It’s official. Aston Villa will be managed by former Birmingham City manager Alex McLeish as of next season after the Scot agreed terms following ‘productive’ talks with chairman Randy Lerner.
The two are already thought to have discussed the long term future of the club, as well as agreeing a transfer budget and talking targets to strengthen the squad in the summer.
The news comes as a massive blow to a large number of Villa fans, with protests taking place at Villa Park yesterday to make their opinions known to the board and the man himself.
It had been suggested that an announcement would be made last night at around 6pm but all went quiet on that front and it wasn’t until around 9pm that it was made clear that the appointment would most likely be confirmed today.
It remains to be seen as to how much, if any, compensation Villa will have to pay their fierce rivals to secure McLeish’s signature. Sky sources suggested that a £2m compensation package had been agreed by the two sides but from what I’ve hear from sources closer to the club that figure is fictional.
City had claimed that their boss had been tapped up by the club prior to his gutsy resignation by email whilst on holiday in Corsica. The ex-Rangers manager flew back to cut short his vacation in order to talk with Villa’s American owner yesterday and the two are believed to have got on extremely well, well enough for Lerner and McLeish to brave the supporters backlash.
The club have released the following statement confirming the appointment, which is arguably the most unpopular managerial decision made in the Premier League’s history;
The Club are pleased to confirm that Alex McLeish has been appointed Aston Villa manager and will assume his duties with immediate effect.
The 52-year-old son of a Govan shipyard worker, McLeish began his managerial career in 1994 at Motherwell whom he guided in his first season to second place behind Rangers, then in the midst of their nine-in-a-row Scottish titles.
Following a three-year spell in charge of Hibernian, which included a Scottish Cup final appearance, he took over at Rangers where he unseated Martin O’Neill’s then dominant Celtic team by winning the Scottish Cup and League Cup in his first season in 2001-02 and the Treble – including the Scottish Premier League title – in his second.
He won two championships and seven trophies in total in his five years at Ibrox before succeeding Walter Smith as Scotland boss in 2007.
Only a 2-1 win by Italy at Hampden Park in the final qualifying game prevented McLeish from leading his country to the Euro 2008 finals.
He pursued his ambition to manage in the Barclays Premier League and led Birmingham City to their highest top-flight finish in 51 years in 2009-10.
When his team beat Arsenal to win the Carling Cup four months ago at Wembley he became one of the only current managers in the Barclays Premier League who has won a major piece of silverware.
That Alex McLeish is a well-respected, well-rounded and accomplished football man is not in question.
As a formidable central defender in Sir Alex Ferguson’s Aberdeen team which broke the Old Firm’s stranglehold on Scottish football, he won three championships, the European Cup Winners’ Cup and the European Super Cup.
He was also capped 77 times by Scotland and played at three World Cups and throughout his playing and managerial careers he has maintained an unfailing grace and humility and an unflinching will to win.
He also understands and supports the Board’s vision and strategy for Aston Villa in our ongoing efforts to grow the Club and to ensure its sustainability and he is determined to confront the challenges of managing the Club.
“I am honoured to have this opportunity to manage a club with such a fantastic history as Aston Villa’s.
“The heritage, the history of success and the tradition of Aston Villa are compelling and irresistible. The challenge for me is to try to add my own chapter.
“Since first becoming a manager at Motherwell, my desire to succeed and my energy and drive have never waned. My objective is to impart that drive and will to win to the players and fans of Aston Villa.
“I know that some of our fans have voiced concerns and I can understand why. It will be up to me to convince you that I am the right man to drive the Club forward and I intend to give absolutely everything to prove that I can be a success at the Club.”
Chief executive Paul Faulkner added;
“We believe we have appointed the right man for the job.
“Unquestionably, Alex meets the criteria we set out at the beginning of our search which was based on proven Premier League experience, leadership, a hard-working ethic and, most importantly, a shared vision for Aston Villa.
“Alex is someone with whom we will work close and work well together.
“With our strong squad combining the necessary virtues of experience and the exciting potential of our young players, our objective is to compete as strongly as we possibly can.
“Alex’s vast experience and proven abilities demonstrate clearly that he is a strong leader and an ambitious man and we are looking forward very much to the exciting new season about to start.”
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