The SIX runners and riders to replace O’Neill at Aston Villa

Following the shock departure of Ulsterman Martin O’Neill from Aston Villa last week, the club’s chairman Randy Lerner is now actively looking to appoint a new manager at Villa Park. Below Football FanCast looks over the runners and riders in the frame for the job.

25/1- Slaven Bilic, Croatia National Team Coach

West Ham and Everton’s former defender Slaven Bilic has been linked with a plethora of Premier League jobs since masterminding home and away victories over England as the coach of Croatia during the Euro 2008 qualifiers. Bilic’s charm and charisma has seen him drawing comparisons to former Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho and the young manager would relish the challenge of managing in the enthralling Premier League environment.

Bilic’s appointment would be a favourable one amongst Villa supporters despite his lack of experience outside the international arena. However the 41-year-old may feel obliged to see out his country’s Euro 2012 qualifying campaign after failing to guide Croatia to the 2010 World Cup. Bilic previously rejected the chance to take up the manager’s position at former club West Ham earlier this year and therefore is unlikely to accept an offer from Villa.

7/2- Sven Goran Eriksson, Unemployed

Former England manager Sven Goran Eriksson is reportedly desperate to return to the Premier League and the Villa job will certainly interest the Swede. Eriksson is the new Terry Venables, being linked with every vacant managerial position that becomes available, most notably with both Liverpool and Fulham over the summer. His availability makes him an appealing candidate for the Midlands club.

While Eriksson is certainly a talented manager, after successful trophy laden spells in Sweden, Italy and Portugal, his reputation in England remains tarnished. The 62-year-old has been hopping from one club to the next since leaving his England post in 2006, pocketing massive pay cheques along the way. The former Manchester City boss’ perceived lack of loyalty remains a disadvantage, as does his much-criticised relaxed style of man management.

On the plus side Eriksson has bags of experience and has a point to prove after previously being booted out of Eastlands by former chairman Thaksin Shinawatra. Despite achieving the joint highest points total in the club’s history and becoming the first manager since 1969-70 to win both derby games against Manchester United in one season, Eriksson was given his marching orders in 2008. Despite his impressive record, Villa fans would treat the potential appointment of Sven with caution.

7/2- Bob Bradley, USA National Team Coach

USA coach Bob Bradley was the early frontrunner and bookmakers’ favourite to replace Martin O’Neill after guiding his country to the second round of the World Cup in South Africa earlier this summer. Owner Lerner is reportedly keen to install his compatriot as the club’s new manager, although reports suggesting Bradley had left his USA post on Friday proved to be unfounded.

Bradley’s contract with the USA runs out at the end of this year and the Americans are keen to extend his deal. However Bradley has his heart set on coaching abroad, saying:

“ I have said over and over that I am always excited about new and different challenges,” said Bradley.

“Certainly coaching in Europe at some point is something that I would love to do.”

The American’s lack of experience managing in Europe and his commitments with the USA count against him however and could ultimately cost him a shot at the Villa job.

Continued on Page TWO

6/4- Kevin McDonald, Caretaker Manager

Liverpool Double winner Kevin McDonald has emerged as a shock contender for the Villa job after stepping in to take charge of The Villains impressive opening day 3-0 victory over West Ham. The Scotsman has been part of the club’s coaching staff since 2003 and also had a spell as Steve Staunton’s assistant with the Republic of Ireland.

McDonald certainly has the backing of the club’s players, with captain Stilian Petrov hoping Villa’s performances in the coming weeks can persuade owner Lerner to offer him the job:

“He has been at the club a long time and has done a great job with the youth and has the opportunity to do it now.

“He showed with the determination, how he prepared us and the way he wants us to play that he wants to hold on to that job and I hope we can help him take that job.”

McDonald may not be the blockbuster name Villa fans are hoping for but his knowledge and experience of the club would be vital following the shock timing of O’Neill’s departure.

2/1- Martin Jol, Ajax

54-year-old Martin Jol is the club’s No.1 reported target despite the Dutchman knocking back the advances of Fulham earlier this summer. Jol is prepared to leave the Amsterdam Arena should the right offer come along and Villa’s may be tempting.

Jol’s reputation remains high in England after guiding Tottenham to two successive fifth placed finishes before he was harshly sacked at the end of the 2006-07 season. Jol’s future in Holland reportedly rests on the club overcoming Dynamo Kiev in the next fortnight to reach the Champions League. A failure to do so could see Jol quit the club and return to the Premier League as the new manager of Aston Villa.

100/1- Diego Maradona anyone?

No it’s not April Fools’ Day. Amazingly former Argentina manager Diego Maradona has thrown is name into the hat for the vacant post at Villa after declaring his love for the English countryside. El Diego’s spokesman Walter Soriano explained:

“If the owner Randy Lerner wants to make him a serious offer, I’m sure he’d get a very positive response.”

The club’s players would love to have Maradona as their new coach if reports regarding the Argentine legend’s training methods are correct. Maradona prefers to have a light afternoon training session as he rarely gets up before mid-day. Maradona at Villa? Crazier things have happened.

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