Alex McLeish has left Aston Villa after holding talks with the club chairman, Randy Lerner, following a season of underachievement.
An Aston Villa statement said: “The club has been disappointed with this season’s results, performances and the general message these have sent to our fans. The board wishes to assure supporters that we are conscious in every sense that Villa expects and deserves more and we will strive to deliver this.”
Lerner added: “We need to be clear and candid with ourselves and with supporters about what we have lacked in recent years. Compelling play and results that instil a sense of confidence that Villa is on the right track have been plainly absent. The most immediate action that we can take is to look carefully at our options in terms of bringing in a new manager who sees the club’s potential and embraces our collective expectations.”
Aston Villa’s chief executive Paul Faulkner said: “We’d like to thank Alex for his hard work and efforts throughout this tough season. We are mindful of the club’s need to prepare thoroughly for the new campaign and for the new manager to be able to begin working with the board so that he is quickly immersed in these preparations and also in the long-term objectives of the club. Our focus now will be driven by these imperatives and we will update when appropriate.”
Lerner flew in from the United States to speak with McLeish along with Faulkner in the aftermath of Sunday’s 2-0 defeat at Norwich, which was described as “woeful” by the manager.
Coincidentally, Norwich’s manager is one of the favourites to take over from McLeish and Aston Villa’s fans chanted his name during their side’s defeat against Norwich. But Lambert agreed a new deal at Carrow Road in May 2011 and Norwich’s chief executive David McNally insists the club will fight to keep him.
“We would not welcome any enquiry for our football manager or any of the club’s football players,” McNally said. “We will do everything we can and fight this as hard as we have ever fought.”
McLeish was never popular with the Aston Villa fans and many were calling for the former Birmingham manager to be sacked as the club ended the campaign just two points clear of the bottom three.
McLeish has had to contend with slashing the wage bill, which he described as “astronomical”, and has been deprived of several key players through injury or illness.
The record signing Darren Bent, the defender Richard Dunne and the captain Stilian Petrov have been unavailable for lengthy spells. McLeish always stressed it would be a season of transition after replacing Gérard Houllier last summer, but it was still a surprise that Villa only made sure of survival last weekend. Their tally of 38 points in finishing 16th is actually one less than when McLeish was relegated with Birmingham City last campaign.
Villa have also encountered the worst season in their history in terms of their home record in registering just four wins.
McLeish insisted after the 2-0 defeat at Carrow Road he was still the right man for the job and was aiming to rebuild the side. However Lerner must now start to search for a fourth manager in less than two years following the departures of Martin O’Neill in the summer of 2010 and Houllier’s exit through ill health last year. (Guardian)
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