Alex McLeish Seals Controversial Switch to Aston Villaby Sean Raymond / 17 June 2011, 10:20Tweet
After five days of turmoil Alex McLeish has put pen to paper and signed a three-year contract to become the new manager of Aston Villa, in what has become one of the most controversial appointments in recent history. The announcement is sure to spark further scenes of fury and protests from the Villa faithful, many of whom have vowed to rip up their season tickets and burn their shirts in retaliation.
It has been a chaotic couple of weeks for the Midlands club, during which several different managers have at one point or another been the odds-on favourite in the Next Aston Villa Manager Betting to replace Gerard Houllier, including Mark Hughes, Rafa Benitez, Steve McClaren and Roberto Martinez. The drama is unlikely to subside as Villa continue to vent their anger, frustration and clear disbelief at the contentious appointment.
It seems bizarre that Villa, who opted not to pursue their interest in Steve McClaren last week due to fears of a supporter backlash, then go full steam ahead and decide to appoint McLeish, who only five days ago was manager of their fiercest rivals Birmingham City. Randy Lerner and the Villa board are seemingly oblivious to the scenes of outrage from their fans, who have reacted in dismay ever since McLeish was first linked with the club last Sunday. We all know that football fans can be a fickle bunch but at present it looks extremely unlikely that Lerner and co will be forgiven anytime soon. As for McLeish, only time will tell if he can perform the seemingly impossible task of winning the fans over. The 52-year-old developed a thick skin during his time at Rangers, where he was used to working in a hostile environment, but he knows more than anyone how important it will be to get off to a good start next season.
Villa are eager to get back on track after a miserable 2010/11 campaign in which they flirted with relegation before eventually finishing in ninth place. McLeish will be tasked with propelling them back into the top six but will firstly have to use his persuasive powers to ensure that the club's star players stay at the club. The form of Stewart Downing last season was a ray of sunshine in what was an otherwise dark and gloomy 2010/11 campaign. His performances have reportedly attracted attention from the likes of Liverpool, who are believed to be keen to sign the player. Villa have already lost Brad Friedel to Tottenham, and with Ashley Young due to complete his move to Manchester United, they will be desperate not to let any more of their best players leave. If McLeish can clinch some marquee signings and get off to a flying startt then the Villa fans, albeit slowly, may start to change their minds...
One thing is for sure - it is certainly going to be an intriguing season at Villa Park.
Aston Villa 2011/12 Season Specials:
14/1 - Premier League Top 4 Finish
20/1 Win Carling Cup
25/1 Win FA Cup