Aston Villa: Lambert or Martinez – Who will replace McLeish at Villa Park?
It may have taken Randy Lerner a little longer to realise that he had made a huge error in appointing McLeish, but at least he has given himself some time to bring in the new man so he can start planning the rebuilding process for next season.
I must say fair play to McLeish for not letting city rivalry stopping him from furthering his career, but let’s face it nobody expected Villa and the big man to be a happy partnership. In the end the former Aberdeen defender, who won it all north of the border as a player and manager, has become statistically the worst manager in Villa’s history.
Whoever replaces Alex McLeish can at least rest assured that he cannot take the club any lower, unless of course the players – who must shoulder the blame also for a dreadful season – decide not to respond to his methods as well.
Norwich City’s Paul Lambert and Wigan Athletic chief Roberto Martinez are leading the race with the bookies to become the next Villa boss, but who will land the coveted job? Here are the main runners and riders in the race.
The Wigan coach turned down Randy Lerner last season, opting to stay with the Latics, but is this the right time for the Spaniard to take on a new challenge? Despite losing eight games on the trot earlier in the season, Martinez managed to instil some belief into his players and stay up and some of their performances over the past two months have been breathtaking. He likes to keep the ball on the ground and entertain the fans. Something Villa fans have been crying out for.
Wigan finished above Villa, but the Villains are a massive club with a fantastic support. Would he ever be able to take Wigan into Europe? It’s unlikely. However, it is questionable who currently has the most talented squad.
Martinez has done well at a relatively small club, but does he have the credentials to turn Villa’s fortunes around?
The Scot has carved out a huge reputation for himself at Carrow Road following consecutive promotions and consolidated the Canaries’ place in the top flight. The former Celtic and Borrusia Dortmund midfielder, who won the Champions League with the Germans remember, knows the game inside out and demands that his players go out and attack the opposition. Like Martinez, this style would bring the Villa fans flooding back.
He may not have the big name that could attract the top stars from across Europe, but considering Villa have shelled out millions in compensation to their previous three managers I don’t think they can afford to be splashing the cash.
Lambert is a great motivator and players respect him. They will run through walls and take a bullet for the gaffer. That’s what gets you results. Norwich are definitely a club on the up, but some will say it’s always better to leave on a high. Next season will be tough for the Canaries, with or without Lambert. Also he has the relatively low platform left by McLeish to improve on. Villa fans were already singing his praises on the final day of the season. Will they be able to get their man?
Other names in the frame include:
The Swansea City boss has done a sterling job at the Liberty Stadium and everyone is interested to see what they can achieve next season. But will Rodgers be there to oversee it? He has already been linked with posts at Chelsea and Tottenham and obviously has a huge future ahead of him. But could Villa be his next port of call? I’d be surprised, but he would make the fans forget about Big Eck’s dour defensive tactics, that’s for sure.
Another manager who sets his teams out to attack is Brighton boss Gus Poyet. The former Chelsea man will manage in the Premier League at some stage but surely this would be a huge risk for both parties. Villa need someone who can come in and get a positive response from the current players and get them back up the table. Poyet is earning plaudits for his work at Brighton but this could be a step too far too soon for the big man.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
Now this one would be interesting. The baby faced assassin has carved out a winning career in the dugout in Norway and has obviously learned from one of the game’s greatest managers in Sir Alex Ferguson. Solskjaer always loved playing at Villa Park and won the Norweigan title in his first season at Molde. He is a loveable character and even Wolves were linked with him last month. Again, Solskjaer is another boss who will eventually manage in the top flight, but I don’t think he is in any rush to return to England.
This is another interesting name thrown in the hat. Although Randy Lerner may never take anything from Birmingham City again, he could do a lot worse than to poach the former Newcastle United manager. Hughton has worked under incredible pressure at St Andrews and almost sealed a return to the top flight for the Blues. Tactically he is very astute, gets the fans on side with his calm and measured approach and is a dab hand in the transfer market. It would be another controversial appointment but I think Hughton could easily succeed where McLeish failed.
Other names in the frame include Alan Curbishley, Steve Bruce, Rafa Benitez, Neil Lennon and even Claudio Ranieri.
One thing is for sure, Randy Lerner cannot afford to make a hat-trick of mistakes when appointing a manager. He went for Houllier and no-one thought that was right. Then he went for McLeish and we all know what happened there. Lerner must learn from his past mistakes and give the supporters who they want? Someone who will make them get off their backsides during every game and get the club back up the table. But who is that man?
Calling all Villa fans. Who would you like to see in your dugout? Does Martinez get your vote or is Lambert the saviour? Would you accept Hughton in charge? What about the inexperienced Gus Poyet? Whatever your views, we’d love to hear from you.