Alex McLeish’s Honeymoon Period Ends Before It Begins

By on Jun 19, 2011 in English League Football, Latest | 9 comments

When Mark Hughes walked out on the Fulham manager’s job – the popular narrative still holds that he did so the full expectation of being offered the managerial position at Aston Villa – it was, as has become abundantly clear since, as massive miscalculation. There were noises at the time that Villa called off talks with Hughes over the way that his departure from Craven Cottage was handled. What, then, is the difference between what Hughes did at Fulham with what Alex McLeish did at Birmingham City? It’s a question that Aston Villa supporters could be forgiven for having asked themselves this week, and the decision to appoint McLeish has threatened to become a decision that may well emphatically end Randy Lerner’s extended honeymoon period as the owner of the club.

Any football club that has a large fan-base will inevitably have some that represent, shall we say, the extremes of opinion. The most populous Facebook page that has been opened on the subject of McLeish’s appointment has already acquired over 17,000 members. It would be easy to take the most extreme views on display – the cloth hanging outside Villa Park with “McLeish Not Wanted” written on the side of it will probably be more of the more enduring football images of an otherwise quiet summer, and to assume that these are representative of anything like the majority of supporters of the club (as some in the press have chosen to do) is little more than facile.

The obvious thing to say would be that Aston Villa supporters are primarily angry about McLeish’s appointment because of his prior appointment with Birmingham City, but it seems considerably more likely that their anger is not only more pragmatic than this, but also more complex. The biggest complaint that the club’s supporters seem to have with this appointment is just as obvious as McLeish’s Birmingham City connection: Birmingham were relegated from the Premier League at the end of last season, and it was the second time in four years that they had been relegated under his tutelage. In addition to this, it would be stretching most definitions of the word to suggests that McLeish’s team did this playing particularly attractive football. One could be tempted to wonder what the senior management of Aston Villa saw in McLeish that made them stop and say, “that’s the man for us”. It is probably fair to say that there is something of a dearth of great available football coaches out there at the moment, but it is also true to say that, in our shiny new global culture, football clubs can look anywhere in order find a new manager. Of all of the men in all of the world, why did the club stop their search at, of all places, St Andrews?

There may be another reason behind the anger of so many supporters of the club. They made it very clear from the outset that McLeish was, broadly speaking, not wanted and the club pushed ahead and appointed him anyway. At a club like Aston Villa, of course, there is no obligation on the part of those that run the club to take any notice whatsoever of what the supporters think, but it is possible that a part of their ire is over the fact that the club has pushed ahead and made this appointment anyway. The feeling that one is not being listened to is a particularly frustrating one. Perhaps what Aston Villa need to do is issue a clear and concise statement regarding why exactly McLeish was chosen for the position. As things stand so far, however, the club’s Chief Executive, Paul Faulker, has only managed this powder puff on the subject:

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.

Of course, the biggest problem that both McLeish and Aston Villa have is that there will be no honeymoon period for the new manager at the start of next season. Once the whistle blows at Craven Cottage on the thirteenth of August, the supporters will, of course, get behind their team. Should things start to turn sour, however, the idea that he will be given time to fit into his new position by the supporters of the club would seem to be a fanciful one. McLeish, and by the extension those that run Aston Villa, are unlikely to be given much shrift in the event of things not running smoothly next season. Moreover, such an appointment gives the impression that Aston Villa is a club in decline. It wasn’t so long ago that they were pushing for a place in the Champions League. He may well prove his critics wrong, but this is an appointment that hints at satisfaction with a mid-table place in the Premier League and little more.

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    9 Comments

  1. AN EXCELENT ARTICLE I AM AND ALWAYS WILL BE A VILLA SUPPORTER AND LET US ALL BE HONEST OUR AND THE OTHER FOURTEEN CLUBS WILL BE TO FINISH IN SEVENTH PLACE THE REALITY IS AIMING HIGHER WOULD ENCOURAGE FINANCIAL RUIN I WOULD RATHER FINISH TENTH THAN HAVE OUR CLUB BANKRUPT THE SOONER THE TOP FOUR ARE SHIPPED OFF TO A EUROPEAN SUPER LEAGUE THE BETTER THE FACT IS THAT IT IS AN UNEVEN PLAYING FIELD UNTIL FINANCE RESTRAINTS ARE INTRODUCED WE HAVE TO BE REALISTIC. OH AND THE MINDLESS MORONS OUTSIDE VILLA PARK DO NOTHING BUT HARM FOR OUR CLUB WE REAL SUPPORTERS WILL SUPPORT OUR CLUB IRESPECTIVE OF WHO OWNS OR MANAGES OUR CLUB IT IS BIGGER THAN ANY INDIVIDUAL ME INCLUDED KIND REGARDS JOHN CARLTON

    john carlton

    June 19, 2011

  2. The most thoughtful article I’ve read on the subject. There can be no honeymoon period, but no doubt the extra cash in Alex’s pocket after his contractual reduction following relegation, will help him to offset the bricbats.

    Francis Richardson

    June 19, 2011

  3. I have no problem with him being from Birmingham but problem I do have is that he got Rangers to finish 3rd in a 2 team league and has got his team relegated twice in 3 prem years.
    As Villa that are a team that have ben chasing the champions league in last few seasons but last one I feel that we could of got a manager of a way better standered

    Christo

    June 19, 2011

  4. The funny thing about the whole McLeish saga, is that it’s the reaction of the Villa fans that make them look less like the victims here than they wish.

    Whether it’s the ignorance of McLeish’s past record (he won 2 Scottish championships – when his Old Firm rival’s were managed by some bloke called Martin O’Neill), or the delusions that Villa are a big club (when exactly was their last trophy?).

    I can see why Villa have gone for McLeish, despite his connections to Birmingham City. He has a good track record & has won trophies – even if he has more of a reputation as being more of a luck manager.

    Allan

    June 19, 2011

  5. Good point from Allan vis a vis O’Neill although I have heard some Villa fans admit that that man’s record doesn’t bear scrutiny as robustly as one would think.

    At least Villa don’t have to pay relocation expenses and McLeish is probably a better manager than Gerard Houllier.

    Lanterne Rouge

    June 19, 2011

  6. It never ceases to amaze me just how some clubs get to the decision they do on just who to appoint as their new manager and McLeish (with his previous record) is a perfect example.

    Is the pool of talented managers really that small?

    Or is the more pertinent question do some clubs need to look at the way they entice, appoint, retain and manage their Managers?

    Noshow

    June 19, 2011

  7. Dont you find it worrying that Gerard Houllier was given the chance anyway and then the fiasco of choosing a new manager after his departure? Not even a consistant choice of styles by the managers in the frame! Lets admit it as the article states AM will not get any period of grace from the fans

    Disgruntled

    June 19, 2011

  8. I can see Bent trudging a lonley furrow up front playing in front of a 4-5-1, gabby on the bench, dire sterile football being served up week in week out. Not just his conections with Birmingham but the football he promotes, you can really understand the protests and john carlton they were not all mindless morons who protested! Everyone has a right to voice their opinion and just because its not the same as yours it doesn’t make them a moron.

    Disgruntled

    June 19, 2011

  9. Excellent article, although I would like to argue the point that villa are the victims.. Many fans at your rivals are not too unhappy at his departure.. I am undecided.. My dis-satisfaction is none specific with regards to mccleish or villa.. He had provided a list of players wanted.. The board were in the throes of providing those names (3 of which have arrived) then learned randy and Paul f*uckup decided to tap into mccleishs managerial skills.. The manager was under contract.. And now they try and act all innocent.. I suppose that’s football tho where a contract and a mans word means absolutely nothing..!! A la king from Coventry huh??!!!

    Mark

    June 20, 2011

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