Alex McLeish’s proposed move from Birmingham City to Aston Villa will surely go down as one of the most unpopular in the history of British football, should it go ahead.
Anger at the thought of a former Blue at the helm has worked Aston Villa fans into a frenzied state of panic, with internet campaigns and Facebook pages being created in protest, while acting Birmingham City chairman Peter Pannu is threatening legal action against McLeish after rejecting his resignation at the weekend.
Randy Lerner’s legal team have already made enquiries about the Scot’s availability but have been told it will cost up to £5.4m in compensation should a deal be agreed, according to BBC 5 Live.
That fee will drop to £3m should McLeish move after July 1, but with Villa desperate to appoint a manager sooner rather than later in order to prepare for the new season, fans will be anxious for the managerial slot to be filled.
Not that they want McLeish for the job, mind.
Back at his former club, Pannu is furious that McLeish has walked out after financially and professionally backing the man that guided the club to relegation on the final day of the Premier League season.
His counterpart, Randy Lerner, is a popular figure at Villa Park but questions were raised after he appointed Gerard Houllier to replace Martin O’Neill last year and he knows he must make the right appointment this time around.
Houllier was the subject of humiliating abuse from the Holte End – the worst he has experienced in his career, according to the Frenchman – as dismal results and poor performances saw the club go backwards last season.
Lerner knows the pressure is on to hire the right man, but with the fans already out in force making it clear they do not want McLeish – as they had previously done with Steve McLaren recently – the question remains as to whether the US owner continue to listen to those that fill the stadium each week, or will he take a risk and do the unthinkable.
McLeish has had his ups and downs in his managerial career – winning the treble with Rangers; scoring a famous victory over France in Paris as Scotland manager; overseeing two relegations at St Andrews and since winning the Carling Cup this year, the club’s first silverware in almost 50 years, he somehow managed to navigate a fatal path over the disastrous final three months of the season which saw his club slide down the league and, ultimately, all the way down to the Championship.
His appointment would anger and alienate Villa fans and add fuel to the already burning fire that Birmingham City currently have towards their now ex-manager, making it one of the most unpopular moves British football has ever seen.