Final thoughts on Alex McLeish’s time at Aston Villa 2

The Premier League Owl

Ron Atkinson is quoted by the BBC this morning as saying that he doesn’t believe Alex McLeish was ‘given a fair crack of the whip’ at Aston Villa.

Oh do one, Ron – it’s always the same with the managers’ club; all sticking up for each other, all making excuses.

“If he’d come straight down from Rangers, everyone would have said he’s a great signing for them.”

No, I don’t think they would. Managing in Scotland is not a proving ground for The Premier League – winning the SPL with Rangers or Celtic is akin to conquering League One with Liverpool. The football public at large can point to the lack of support Villa fans showed the Scot while he was in charge, but while their original hostility was owed to his time – his unsuccessful time – at Birmingham, ultimately their vitriol towards him was a product of the way his team were performing.

There were lots of other quotes given by Atkinson, presumably from a sun lounger in Marbella, where he attributes the problems at Villa Park to the lack of quality in the playing staff, points the fingers at the owners, and describes other myriad factors which ‘hampered’ McLeish.

Here’s what actually prevented Alex McLeish succeeding this season: Alex McLeish. He sets his teams out to play overly-negative football, yet hasn’t the ability to implement a decent enough defensive system. Anybody see the potential issue there? It relegated Birmingham, and it very nearly put-paid to Villa this year.

The situation under Randy Lerner is admittedly tricky – the American clearly wants to scale back both costs and ambition at his club. That being said, the Villa side we all saw this season was, through its approach rather than its composition, a big middle-finger to the fans. That’s McLeish’s doing – Randy Lerner provides the resources, but the manager puts the product on the field.

Ron Atkinson can talk about under-talented players if he likes, but there’s no way that Villa squad should be finishing sixteenth in the Premier League. That’s under-performance. Don’t paint the picture of a diligent manager ‘struggling against the odds’, when the reality is of a tactically-deficient coach who’s out of his depth in English football.

The Villa fans were negative about his appointment because they knew what McLeish would do to their club – and they were right. At what point this season did his performance warrant any backing?

He’s been sacked for poor performance, like anybody else in any other job would be – there’s no mileage in any ‘hard-luck’ stories here.

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