Not even 24 hours had passed since the climax of the 20th Premier League season, Manchester City hadn’t even begun their victory parade and already we saw the first managerial casualty of the close season – with Alex McLeish given the heave ho after just one season at the helm of Aston Villa, a week after saying he expected to be in charge at Villa Park next season.
It has been another season of rapid decline for Aston Villa something which began when Martin O’Neill resigned days before the 2010/11 season. Villa finished this season narrowly above the drop zone on 38 points, two more than relegated Bolton and one point less than the relegated Birmingham side McLeish was in charge of twelve months ago. Officially, this season was Villa’s worst season at home in their 124-league history, with just four victories out of 19. Only one of those home wins came in 2012.
Appointing McLeish was a wrong move from the off (not just because of his connection with Birmingham) the stats are pretty damning too, though – 38 points from 38 games in the Premier League, just 37 goals scored in those 38 games. You can even draw a comparison with his Birmingham side that got relegated last season of which there are many similarities – they also scored 37 goals in 38 games, but gained one point more (39) in 38 games. His record in the Premier League over the past two seasons reads P76 W15 D32 L29 that equates to a win ratio of just 19.7%.
The Scot is the classic example of a manager who sets up his team not to get beaten. And, once again, the numbers don’t lie: Villa have had the highest number of draws in the Premier League this season (17), the next highest was Sunderland and Stoke (12). Two scorelines that have been most common to Villa fans this season have been 0-0 (7) and 1-1 (7).
McLeish’s unpopularity among the fans was palpable. “Fuck off McLeish, the Villa is ours” and “Sack McLeish, my lord” are some of the songs and chants that have been sung by Aston Villa fans this season. An advert was even placed in the local paper urging McLeish to go. McLeish claimed last week not to have heard the supporters’ chants calling for him to go but the Scot added: “Listen, I’ve taken a lot of weight on my shoulders this season and I was happy to take the pressure off of the players. I’m not doing that again next season. They’d better get their finger out.” Famous last words…
Off the top of your head, you would struggle to suggest the name of a player who has excelled under McLeish this season. Granted, he has had to deal with injuries to key players (what manager hasn’t?) and the loss of Stewart Downing and Ashley Young on the wings. While Villa has a very promising youth set-up couple with players coming through from the academy – their reserve side has been Southern Champions four out of the last five seasons – McLeish failed to find the balance of youth and experience or the balance between defence and attack, for that matter.
The statement issued by Aston Villa today was pretty damning of the season under McLeish: “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.”
With McLeish gone and the whole summer ahead, the search begins in earnest for Villa’s fourth manager in less than two years following the departures of Martin O’Neill in the summer of 2010 and Gerard Houllier’s exit through ill health last year.