Birmingham to sue if McLeish takes rival job

City plan to demand £5m compensation for manager and threaten to involve Premier League in dispute

Aston Villa and Birmingham City were at loggerheads last night over Alex McLeish after Villa told their city rivals they were entitled to talk to the Scot about their vacant manager's job and Birmingham responded by threatening to take the issue to a Premier League commission.

The Villa hierarchy have told officials at Birmingham that they believed they were free to approach McLeish over the possibility of appointing him because of his resignation on Sunday. In response, City told Villa that they intended to sue for full compensation for the Scot under the terms of the remaining two years of his contract.

The Independent understands that there was a sharp exchange of email correspondence between the two clubs' legal departments yesterday, with Villa claiming that because McLeish had walked away from his job, he was effectively a free agent. Birmingham's acting chairman Peter Pannu responded that he was prepared to take up the issue with the Premier League if Villa were not willing to pay compensation.

Under the terms of his contract, Birmingham are due £5m compensation if McLeish joins another club before 30 June. That figure falls to around £2.5m if he were to leave next month, in the final year of his deal. Privately, City have expressed astonishment that Villa and McLeish were not even prepared to wait 15 days for that drop.

That McLeish has walked out of Birmingham so soon is an indicator of the urgency with which Villa now want to resolve their hapless pursuit of a successor to Gérard Houllier. With Villa getting cold feet over both Mark Hughes and Steve McClaren and then having been rejected by Roberto Martinez, the episode now looks farcical.

A source at Birmingham said that they would not simply roll over and allow McLeish to go to Villa without compensation. "Fighting a big club is not easy but fighting a rival big club is even harder and [Birmingham] will seek further advice and may now decide to present a case to the Premier League. Weaker clubs need protection from the Premier League in scenarios like these, as other smaller clubs can also fall into the same trap."

Birmingham are adamant that they would not have granted McLeish permission to speak to Villa had he asked. Having bought Marlon King, Chris Burke, Danny Koevermans and Morgaro Gomis and disposed of 15 further squad players, City claim that they were building for next season in the Championship with McLeish as manager. It is also impossible for Birmingham to appoint a successor until the compensation issue is resolved.

It leaves both Birmingham clubs without managers and in limbo. Should Villa decide to appoint McLeish then they can expect a long and public battle with their neighbours over compensation. Given how quickly Villa have changed their minds over previous candidates, there may be a concern on McLeish's part that the club could move on from him.

Pannu said yesterday that McLeish had not been given permission to negotiate with Villa. "He is still our contracted staff and Birmingham City FC does not grant him any right to speak to any outsiders until the matter is resolved. It's about time discipline is instilled into this game and I am not a person who gets pushed about."

Despite the impasse, the bookmakers last night had installed the Portsmouth manager, Steve Cotterill, as the favourite to succeed McLeish at Birmingham. Other candidates include the former Nottingham Forest manager Billy Davies, sacked over the weekend, as well as Chris Hughton and Alan Curbishley.

The former Villa manager Graham Taylor said that the club had mishandled the appointment of a successor to Houllier, despite knowing for some time it would be unlikely the Frenchman would come back following heart problems in April. Taylor said: "It just doesn't appear to have been thought through, and for the first time the ownership of the club is coming under severe criticism.

"When Gérard became ill it must have occurred to them that he may not come back, even if the signs were that he may have returned. This is not being disrespectful to Gérard in any way, but once he became unwell then you have to immediately start exploring what you might do if he does not come back.

"It doesn't appear to me and many others that this has been done. They seem to be going from name to name. Villa don't seem to have grasped that nettle at all. It is disappointing.

"I still live in the area and have a special feeling for them, as you always do about clubs you have managed, but I have been surprised and disappointed at their handling of this."

News
The surrealist comedian at the Q Awards in 2010
people
Life and Style
Six of the 76 Goats' cheese samples contained a significant amount of sheep's cheese
food + drink
News
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to US
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Julianne Moore and Ellen Page are starring together in civil rights drama Freeheld
film
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidates on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
Voices
New look: Zellweger at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
voicesRenée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity, says Amanda Hess
Arts and Entertainment
film

Marvel has released the first teaser trailer a week early after it leaked online

Extras
indybest
Life and Style
CHARGE BOOSTER: Aeroplane mode doesn't sound very exciting, but it can be a (phone) hacker's friend. Turning on the option while charging your mobile will increase the speed at which your phone battery charges
techNew book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone
Sport
Christiano Ronaldo enjoys his opening goal
champions leagueLiverpool 0 Real Madrid 3: Ronaldo and Benzema run Reds ragged to avenge thrashing from their last visit to Anfield
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
art
News
Call me Superman: one of many unusual names chosen by Chinese students
newsChinese state TV offers advice for citizens picking a Western moniker
News
Wilko Johnson is currently on his farewell tour
people
News
Let’s pretend: KidZania in Tokyo
educationKidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day
News
i100
Voices
'Irritatingly Disneyfied': fashion vlogger Zoella
voicesVicky Chandler: Zoella shows us that feminism can come in all forms
Life and Style
health
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?