 76 games, and had an overall goal difference of minus 30. They also played some spectacularly dour football.
Villa's troubles have been in the forward department as well. They only scored 48 goals last season and they are in need of a manager who can get the forward line, led by Darren Bent, firing again. It's unlikely McLeish is the man for the job, particularly as he set to lose two of Villa's main attacking threats, Ashley Young and Stewart Downing, who are both expected to leave the club this summer.
Under Martin O'Neill Villa finished in the top six three seasons running, however things went badly wrong for the side under Gerard Houllier last term, and under McLeish they could get even worse.
The Scotsman's appointment could also undermine the position of the club's American owner Randy Lerner, who was once seen as the perfect example of a foreign owner. Not any more. He has badly mismanaged the appointment of a new manager. First he bowed to pressure from the fans not to appoint former England boss Steve McClaren, but then he over-ruled them by appointing an even more unpopular candidate.
Next season Lerner could experience the kind of fan vitriol that has previously been reserved for the likes of Tom Hicks and George Gillett of Liverpool and the Glazer family at Manchester United.
It won't be much easier for McLeish. ·
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