Tuesday, 21 June 2011

What The Eck Were They Thinking?

After the failure of the Rafa Benitez regime at Inter Milan the Neazzuri turned to one Leonardo Nascimento de Araujo asking him to become the new manager. That’s Leonardo the former AC Milan legend. Indeed not just an Milan legend but a former manager of the Rossoneri. The move stunned many in England. Leonardo’s switch to Milan’s deadly rivals provoked much headshaking and a general consensus that such callous behaviour on the part of managers wasn’t something you’d find in the Premier League. You don’t just up sticks and accept the coin of your most hated rivals in good ole Blighty.

However, not only has the appointment of Alex McLeish by Aston Villa refuted the theory that such things wouldn’t happen in England* but it has also showed precisely what Aston Villa lack when compared to Inter Milan. Whereas Massimo Moratti knew exactly what he wanted from his new manager the Aston Villa board seem to have very little idea of what they wanted from their new man. Within the multitude of men linked with the Villa job the three which were given most attention were Mark Hughes, Roberto Martinez and Alex ‘Big Eck’ McLeish. To switch from Hughes to Martinez to McLeish shows an astonishing lack of thought about the style of play and direction of development that Villa hope for in moving forward.

While Martinez made his name at Swansea and then Wigan with an attractive, crowd-pleasing brand of football McLeish presided over football so dull and turgid he made Tony Pulis look like Marcelo Bielsa. Approaching one and then the other shows no sign of thought at boardroom level about how Villa recover from a fairly poor season under Gerard Houllier and attempt to challenge for the Champions League again. Having lost James Milner, their best player from last season, to Manchester City and the departures of Ashley Young and Stewart Downing also looking probable then it is obvious that this is a Villa side that requires long-term planning.

It is entirely plausible that after a long and very public search for a manager that Villa seized on McLeish just in order to end the embarrassment of being turned down by Martinez et al. Wanting to install a new man in order to give him the maximum time in the transfer market and establish relations with the players prior to the start of the season is fine. But the disregard for the fans clear feelings on the matter is utterly distasteful. It wasn’t as though McLeish was the only manager who was available. Indeed the reason that Hughes was not appointed was the Villa board’s concern about the way Sparky left his job at Fulham. Yet they seem to have no compunction about appointing a man who relegated his club twice in two and a half seasons and then resigned via e-mail. If the manner in which a coach leaves the club is no longer an issue then returning to Hughes would be the smart move. Yes it would involve a loss of face but the club would be getting a better and more acceptable manager in the eyes of fans. At Blackburn and Fulham Hughes showed an eye for a bargain in the market which McLeish’s rampant spending at Birmingham did not.

Even if we accept (which I do not) that McLeish was the best man for the job the feelings of the fans were made abundantly clear and should hold at least some sway in the board’s decision. It is all very well for Paul Hayward to claim that it is merely “lazy tribalism” which motivates their anger but tribalism is a key part of being a football fan. Derbies against the old enemy should be treasured as they add an edge to matches which cannot be found elsewhere. Had McLeish been the standout candidate and clearly the man to take Aston Villa to the next level then such a move could be understood as rationality prevailing over sectarianism. However this is hardly the case. As we’ve seen McLeish was at least the third choice for the Villa board and by a distance the most unpopular choice with fans.

So the sum total of the decision to bring in McLeish is that the fans are unhappy, the board has displayed little to no forethought about how the club intends to progress and McLeish himself knows that he was hardly the first choice. If there was a less encouraging sign of revival for Villa fans after a fairly unfortunate season it doesn’t spring to mind.

*Not to mention ‘Arry Redknapp going from Southampton to Portsmouth *Ahem*

No comments:

Post a Comment