Birmingham step up manager hunt

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The Independent Football

Birmingham are stepping up their attempts to appoint a quickfire replacement for Alex McLeish, who will be unveiled as Aston Villa's new manager today.

Former Newcastle boss Chris Hughton and ex-West Brom head coach Roberto Di Matteo have been interviewed by Blues chairman Peter Pannu, Press Association Sport understands.

Hughton and Di Matteo both left their previous posts midway through last season and are keen to return to football.

Gianfranco Zola, the former West Ham boss, is also among the candidates on City's short list.

Pannu is a key figure in deciding who will step into McLeish's shoes after the Scot angered sections of Blues and Villa fans by resigning last weekend following three and a half years at St. Andrew's.

But Hong Kong-based club owner Carson Yeung will have the final say on McLeish's successor.

McLeish has yet to confirm which of his backroom staff at St. Andrew's, in first team coaches Peter Grant and Andy Watson plus goalkeeping coach Dave Watson, will join him at Villa.

First team coach Gordon Cowans, a European Cup winner with the club in 1982, is remaining at Villa but there is a question mark over the future of assistant-manager Gary McAllister.

He was brought to the club by previous Villa boss Gerard Houllier.