One of the less offensive jokes about our manager at Villa Park this season asked: What will Alex McLeish do when the fans, press and players turn against him? Play for a draw.
Granted, it wasn't the funniest joke either, but what made it stand out was its depressing realism – Villa fans do depressing well, if not always realism, as the names being bandied around to replace McLeish show. This was a manager who brought on Nathan Baker, a defender, to replace Stephen Warnock, a defender playing in midfield, at Norwich on Sunday to protect a 2-0 deficit. We never liked McLeish, but we liked even less the style of play he forced upon us, and that's largely the point.
While it is true that any former Birmingham City manager's honeymoon period would end the moment he walked out of Randy Lerner's office with a three-year contract (three years!), it is unfair to say McLeish was never given a chance – we did not want him but in the main we respected the board's appointment and did not protest. Why undermine the team when the manager can do it perfectly well himself?
We don't expect Barcelona's football, nor even Swansea's, but had McLeish given us a style that was at least a little easy on the eye he could have survived. We have just been muddling through.
The players, too, have looked out of sorts all season. In McLeish's defence, he has had to slash a sky-high wage bill, but there is no excuse for Gabby Agbonlahor not having scored in the league since Bonfire Night, or Marc Albrighton going backwards since his fireworks of the previous season.
This is a manager whose Birmingham City team's results nosedived after winning the Carling Cup, all the way to relegation – that can only be bad management. And we employed him, presumably because we wouldn't have to pay relocation expenses.
So where do Lerner and Paul Faulkner, the chief executive, turn next? Lerner has credit in the bank: he has spent, and if he wants to rein it in that's his prerogative. Faulkner, a driver of the McLeish deal, has less. Last year's manager chase was an embarrassment as Tom, Dick, Harry, Roberto Martinez and more turned us down. The Wigan manager is in the frame again, but we are not the "big European club" Dave Whelan talks about his protégé going to. Some fans want Brendan Rodgers but he is on to a good thing at Swansea, and the idea that David Moyes will swap one fading old institution for another is silly.
We'd take Paul Lambert, though – a motivator and organiser, shades of Martin O'Neill. Surely he was romanced by our fans serenading him under his Carrow Road window on Sunday?
A name cited by one of our less realistic fans on the forums: our much-loved former defender Martin Laursen, now manager of BK Sollerod Vedbaek in the Danish Second Division East. It's about the standard Villa would have been, had McLeish seen out that three-year contract. Depressingly.Reuse content