Alex McLeish asks Aston Villa fans to give him chance

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The Independent Football

New Aston Villa manager Alex McLeish hopes fans upset at his move from Birmingham will keep their emotions in check as he prepares for "one of the biggest challenges of my life".

McLeish accepts his switch from Blues to Villa Park would stir passions amongst both sets of supporters and that "maybe some people would like to give me a punch".

But he insists he never had any second thoughts about joining Villa from their local rivals after signing a three-year contract.

McLeish said: "You can understand the emotions and passions of football fans as long as it doesn't go to the extreme.

"When I was in charge of Rangers, I didn't really feel I was in any danger at all.

"Will I take more security precautions? I haven't really thought about that side of it.

"Maybe some people would like to give me a punch or something like that!

"Moving across the city has stirred some emotions, but it's a fantastic challenge for me - and one I couldn't think twice about."

McLeish admits he has developed a thick skin after being in charge of Rangers and the pressures that come with the Old Firm battles in Glasgow.

He said: "It's part of your mental toughness when you grow up as a kid, then as a professional and winning trophies as a player and getting international caps.

"You kind of get stronger in the mind. It doesn't make you immune and it's not water off a duck's back. It's still difficult, but I've experienced it.

"This has got to be one of the biggest challenges of my life and I want to test myself as a human being and as a football manager. It is the biggest challenge of my career."

Ashley Young's move to Manchester United is expected to be completed in the next few days but McLeish is hoping he can retain Stewart Downing who is stalling over signing a new contract.

He said: "Stewart is a top player. He has got a couple of years left on his contract and it is very important that we hold on to Stewart.

"It seems that Ashley is going to leave but I want Stewart to stay.

"I saw his statement (about not signing a new contract). I'll have a go at talking to Stewart and see what happens."

McLeish will be given money to strengthen with a goalkeeper one of his main priorities after the departure of Brad Friedel to Tottenham and he has been linked to Rangers keeper Allan McGregor.

He said: "We do need a goalkeeper and there's a number of names I've got in mind. Alan is a good keeper."