Alex McLeish joins the growing list of Judases in the Premiership. His terse resignation by email has set off a lot of teeth gnashing. Adding more fuel to the fire is Birmingham’s concern that he’s moving across to Villa Park. Their rivals are on the lookout for a coach but the odds are getting a bit long.
Mark Hughes with a similar backstabbing story shot his chances, Roberto Martinez stays put at Wigan, and Steve McLaren joined Nottingham Forest. Carlo Ancelotti prefers to take a year off. Former coach Martin O’Neill’s controversial departure also takes him off the short list.
One can understand McLeish’s attraction to managing Villa. The uncertainty of Birmingham return’s to the Premiership for a club that has padded its presence there is really no choice. But that is not likely to happen without protracted legal action and overloaded emotion not to mention expensive compensation for his two years left in his contract.
Besides from a philosophical perspective, a manager like McLeish would deaden the attractive and attacking quality of Villa football. The Scotsman has a steel trap mindset that plays not to lose matches and his second season in charge saw a mid table club take a nosedive to relegation. Under him the attack dried up with Birmingham unable to buy a winning goal as they churned out 15 draws. The Blues were an exercise in attacking futility scoring just 37 goals in the Premiership’s poorest output. Their Carling Cup win was genuine enough but it comes with an asterisk. The first club to win that title also gets relegated the same season.
Villa on the other hand have attracted managers with international credentials whilst maintaining an attractive quality to their football. Its largest salable commodity is its attacking players. Even as they resign themselves to losing Ashley Young and possibly Stewart Downing they have a stable of young talent that should grow and prosper under the right guidance. Gerard Houllier’s management is not littered with tactical gems but he has an established track record mentoring and developing youth players through his long association as technical director of the French Football Federation. McLeish on the other hand has no such visibility.
There are other candidates out there who are more in tune with Villa’s style of football including Gianfranco Zola, Chris Hughton, Roberto Di Matteo, and even Claudio Rainieri who might fancy a return to the Premiership.