Contenders in the race for the Aston Villa managers job [2011]

New Contenders Join Race To Manage Villa

Following on from the news that Roberto Matinez has rejected the opportunity to be the new manager and with Villa having dispensed with much of the original list of candidates;

Who could it realistically be?

Alex McLeish:

Current Birmingham boss presided over their first trophy of note in a season ultimately marred by relegation.  McLeish’s downfall could likely be linked to the strains of a cup run, but the fact that he built a competitive team around Foster, Johnson and other seasoned pros should not go un-noticed.  His appointment would be as devisive as it would be approved, particularly as reports suggest negotiations with candidates such as McLaren were halted due to fan feedback.  But with that said all would be forgotten if and when he refers to Villa as “a bigger club” at his press conference.  Stranger things have happened in football, McLeish becoming Aston Villa manager would merely add to the list.

David Moyes:

Moyes has been silent as the search for a new Villa boss continues.  Easily one of the most consistent bosses in the Premier League, he has worked on extremely limited funds to see Everton finish 7th last season.  Moyes could be swayed by the promise of a transfer kitty and would further appeal to Lerner with the prospect of it being spent wisely.  Difficulties will likely be encountered with many citing the notion that this might represent a sideways step for a manager who could arguably be next in line for a shot at one of the top 4/5 teams in the division.  His appointment would represent a major coup for Villa and given time Moyes could well be exactly what we need.

Mark Hughes:

It may well transpire that as soon as any deadline for compensation to Fulham passes, that Hughes slots conveniently into the Villa hotseat.  The fan response to the former Manchester United striker has been muted, however good work with Fulham, Blackburn and Wales should not be forgotten.  Hughes’ recent history is blotted by his inability to make Manchester City perform, but much could be said of the immediate timeframe for success expected of him.  Hughes would bring a steady hand to Villa Park, a winning mentality from his playing days and a practical approach to management.

Owen Coyle:

Coyle worked wonders in achieving promotion with Burnley but soon took the opportunity to jump ship to rivals after Bolton approached.  Coyle turned around a floundering Trotters side, lessening their physical approach by adopting a much praised footballing style.  One wonders if an approach to Coyle would potentially undermine the club once more, as a Martinez style rebuttal could easily repeat itself.  However, a move to Villa would be Coyle’s first opportunity to have a large transfer budget at a side with genuine ambitions (don’t laugh).  How would Coyle go about spending this?  Or would he stick to what he knows, such has been the basis of his success in the past?  Appointing Coyle would by no means be unwelcome, but the expectations placed upon him at Aston Villa would be vastly different to those placed upon him at Bolton/Burnley.  Would this be cohesive to both parties outlooks?

Chris Hughton:

Hughton’s name has been conspicuous by its absence in the manager hunt.  Whilst not the big name appointment that most might desire, objectively looking at his credentials could bring him firmly into the picture.  Following many years as an understudy in the Tottenham set-up, Hughton stepped into the abyss of the Newcastle United hotseat following their relegation to the Championship two seasons ago.  After a player exodus and with restricted funds he guided them back to the top flight with comparative ease as champions.  And all this whilst retaining some difficult figures in the dressing room and establishing unknown youth player Andy Carroll as the divisions top scorer.  Despite achieving the rational safety of mid-table with Newcastle after promotion, he was needlessly and shamefully dispensed with by the clubs hierarchy with little or no justification.  Hughton, has talent, top flight knowledge and through no fault of his own; something to prove.  A potentially risky appointment from Villa’s perspective, but by no means without merit.

Steve McLaren:

What is there to say that doesn’t leap out to any seasoned football fan already?  A great deal depends upon which school of thought you are in with regards to taking McLaren on as boss.  On the one hand there was impressive work with Middlesbrough in the form of consistent league Premier League survivals and a UEFA Cup final.  You need look no further than where they are now.  But this is offset against the polar opposite in terms of achievement with England.  Next, counter that with a Dutch Championship with FC Twente, in a league where Ajax, PSV etc are the mainstay winners.  Then a dismal stint with then German champions Wolfsburg.  Let’s not forget that Villa are purported to have been in discussions before pulling the plug after considering negative internet feedback.  There is the prospect that it might not even be an option to go back around the table to negotiate.  However it should not be discounted that this could be an appointment to potentially stifle season ticket sales, provoke some fan unrest – but in terms of experienced candidates that might want the job, McLaren could be our only option.  Whilst some of the outright negativity is unjustified, the notion that as a boss McLaren is rehabilitated as a boss after his work in Europe.  He needs to manage again in England to do that; but are we the willing guinea pigs for this?

Claudio Ranieri:

Ranieri has had some limited coverage owing to the fact he has Premiership experience from his days at Chelsea and is presently available following his sacking at AS Roma in February.  He has managed some of the largest teams in Europe, and whilst in recent years his progress in Italy has been erratic, Serie A has undergone major overhauls following fixing scandals and point deductons forced a re-jigging of the elite.  Ranieri’s efforts at Chelsea should not go un-noticed and he perhaps suffered from hugely inflated owner ambitions similar to those of Hughes at Man City.  Ranieri would be a major gamble, but is a big name, with a winning mentality who would bring a thoughtful and methodical approach to our team.  Given time, and that is always the problem, there is nothing to say that he couldn’t improve Aston Villa.

Alan Curbishley:

An Ex-Villan and indeed an ex-Bluenose.  As a manager he made Charlton a regular fixture of the Premiership for many seasons before he was sacked as the club sought to improve upon its mid table mediocrity.  As the Middlesbroughs, Sheffield Wednesdays, Birminghams and West Hams will tell you, mid-table is more than acceptable.  Sure enough without Curbishley, Charlton fell into the abyss, never to return.  Thereafter he managed West Ham, initially under the premise of Icelandic millions, which soon inevitably melted away (pun time).  Curbishley was left with the impossible task, as his successors show, of somehow making a pennyless, struggling, West Ham side stay up.  Whilst he has the prerequisite experience, Curbishley has been out of the game since 2008 and an appointment at Villa would represent his first genuine opportunity to manage a club with a disposable kitty with a view to achieving something.  A risky move for club and chairman alike.

Graeme Souness:

Souness is currently on the media circuit operating as a pundit since his sacking at Newcastle.  A winner as a player with Liverpool; as a manager he has enjoyed mixed successes.  Managing Liverpool brought about the now staple heart problems but his good work at Blackburn stands out.  A mix of physical power, blended with some quite technical football improved Blackburn massively and this can be illustrated through their consolidation in the top flight in recent seasons.  Souness must surely regret taking on the job at Newcastle, with the unrealistic aspirations and a lunatic chairman calling the shots – how could anyone be expected to succeed where the mark of success is so high?  Souness would be a surprise call, but he would bring discipline, consistency and grit to Villa Park.

Stuart Pearce:

Another deceptively silent figure currently in position as the England U21 coach.  A passionate player, respected (perhaps feared) by professionals within the game, Pearce was a mixed bag whilst in charge of Manchester City.  Let us not forget that this was a City team with a fraudulent Thai President as Chairman.  Further this was as City had inherited the Commonwealth stadium with a team fit for the common-land at best.  Pearce has quietly gone about his business at the under 21 set up and to his credit has perhaps gone into an area of the English game that needs most work.  Villa’s excellent academy system, Pearce’s knowledge of youth development and Lerner’s desire to build from within could sit very well together.  Pearce’s appointment might not, therefore, be such a shock.

And who next?

It appears to be a dangerous business commenting upon who might be the next boss – the candidates change by the hour – feel free to contribute your opinions in the comments below or via Twitter.  But most importantly…keep the faith.