When Alex McLeish resigned his position as manager of Birmingham by e-mail, the Birmingham board were understandably outraged. They were angry by the method of the resignation as well as the fact that they had supported their manager in the transfer market, watched some pretty dire and unimaginative football, seen him take what should have been a mid-table team to relegation and then told him that his job was safe. How he repaid them would be hard for anyone to take.
It will be fascinating to see how this all works out. McLeish is in a difficult position. He has to succeed quickly or he will find himself in an untenable position. That is if he isn’t already in one.
To add insult to injury, out of the blue, Aston Villa suddenly appeared on the scene and wanted him to be their manager. ‘He has resigned, so he is a free agent,’ said Villa. That really does, to an outsider who doesn’t know all the facts, appear to be about as underhand as you can get. If McLeish is still employed, Villa have to pay Birmingham to take their manager. If he is a ‘free agent’ they don’t. I would take a fair amount of persuading to believe that McLeish knew nothing about Villa’s interest before he sent that e-mail. It leaves a particularly sour taste in the mouth.
Now McLeish is officially the new Aston Villa boss and Birmingham will pursue their claim for compensation. I hope they get every penny they are claiming.
The issue now is whether McLeish will be able to win over the Aston Villa fans who were quick to say that the last man on the planet they would want as their new manager would be the former Bluenose McLeish. Anti-McLeish graffitti appeared at the Villa training ground and reports were made of McLeish receiving death threats from both sides of the city. A facebook account refusing to accept McLeish as their new manager at Villa has already got 18,000 members.
In the end, things will carry on. The fans support the club, not the manager. The club will be there for many years to come, as will the fans. The manager and the players will move on but the fans will remain.
The big problem I can see is that McLeish’s record at Birmingham does not justify the need to take such a risk and upset the fans so much. It is difficult to understand why they were so keen to get him.
McLeish did well at Rangers, but so would I! He did OK with Scotland. At Birmingham he had two relegations, a promotion and a League Cup. In other words, his record is OK. He hasn’t shown anything that justifies causing all this upset.
He is now in a position whereby he simply has to succeed. If he fails to record quick victories the fans will not accept him at all. As Roy Hodgson found out at Liverpool, if the fans do not quickly get behind you, you have no chance of staying the course.
A couple of defeats and McLeish’s position will become untenable. That is, if that isn’t already what it is.
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