As Aaron noted earlier, some front-runners have started to emerge as possible candidates to the Aston Villa manager's job. This post is meant to describe (and in some cases, defame) potential heirs to the throne, tarnished though it has been over the last season. It contains two parts, first listing managers currently employed by a Premier League club and then some legacy candidates who have managed in the Premier League. The very nature of these things means that it's incomplete, but there is, as always an open invitation to make your very own rash speculations in the comments.
Poachable in the Premiership:
Paul Lambert: On the first day of the League One season in 2009, an unremarkable Colchester United team laid a 7-1 beatdown on the freshly relegated Norwich City at Carrow Road. The man in the Colchester dugout was Paul Lambert, and by the next weekend, the Canaries had plucked him away from their local rivals. That was the start of an incredible run of back-to-back promotions, as Norwich would win League One that year and finish second in the Championship the next. Upon arrival in the Premier League, Lambert made a series of decidedly non-notable additions, such as Steve Morison (Millwall) and Anthony Pilkington (Huddersfield Town.) They finished 12th in the Premier League, level on points with the two teams above them, and over ten points north of the relegation zone. Understandably, their front office is not at all receptive to the suggestion that the man that they inducted into the club's hall of fame two months ago might be plying his trade elsewhere next season. Lambert himself was evasive when asked about the prospect of moving to Aston Villa after beating them on Sunday, and many observers (including at least one writer for this site) seem to think he could be swayed. Personally, I've long admired Lambert with a vigor that borders on lust, but I think actually hiring him would require a significant financial commitment from Lerner, with the implicit understanding that Aston Villa are "a project." Would the promise of Paul Lambert be enough to soothe the itchy trigger finger in the boardroom (and just as importantly, the Holte End?)
Brendan Rodgers: Unlike Lambert, Rodgers is the heir to a system at Swansea City. The Bob Paisley to Roberto Martinez's Bill Shankly, Rodgers has been able to surpass the achievements of his predecessors by becoming the first manager to take a Welsh club into the Premier League. Swansea's elegant style was one of the highlights of the past season, and Rodgers was able to integrate a number of intelligent purchases into a pre-existing system with little trouble. Like Lambert, Rodgers is a young manager with a long and successful career ahead of him. However, Rodgers may have already passed Villa by, as he has already been linked to Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea (where he worked under Jose Mourinho.) Honestly, I think Rodgers is too attached to Swansea to even give Villa a second thought. There's not really anything here for him.
Roberto Martinez: The Wigan magician has been the subject of adulation around these parts since Gerard Houllier took his leave, if not even earlier. However, can we really believe that the events of this season will have convinced Spanish Bob that the Aston Villa job is in any way more desirable than it was when he turned it down last summer? All signs point to no, particularly with the gradual crescendo of murmurs linking him to a potential vacancy at Liverpool. And really, if you're going to drink from a poisoned chalice, why not pick the biggest one on offer?
Owen Coyle: Not technically in the Premier League anymore, Michael Cox's old punching bag has suffered significant blows to his reputation in this campaign. Despite the injuries to vital players, Bolton's 2011-12 campaign was riddled with ineptitude. He's been on the receiving end of a lot of puffery about the style he's brought to Bolton, but it's mostly nonsense. He's a longball lover, but compared to Bolton's last few managers, I suppose the lines start to blur a bit. Saying that Bolton play like Barcelona is like saying that Tony Pulis looks like Pep Guardiola. There are a few very basic similarities, but anyone with a functioning pair of eyes would call you an idiot. In a reverse "you can't fire me, I quit" moment, Coyle has announced that he'll being staying at Bolton along with "White Heskey" Kevin Davies.
Steve Kean: This has been an excuse to draw your attention to Steve Kean being an idiot in a pub. Which I think is something we can all identify with.
David Moyes: If someone tells you that they think David Moyes would go to Villa, they've either been hit on the head or have travelled here in a time machine from the distant past. Ask them to kill Hitler and see what they do.
Roberto di Matteo: This is the best chance Aston Villa will have at a manager that's appeared in a Champions League final and if you say the name Avram Grant in response to this I am going to hunt you down and exact my revenge.
The Old Boys Club:
Mick McCarthy: He's not been out of a job all that long, but his abilities have already been overrated due to Wolves' precipitious decline. Don't fool yourself, they weren't *that* good before he left. His recent dealings in the transfer market have been questionable at best and "Roger Johnson for £7 million" at worst. He's decidedly unfit to manage a club like Villa, but that doesn't mean we won't have to hear his name a lot.
Andre Villas-Boas: Disregard this. It's just an excuse for idiots to make terrible puns.
Steve Bruce: Just in case Randy Lerner wanted to hire yet another ex-Birmingham boss with no managerial ability and a face that looks like something you'd send back at a restaurant because it spent too much time under the heat lamp. It'd be nice for him to be closer to his daughter, though.
Roy Hodgson: Because you think he'll be fired after the Euros too.
Rafael Benitez: I'm not sure he'd be the most popular hire, particularly as he'll receive a lot of the same abuse that Houllier got. That isn't fair, and the man deserves far more credit than he gets. A brilliant manager who would nonetheless require a substantial investment and a massive shift in Lerner and Faulkner's vision for the club. I'd like to see the Benitez option explored seriously, but I don't think the timing is right for either party.
Gary Megson: Clubs don't hire Gary Megson, they contract him. Like syphilis, but ginger. While he acquitted himself reasonably well at Sheffield Wednesday, that is League One football and we're not that hard up. I'm barely comfortable with the thought of Gary Megson watching Villa games on television, much less from the manager's dugout.
Sven-Goran Eriksson: I think I owe an agent £100,000 just for mentioning Sven as a possible candidate. Let me get back to you on this one.
Alan Curbishley: For a man that's been out of a job since I was still in college, his name sure comes up a lot in these things. He's got a respectable enough resume, as the man who rescued West Ham United from relegation and who has a pre-existing relationship with Darren Bent from his long stint with Charlton Athletic. But like 30 Rock, he hasn't really done anything interesting since 2009 and it's hard to work up any excitement about him. Besides, one has to imagine there's a reason he's been out of work so long, and "suing for constructive dismissal due to transfer policy" is an unwieldy but familiar phrase for Villa supporters.