Clarity – it’s the McLeast we deserve.
He’s gone then.
Alex McLeish appears to be heading inexorably for the Villa Park hotseat having found events at St Andrew’s post-relegation too hot to handle. Confusion, anger, bewilderment and supposition has reigned supreme across the city of Birmingham since my good friend Colin Tattum at the Birmingham Mail broke the news of McLeish quitting Blues late Sunday afternoon.
I was on-air on talkSPORT at the time and when Colin’s tweet first appeared on my feed I must have read it 20 times just to be 1000% sure I was reading it correctly, then broke it on air, knowing Tatts is not one for idle speculation. The immediacy with which Villa fans responded on texts emails and calls to the news was to put any furrowed brows they had over Steve McLaren’s interest firmly in the shade. Seems if you’re a McSomebody, you’re not especially welcome at Villa Park. Gary McAllister must be cacking himself just now
But, despite all the sabre-rattling I’ve heard from the I’m-never-going-again-if-he’s-in-charge brigade wearing claret & blue, McLeish will take over, and I believe he will find a larger groundswell of support from the Holte End etc than the naysayers would have you believe.
“His teams can’t score!!” comes the cry. He never had a Darren Bent at his disposal. Only Cameron Jerome.
“He wasted loads of money at Blues!” they opine. As much as Martin O Neill did? What was that - £120 million he spent was it?
“He plays negative football!” – didn’t stop him winning a domestic treble, nor a Carling Cup did it?
Big Eck’s CV is big on trophies. And the fact remains that our win at Wembley back in February will be remembered in the record books for being a WIN, not the manner of it. If he brings a pot to Villa Park, the style in which it is obtained will matter little. Or will it?
George Graham’s success at Spurs will never be accepted by a certain section of the White Hart Lane faithful. And that is so small-minded. Bloody-minded even. Randy Lerner and co will have been weighing up the pros & cons of such a sensitive appointment, but pragmatism has now won the day over tribalism. Alex is a very approachable fellow – straight-talking yet charming, guarded yet inclusive; such attributes will suit a club like Villa down to the ground. Whether the very vocal anti-McLeish brigade like it or not. Which they won’t. Get used to it guys
Just as a few million quid in compensation will similarly suit Blues down to the ground too.
It will always intrigue me – and we may never know this - as to what exactly was the straw that broke the camel’s back for Alex over this past weekend, given that the ultimatum on promotion that he received from Carson Yeung the day after relegation was seemingly accepted by him and transfer targets lined up accordingly. I simply think that too many of the players he regarded as ‘not for sale’ were becoming surplus to the board’s requirements and enough was enough. The sacking of chief scout Paul Montgomery was noted by Richard Bevan at the League Managers Association as a crucial factor (possible, but that sacking happened over 2 weeks ago), as well as a perceived ‘lack of control over transfers’. So, now we’re meant to believe from Bevan that players like Scott Dann, Roger Johnson, Craig Gardner et al were all brought in beyond McLeish’s control? Rubbish. I don’t see that at all. Makes a change for the LMA to defend a manager’s resignation rather than complain about a sacking though.
But just look at how shabbily is this all being handled by people who are far from being seasoned football administrators and aren’t half showing it just now. Principles abound one minute, Machiavellian tendencies appear to show themselves the next; talk of legal action, constructive dismissal, compensation…it’s head-spinning stuff. Steve Stride must be laughing his wotsits off, being just the sort of cool administrative head Villa would need at this time, but a man who was swiftly jettisoned by the American owners, who preferred instead to embark on a dangerous online dialogue with fans’ message boards through the rough & tough-sounding General Kruliak, who I imagine to look not unlike the Army general with the pith helmet, countless medals and outrageous shoulders whom Kenny Everett used to portray on his TV show.
This sort of online chumminess with fans can pay off when things are steady or going well, but at times like these, when the keyboard warriors start firing off all sorts of threats and insults expecting a reasoned reply of some kind, the ensuing wall of silence (which he did break only to simply endorse the McLeish chase) send those same faceless minions right off the scale. The city’s valium supplies must be dangerously low at the moment.
Blues are similarly lacking in cool heads in the boardroom. Peter Pannu as acting chairman is talking tough, and given his reputation as a law enforcer before now, I wouldn’t mess personally. Please Michael Wiseman – calm his skin down. Anyway, compensation notwithstanding, it’s all semantics – he’s off. And so Blues are looking for a new man at the helm. Who do I want? Would love Sean O’Driscoll from Doncaster. Said it from the off – if Blues fans want a more, shall we say, ‘entertaining’ brand of football at Championship level, he is just the Midlander to provide it. Doncaster Rovers may be perceived as the Arsenal of the 2nd tier in that they play some neat stuff with no cutting edge – well, O’Driscoll hasn’t had a striker like Marlon King to have on the end of Rover’s smooth passing play before now. He’s worked miracles on a budget, and whilst Blues clearly have financial issues of their own, the parachute payments should provide more of a war-chest than managers like him have been used to.
Trouble is I sincerely doubt he’d be on Carson Yeung’s radar – I’ve had the joke about us supposedly appointing a Chinese boss called Win One Soon, (har and indeed har) but I do hope the list of names that are eventually drawn up will include O’Driscoll, Curbishley…and hey! Of course!!! Didn’t Trevor Francis say he had ‘unfinished business’ with Blues when he left the club in 2001?? Could he return? On many occasions? Penny for TF’s thoughts right now eh? :o)
The point is, whoever comes in at Blues should get our full support…even if its (and go with me on this) Andre Villas Boas, a man with a name that may be seen as too similar to our rivals – I’ll bet you there’s a Blues fan out there somewhere who would have a problem with that name being associated with us!! :o)) Such is the stupid, crackpot intensity of football fans and the tribal nature of the beautiful game…and by the way, we’re not getting Boas in a million years. Even if we are in the European competition he’s just won with Porto!