The last couple of days have been a whirlwind as Aston Villa continues to search for a new manager. While it is supposed to be a search, frankly it seems like the club has zeroed in on one man and the wheels are in motion for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to become the next boss at Villa Park. While it's not a done deal by any means and surely other candidates have been spoken to in a much less dramatic fashion, Solskjaer is on all of our minds so we've gathered the 7500 staff in a dark room and penned our thoughts on everything that's been happening.
So let's get to the questions.
1. The original story that Aston Villa were pursuing Solskjaer broke as if out of nowhere. What were your original thoughts when you heard Lerner's jet was actually in Norway?
Matt - Shock, mainly. I really hadn't gotten a chance to read the original stories linking him, and then suddenly everything went off and Lerner was in Norway. As soon as I read up about everything, I got really excited, as it is something new and different and not the same old names.
Gareth - I was surprised, to say the least. I didn't trust Lerner to act so quickly and decisively, and Solskjaer was a completely unexpected candidate.
Robert - I had no idea that anyone involved with Aston Villa even knew that Norway existed, so I was a bit taken aback. I was also perplexed because I had no idea what to make of Ole as a manager. I mean, he's in Norway. I have trouble keeping up with grad school and the EPL as a whole so Norway is totally off my radar.
Aaron - Confusion, honestly. I knew Solskjaer had previously been the coach of United's reserves, and I'll admit that I had no idea he'd moved to Molde. And then, relief. Not because I thought OGS would be an excellent hire (though I'm increasingly enthusiastic about the idea) but because it was a clear signal that all of the artificial restrictions the board had placed on themselves in the past weren't in play this time around. I never expected the search to reach beyond the Premier League; that Villa seemed to be more than interested in a 39-year-old managing in Norway was a really positive sign.
Andrew - I was pretty blown away. Everyone knows Ole Gunnar Solskjaer but no one had any idea that the board was targeting him let alone jetting over to see him without any real delay. Sure, candidates that are currently in England wouldn't have been interviewed in such a glamorous way because Lerner would be able to drive to see them. But this situation was pretty spectacular and it's not something I thought I would see from boring, boring Villa. I'm pretty excited about the whole thing.
2. Solskjaer's resume as a player is unquestionable but as a manager it's not going to take up much of the page. He's won a league title in his first full season as manager of Molde, a club that doesn't traditionally win in that league. Does his lack of experience concern you?
Matt - I suppose, but McLeish had tons of experience and that didn't help us. The fact that Ole did do so well with a non-traditional power in Norway definitely offset the lack of experience for me.
Gareth - I don't want to come off all provincial, but the difference between managing a small club (even relative to its league) in Norway and a big club in the Premier League is gigantic. The time he spent coaching Manchester United's reserves will be invaluable, but as we've seen before, the step up between reserves and first-team management is pretty daunting as well.
Robert - Not at all. I actually love that we're going with someone unknown. Our last three real managers (MON, Houllier, Eck) were all experienced, and things didn't go too well. Experience by itself doesn't mean anything if it comes shackled to bad tactics and bad transfer policy. From what I've read and found out about Solskjaer, he'll be a breath of fresh air to a team that was consistently stagnant.
Aaron - I think that experience is, in and of itself, largely meaningless. It's capability that's important, and that goes for players as well as managers. There's a children's treasury of awful, awful managers that have had very long careers; we just sacked one of them, in fact.
Andrew - I think many fans are going to be annoyed that he's never managed in one of the major world leagues. Norway's league isn't great. Sure, I enjoy it but it's no better than MLS. Maybe worse. However, Solskjaer isn't some rube off the ferry. He's spent the bulk of his years playing in England and he knows the league. Experience is nice but it's not as nice as talent. He appears to be quite talented.
3. Most people would have said the smart money was on Paul Lambert heading into this managerial search. Certainly, he can't be ruled out just yet. Given all that's gone on is it Solskjaer or bust for you or would ending up with Lambert satisfy you?
Matt - Like a lot of people, Lambert was my first choice, and as much as I'm now hoping that it is Ole, I wouldn't be upset at all with Lambert.
Gareth - I would be thrilled with Paul Lambert. I rate him so highly that I'd probably still take him over Solskjaer if he was interested.
Robert - Lambert would still certainly be interesting. Norwich was fun to watch and I think he'd bring a lot of that with him to Villa. Plus he seems to be able to make the most of a limited budget. That said, at this point I'm all aboard the Ole train and I really hope he's our manager soon.
Aaron - I'd still probably prefer Lambert all things being equal, but that's because he's more of a known quantity. I know that seems preferable given my previous answer, but I'm merely speaking in terms of my own personal views. If the board hadn't cocked up the McLeish decision so tremendously I might feel differently, but Lambert is such an obvious mix of upside and low-risk that I'd feel more comfortable. Still, the board has probably done their homework; they know a lot of things I don't. I just hope they're paying attention to the right things.
Andrew - I'm starting to get quite attached to Solskjaer which is completely irrational and pathetic. But really that's what sports are and so I'm not going to apologize for it. It couldn't be more perfect to have a Norwegian manager at my favorite club given that my wife is Norwegian and her entire family in in Norway. It gives us some common ground and maybe gives Villa some visibility in that country. Also, the whole non-English manager bringing in players from all over the world just sounds so fun.
4. Do Solskjaer's ties to Manchester United concern you? Does the fact that any success with Villa will only make the cries for him to take over when Alex Ferguson steps down bother you?
Matt - Not at all, because he'll most likely only get the United job if he's successful at Villa, and after the last season, would anyone turn down success just because he might leave in a few years.
Gareth - If Solskjaer becomes a Champions League caliber manager during his time with Aston Villa, it would be pretty hard to get too disappointed about losing him to United.
Robert - The Manchester United ties don't bother me at all. He'll be a Villan if he comes here, and his ties to the Red Devils won't change his desire to win with Villa. As to the second part, I am a bit worried at this point that Villa may not be a club a manager wants to make a legacy at. We probably don't have the resources to challenge for the title, and any top-6 success will bring interest from other clubs in whatever manager we get. I don't think it will be as bad, but imagine something like Wigan. That's got to suck for their fans, knowing that the man who has kept them competitive is always a target and always just a bit away from leaving. Hopefully I'm wrong, but I could see that happening if Villa catch a budding manager early in his career.
Aaron - Nah. Villa has a long, long way to go before it's not seen as a stepping-stone; I'd rather hire someone young, talented and ambitious that is hoping to use the job to move on to bigger and better things that a big name that's just hoping to stay relevant. It's the same view I take towards players; why waste resources on a known quantity unless there's a tangible benefit? If Villa were to go after Grant Holt, for example, it's certainly not going to get them into Europe and when you're a mid-table team at best that should always be your next goal. You're not going to uncover a gem of a manager digging through the proverbial returns bin at the jewelry store. (Do they have those? I guess I kind of doubt it.)
Andrew - I think it's an unfortunate reality that for the foreseeable future, Aston Villa will lose manager who achieve any sort of glory to the bigger clubs when they have an opening. I don't think Solskjaer is any kind of lock to replace Ferguson but it has been mentioned. Unless Villa can find a super talented manager who's not only unemployed but also a lifelong Aston Villa fan this will always be an issue. I'd be happy for Solskjaer, Lambert or anyone else for that matter to take Villa to the Champions League and eventually get an offer from one of the giants and take it. That would mean Villa is in a great position.