Villa make Lambert their top target after sacking McLeish


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The Independent Online

Aston Villa will move for Paul Lambert to become their new manager after the sacking of Alex McLeish yesterday. The Norwich manager has emerged as Villa's first choice to take over following the dismissal of the 53-year-old McLeish.

Aston Villa's chairman and owner, Randy Lerner, explaining the decision, admitted that he had been disappointed with the club's lack of direction in recent years.

"We need to be clear and candid with ourselves and with supporters about what we have lacked in recent years," said Lerner. "Compelling play and results that instill 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."

McLeish met Aston Villa's chief executive, Paul Faulkner, at Bodymoor Heath training ground yesterday morning. He was told that his controversial 11-month reign was over. Sections of the club's supporters never took to the appointment after McLeish left local rivals Birmingham – who he had led to Carling Cup glory and relegation in the same season – to take over at Villa Park.

That undercurrent was a factor throughout the Scot's time in charge, and his win ratio from the 42 games he oversaw – just 21 per cent – added to those criticising the appointment. The seven League victories recorded last season was the lowest by an Aston Villa side since 1890-91, when there were just 12 teams in the top division.

"We'd like to thank Alex for his hard work and efforts throughout this tough season," said Faulkner. "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."

That Aston Villa are now searching for a fourth manager in less than two years is telling. Lambert's record has been phenomenal since he took over at Carrow Road in 2009. He led the club to the League One title in his first season in charge and followed that with a second successive promotion and Premier League survival.