No words can describe how relieved Villa fans were on Monday when the news of Alex McLeish’s sacking broke and finally gave us something to cheer. Suffice to say that #McLeishOutParty was a popular hashtag from around 8.30am as rumours of his imminent departure circulated.
It was a glorious day to be a Villa fan, especially on Twitter. Slowly but surely information started to leak out of the club. It was finally confirmed (unofficially) by Stan Collymore at around 3pm who claimed to have spoken to McLeish via text message.
The official club line arrived shortly after and a collective Claret and Blue cheer arose.
I could happily sit here and smash out expletive after expletive on ‘Eck’s reign at Villa until my fingers become mashed into the keyboard (it would be worth the pain), but I am aware that most reading this blog will be aware of Villa fans’ feelings towards McUnt so we’ll leave it there. It’s done, we’re happy, let’s move on.
So, who next for Villa? Who will be lured by the promise of impatient fans? Who will be tempted by the sky-high expectations which our revenues can’t match?
If you believe some Villa fans (do so at your peril) we ‘must’ be looking towards Andre Villas-Boas (possibly slightly over-qualified, I’d argue) or someone of that calibre. Yeah…right. Anyway, here are the bookies favourites as it stands.
The ‘Big’ Three
Paul Lambert (15/8 favourite)
After a successful season guiding the league’s most inoffensive team (barring the hideous kit) to a comfortable 12th place finish in their return to the Premier League, including a final day 2-0 win over Villa, Paul Lambert is the bookies (and fans) choice to succeed McLeish. Known for developing players who look shite on paper into an organised and attacking outfit, Lambert seems the perfect fit for Villa. He may feel he has taken Norwich as far as he can and might bail out before Delia hits the Vodka during a relegation-battling ‘difficult second season’.
Mick McCarthy (2/1)
A surge of betting on the former Wolves boss pushed him to 2nd favourite on Tuesday. He seems to have all the credentials to be Randy Lerner’s next appointment – angry, tactically useless, blissfully unaware of the aesthetic merits of the game, and (effectively if not technically) condemned his team to relegation this season. I will literally soil myself if he is appointed, and not in a good way.
Roberto Martinez (11/4)
A spirited end to the season saw Wigan climb above Villa to finish 15th, eventually a lofty 7 points clear of relegation. The charming Spaniard plays attacking football which the Villa fans would enjoy (at least for a few games until the novelty wears off). However, he has flirted dangerously with relegation for two seasons running and is far from a proven performer in the upper echelons of management – not that this is something Villa have to worry about for the moment. In fact, two consecutive relegation escapes makes him a very attractive prospect.
Gus Poyet (20/1)
The man utterly incapable of pronouncing consonants (“Aayy soo wha di yoo thin abow da game?”) is building a solid reputation in the Championship with Brighton. After winning the League One title in 2011, they had a good shot at the playoffs but eventually fell away. However, with a seemingly cushy job on the south coast assured (new stadium, solid fanbase and good financial backing), it is unlikely that he will be enticed into the lion’s den at Villa without having one more shot at getting Albion into the big time.
Rafael Benitez (16/1)
I personally can’t see this happening – ‘Rafa’ is suggested for every major job in every major league in Europe. Essentially, his name is in the mix because he has managed in England before, and he is currently unemployed. However, a career path which follows Tenerife, Valencia, Liverpool and Inter Milan with Aston Villa doesn’t seem right. Many expect Benitez to bide his time for a top La Liga role or, potentially, another stint in England. Don’t rule out a return to Liverpool when Dalglish finally gets found out.
Avram Grant (25/1)
The human scrotum has never enjoyed a particularly fruitful relationship with the English media (due to having the charisma of a discarded, crusty tissue) and I can’t imagine him impressing in an interview with Randy Lerner. Having said that – McLeish managed to convince him so you never know what might happen.
Dion Dublin (66/1)
Oh God, please let this happen, just for comedy value. If he were to bring Steve Stone, Ian Taylor and Boško Balaban as his backroom staff it would just be wonderful. Actually, I hope I have one of those super-realistic dreams about this so I can experience the hilarity without it actually happening.
On first glance, my preference would be Paul Lambert, and all signs point to this being Lerner’s first choice. However, should he turn the offer I think I have an alternative. My preference, in this scenario, would be Vincenzo Montella.
Now just 37, Montella was a legend at AS Roma and joined their staff as youth coach after he retired. He was promoted to First Team coach to undo the mistakes made by the batty Claudio Ranieri. However, his career there was cut short when new American ownership decided to install their very own mini-Guardiola (Luis Enrique) instead.
Subsequently, Montella has taken over at Catania and surpassed expectations at the Sicilian club. Widely touted as relegation candidates, Montella led the team to a comfortable mid-table finish. In fact, only a couple of sloppy end-of-season results prevent the Sicilians making a challenge on the Europa League qualification spots.
At a time when Villa need a charismatic, inspiring manager to rejuvenate both the players and the fans, the sharply-dressed Montella could be that man. It is certainly the trend to have young managers who can relate to the players (see Guardiola, Di Matteo, AVB to some extent) and I’d love to have the slick Italian at Villa Park. It is possible that his English isn’t good enough to manage in the Premier League at the moment, but that didn’t stop the F.A. taking on Fabio Capello. On second thoughts, maybe that isn’t the best example…
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Odds courtesy of SkyBet.com via OddsChecker.com