The most unpopular man in Birmingham

Whether Randy Lerner got desperate for a new manager, or whether he was always an Alex McLeish fan I don’t know, but barring something extraordinary over the next few hours, it appears that ‘Big Eck’ will become the new Aston Villa manager.

On Sunday night in my last blogpost I wrote how I couldn’t see any way in the world that this deal could happen, how wrong was I. Just about everything except the betting pointed to this deal having no chance.

There seemed to be a similarity in the way McLeish resigned to that of Mark Hughes leaving Fulham. Apparently the nature of Hughes’ resignation cost him his chance of the Villa job – surely this would rule McLeish out as the same logic would apply? Apparently not.

A fans backlash ruled out Steve McClaren, so surely a worse fans backlas against McLeish would rule him out? Again, apparently not.

Anyway, with the appointment now imminent it will be interesting too see the reaction for his first game at Villa Park. Will the fans have calmed down by then?

Will they just accept things and support McLeish for the good of the club? Who knows, I’d imagine it will be a bit of everything with certain sections never accepting him and some just reluctantly backing him.

One thing that is for sure is that McLeish certainly has plenty of balls. To accept this challenge knowing how unpopular he is shows McLeish is the sort of strong willed character that Villa need.

I actually believe that if the fans give him a chance he will do ok. I see him in a similar mould to that of David Moyes, he is well organised and his players all look like they want to play for him. He proved this in his previous jobs at Scotland and Rangers.

I also don’t buy this theory that he is a negative manager, was he defensive with Rangers? No. He certainly isn’t gung-ho, that’s for sure, but at Birmingham he was only working with the tools he was given.

He seemed to have a lack of attacking options at St Andrews, whether that was down to McLeish’s transfers or the owners not buying the players he wanted, I’m not sure. But I’m sure if he had the strikers, he would have used them.

He also built his Birmingham team on solid foundations with a decent keeper and two top class centre backs, a lesson I’d say he learnt from Sir Alex Ferguson.

At Villa he will have to be more attacking, expectations will be higher with the resources available too him. He already has Darren Bent in his new team, if he can now hang onto Stewart Downing as well, then along with the exciting crop of youngsters at the club he has the foundations to build a decent team.

He also has experience of managing at international level, in the Champions League and he has won a domestic up. Ok, so he has taken Birmingham down twice, but the first of those times he came into the job with the team already in trouble, he then got them back up.

The second time, he has to accept responsibility as it was his team and they fell away badly after the Carling Cup final. They had injuries, yes, but McLeish couldn’t arrest the slump in form, but then no manager has a perfect record.

I do believe that Villa fans should give him a chance, managers of his experience and calibre don’t come around every week. Give ‘Big Eck’ a chance, he might just impress you.

Aston Villa next manager betting madness

The saga that is the race to become the next Aston Villa manager shows no sign of coming to an end soon, and Alex McLeish’s resignation from Birmingham City earlier today has just increased speculation that he is the man to take over after Gerrard Houllier’s resignation/sacking.

McLeish was odds on favourite a couple of hours back and both he and Mark Hughes have traded below even money on Betfair. On top of that Rafa Benitez has traded down as low as 2.00, Roberto Martinez down to 2.12, Steve McClaren has been as short as 3.05 and Claudio Ranieri 3.10.

Most of these have also been odds on with the bookmakers as well, it has been a layers delight for the bookies and punters on the exchanges.

If my opinions are correct, this is set to continue as I can’t see Alex McLeish getting the job. There are good reasons to back this up, although the lack of a convincing reason (so far) for McLeish’s resignation has got me slightly questioning myself.

First, Randy Lerner does things properly and doesn’t involve himself or his club in underhand behaviour. As a result of this it is widely regarded that Mark Hughes ruled himself out of the running by quitting Fulham in the manner he did.

If Hughes won’t be appointed because of this, then why on earth would Randy Lerner employ McLeish if he has pulled the same stunt as Hughes did?

Also, Randy Lerner is supposed to have ruled out Steve McClaren because of a potential fans backlash.

So surely the prospect of employing a Blues manager would be a total no go with the fans, and not just any Blues manager, but one who has just overseen his team get relegated. What chance that? It seems highly unlikey to me.

Unless Lerner is running out of options and is getting desperate that is, in which case maybe it could happen. But the rational thinking is that this is a total no goer.

So who could it be? I did think that after what happened with Roberto Martinez that the chance of another Premier League manager coming to Villa Park was very unlikely. Who would want to be seen as second or third or fourth choice behind the Wigan manager? Would Owen Coyle or David Moyes consider the job after that? I’m not too sure.

I did think it would be an out of work manager or a foreigner, but now the name of David Moyes doesn’t seem to be going away. He has a proven track record and the fans will surely approve.

One problem could be his club though. I can’t see Everton giving in easily over this and if Lerner sticks to his Mark Hughes principles, then he won’t employ him if he walks out on Everton.

At times last season Moyes cut a frustrated figure on the touchline with Everton. Could he have decided he has taken Everton as far as he can on the current budget? Maybe he has been told he has to sell to balance the books this summer? I now think there could be a number of reason why Moyes might consider the job.

He now seems to be the name on the move, as I write he’s joint favourite with McLeish at Skybet and is closing in on favouritism on Betfair, it will be interesting to see what Monday brings.

Who would be a referee?

Martin O’Neill said it was a clear penalty, Alex McLeish said it was definately not a penalty, even Andy Gray said on Sky Sports that he could understand why the referee got it wrong.

They are the differing biased opinions of the same incident that make refereeing in the Premier League an almost impossible job.

The decision to give a penalty for Roger Johnson’s challenge on Gabriel Agbonlahor was the incident that decided the midlands derby in Villa’s favour.

Yes, Alex McLeish has a point, you can’t assume that something is a penalty, or at least you shouldn’t assume. But what are the alternatives?

If referees stop making decisions because they are maybe not 100% sure, you could end up with situations where no penalties are given unless someone is kicked up in the air 10 yards away from the ball.

Look at Howard Webb lately, the poor bloke is too scared to give a penalty these days such is his loss in confidence. Is that where we want to take refereeing too?

The likes of McLeish, O’Neill, the other managers and players all have a responsibility to cut the officials a bit of slack when a decision is as tight as this one was.

I accept that when a ref or his assistant gets an absolute stick on one wrong, he is fair game for criticism. The two penalty decisions at Wembley involving O’Neill and his Villa team, or the off-side Drogba goal at Old Trafford spring to mind. They were all indefensible.

For the record I thought it was a good tackle, but can fully understand why the referee gave it, and attach no blame to the ref.