Aston Villa: New manager McLeish eager to win fans over

Alex McLeish. PIC: PA

Alex McLeish. PIC: PA

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Aston Villa have confirmed the controversial appointment of former Birmingham boss Alex McLeish as their new manager.

McLeish makes the move across the city just five days after resigning from his post at St Andrew’s.

Villa have ridden through fierce opposition from their own supporters and a bitter row with Blues to bring in the 52-year-old.

Villa this morning released a lengthy statement detailing McLeish’s virtues and achievements in management, most notably the seven trophies he won with Rangers.

Sceptical fans, however, may take more convincing with their opposition having culminated in a protest at Villa Park on Wednesday.

McLeish himself accepts he will have to win the doubters over.

The Scot told the club’s website, www.avfc.co.uk: “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.”

Villa have not yet confirmed the length of McLeish’s contract but have said he will commence duties immediately, underlining their confidence there are no lingering issues concerning Birmingham.

Blues were angered when it became apparent McLeish, having quit their club on Sunday, was a contender for the Villa Park vacancy.

They accused their rivals of tapping up the former Scotland boss and demanded £5.4million in compensation to cover the remaining two years of his contract.

They also threatened to report Villa to the Premier League and take out an injunction to block the move but neither were carried out.

Villa, who switched their attention to McLeish after being snubbed by Wigan’s Roberto Martinez last week, started speaking to McLeish this week on the understanding he was a free agent.

Birmingham, who have said they never accepted McLeish’s resignation, are expected to issue a fresh statement on the matter this morning.

McLeish becomes Villa’s third full-time manager in nine months and the club need him to restore stability after a difficult season.

Martin O’Neill resigned just five days before the 2010-11 campaign began and his successor Gerard Houllier got involved in a relegation battle before leaving after a health scare.

McLeish’s appointment ends a long search that has continually wrong-footed bookmakers.

Mark Hughes was installed as the early favourite after leaving Fulham but was never a serious contender.

Steve McClaren, David Moyes, Rafael Benitez and Martinez were all heavily backed at different times but fell by the wayside.

Villa chief executive Paul Faulkner said: “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 closely 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.”

McLeish had been in charge at Birmingham since 2007 and won the Carling Cup last season despite seeing the campaign end in the disappointment of relegation.

He began his managerial career with Motherwell in 1994 before his spells in charge of Hibernian, Rangers, Scotland and Birmingham.

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, often regarded as McLeish’s mentor after giving him his break as a player at Aberdeen, is convinced he will be successful.

Ferguson said: “It doesn’t matter whether there are 50 against him, 500 against him or five against him because the experience and the ability he has got, believe me, he will prove that he can do the job.”

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