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.

The Better Side of Football

In football it seems rare these days to hear someone speaking in an open, transparent and straight talking honest way, that was exactly what I heard from Wigan chairman Dave Whelan in two seperate radio interviews today regarding the possible move of Roberto Martinez to Aston Villa.

It is also rare to hear a club getting praised for behaving in an honourable manner, rather than accusations of under hand procedures getting thrown around. Dave Whelan couldn’t have praised the conduct of Aston Villa and Randy Lerner any more than he did today.

Earlier in this saga, Lerner and Villa contacted Fulham to tell them they had nothing to do with Mark Hughes’ departure from the club, judging by the fact that Fulham haven’t accused Villa of anything, I’d have to say that it looks like they didn’t contact Hughes behind the clubs back. Dave Whelan’s remarks only serve to back this up.

Listening to Whelan I couldn’t help think that for a football manager this is the sort of chairman/owner you could only dream of working for, his integrity sounds unquestionable.

When this Martinez to Villa story started to gather pace yesterday, my first thought was that I would be amazed if Martinez walked out on Wigan without Dave Whelan’s blessing, I also thought that Whelan probably wouldn’t stand in his way if he did want too move. It’s good to see that there seems to be a mutual respect between the two men.

Along with Aston Villa, the conduct of both clubs seems to be the exception, rather than the norm. I’m sure over the summer we will get plenty of the usual claim and counter claim bullcrap that usually accompanies big money transfers, generally involving the bigger clubs.

Whether Roberto Martinez stays or goes, I’ll certainly be hoping that Wigan stay up next season (as I did last). The Premier League is certainly a better place with Dave Whelan in it.

The integrity of Mark Hughes

“As a young, ambitious manager I wish to move on to further my experiences, I believe my management team and I have done a good job and the club (obviously Fulham) has a strong foundation from which they can go forward. I would also like to take this opportunity to clarify that neither myself nor my representative have approached or have been approached by another club.” Mark Hughes statement earlier today after resigning as Fulham manager.

When I first heard these quotes, it would be fair to say I wasn’t totally convinced I believed Hughes. For him to leave a perfectly stable job to apparently further his career without the promise of another job would be a pretty risky gamble.

The bookies were convinced, most had closed the book on him going to Villa by this evening. So why is he now drifting on Betfair?

Well a good reason for this could be because Randy Lerner has apparently got principles. When Martin O’Neill left at the start of last season, Lerner is supposed to have made a point of not going for a manager currently in a post. Basically, Lerner won’t do to others, what he wouldn’t like done to himself.

Villa were also supposed to have contacted Fulham today to confirm they hadn’t approached Mark Hughes behind their backs, not the sort of behaviour you would expect from a club looking to poach someones manager. Randy Lerner is also rumoured to have a good relationship with Mohamed Al Fayed, which makes an approach for Hughes all the less likely.

Finally, as a man of principles, it is now reported that Lerner isn’t impressed by Hughes conduct in departing Fulham. He also did a similar thing to Blackburn when Manchester City came calling.

So why wouldn’t he do the same thing to Villa a couple of years down the line if Manchester United came calling? Well he obviously would, and I think Lerner is well aware of this, which is why I wouldn’t be putting any hard earned on him ending up at Villa Park. Ending up with egg on his face? Well that could be worth a few quid.

Not Sven again

Paddy Power suspended betting early on Wednesday afternoon, on Sven-Goran Eriksson becoming next Aston Villa manager after a massive surge of bets on the Swede to be the man to relace Martin O’Neill.

As is usually the case in these markets, Betfair is generally a good indicator to see if anything is happening, and they have Eriksson at 3.05 favourite. Liquidity is currently very low, which would suggest there is not much good information out there on the likelihood of this happening at the moment.

With a bit of luck all this is just a rumour that got out of hand, and Randy Lerner is not that desperate to give Sven the job. I do hope though, that Lerner dosen’t make a rash decision and give him the job just because he is available, and the season is about to start.

So far Eriksson, who seems to be the parasite of English football, is yet to claim to have always been a lifelong Villa fan, but his agent has thrown his hat into the ring on his behalf.

Lerner Defends Himself

It is hard to know what to make of the situation at Villa now. On one hand Martin O’Neill would appear to have damaged his reputation walking out in this way, this close to the start of the season.

From Randy Lerner’s response on Wednesday, where he stated that the two men “no longer shared a common view as to how to move forward”, it would suggest that he is saying that O’Neill didn’t except the financial restraints being placed on him.

On the other hand, it has been common knowledge for some time now that Lerner had called time on big spending, and he made it clear to everyone that players needed to be sold before new ones could come in, that the books needed to be balanced.

O’Neill would have been well aware of this. So why quit now?

Could it be that O’Neill maybe reluctantly accepted this, but then was told that the amount of money that would be made available to him from the proposed sale of James Milner to Manchester City would not be the full amount recieved?

If so, O’Neill could rightly say that Lerner has gone back on his word!