I actually like Alex McLeish. He did well to bring Birmingham City back to the Premier League at the first time of asking after his first relegation. He also lead them to their highest top flight finish in their history and ended thier 50 drought by defeating Arsenal in the Carling Cup final. Blues were out of the bottom three most of the season, but key injuries late in the year lead to a complete and total collapse at the end of the season. A pathetic haul of one point out of 18 combined with a late resurgence by Wigan Athletic lead to Blues being relegated on the last day of the season with 39 points. A points total which would have kept them up each of the last nine seasons. Looking at his tenure at Birmingham City as a whole he did to a decent job. He brought silverware to St. Andrews' barren trophy cabinet, and one could argue was unlucky to have his Blues side relegated this season.
Accepting that McLeish was not a total failure at Blues, that does not mean he is qualified or a good fit for Aston Villa. His teams are renown for playing negative, anti-football. When you manage a club like Birmingham City that has been yo-yoing up and down from the top flight for a century this is acceptable. At Blues you have to do whatever it takes to stay up and vanity cannot be tolerated. This is completely at odds with the current squad at Aston Villa where the majority of the talent is in the attacking third (even with Ashley Young's imminent departure). Giving Alex McLeish Darren Bent, Stewart Downing, Marc Albrighton, along with prospects like Barry Bannan, Fabian Delph, and Nathan Delfonueso is like putting a truck driver behind the wheel of an F1 race car.
And then there is the inevitable shit storm that is brewing by appointing McLeish. Our last permanent manager won the French league on multiple occasions, won the mini treble at Liverpool, and has finally had Villa doing more than sitting back and waiting to counter. The other candidates mentioned in the press like Carlo Ancelotti, Rafa Benitez, David Moyes, Steve McLaren, Roberto Martinez, and Mark Hughes were all more accomplished than McLeish making his appointment even more of a letdown. Appointing him over Hughes makes no sense at all. Both are "free agents" who walked out on their last jobs. The only apparent difference is that Hughes left Fulham better then he found them in 7th place, while McLeish left Blues in the Championship. Now the club faces the prospect of protests at Villa Park tomorrow, a Facebook group with over 14,000 members, and most worryingly fans threatening not to renew their season tickets.
There are several possible candidates that seemingly have not been in the frame that would have been a better choice.
- Gary McAllister- Yes he was seen as the source of many of the clashes behind the scenes this season and he certainly was not seen as a tactical wizard during his time at the helm. If he was given the job full time at least there would be continuity. The club would be able to tell the fans that they want to maintain the momentum from the end of the season and that the best way to do that would be to keep the backroom staff in-tact and that McAllister is the man to carry forward Houllier's long-term vision.
- Tony Pulis- If the club isn't concerned with playing attractive football, at least Pulis has been more successful than McLeish in doing so.
- Sam Allardyce- See above. Additionally if the club had acted quickly enough they could have signed him for free before West Ham scooped in. Does anybody doubt that he would prefer to manage Villa in the Premier League than deal with Gold and Sullivan?
- Walter Smith- Yes he has retired, but one last kick at the can in England would surely tempt the former Rangers boss. He also has lots of experience managing in Europe which might be useful if Villa were to return any time soon.
- Ian Holloway- He's hated by Villa fans to be sure, but his appointment would not be met by the same hostility that McLiesh's possible appointment has. Villa would be playing attacking football to be sure. His Blackpool squad finished with 39 points, level with Blues but with a fraction of the resources.
- Paul Lambert- Two consecutive promotions at Norwich and would've been available if the club had acted sooner as he has just signed a new contract.
- Rudy Garcia- I haven't heard the Lille manager mentioned at any bigger jobs, so I'm not sure what his availability is. Still he won the double in France at a club that had not won either trophy in almost 60 years. This summer he faces the prospect of losing many key players even with Champions League football on the horizon. Having seeming taken Lille beyond where most thought possible one would think he would at least listen to Villa.
- Marcelo Bielsa- That would just be a blast.
- Jason Kreis- Yesterday on twitter Brian Bonilla started this rumor out of sheer boredom. I retweeted it and in the process scared a few Real Salt Lake supporters. Almost winning the CONCACAF Champions League was quite an accomplishment. He's young, ambitious, and his teams play good football. It's a shame it will never happen.
Alex McLiesh is not the worst manager in the world. That does not mean he is the best fit for Aston Villa or a better choice than any number of candidates and is definitely not worth the headache. All that is official at this point is that the club plans on interviewing him "Immediately." That leaves Villa supporters everywhere to hope that the clubs secretive board has a card up their sleeve. Darren Bent seemingly came out of nowhere after all. Tonight this is all Villains seemingly have to hold onto.