Aston Villa make Norwich manager Paul Lambert their top target

Norwich manager in line for Midlands move after McLeish's unpopular 11-month reign is brought to an end

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The Independent Football

Aston Villa will move for Paul Lambert to become their new manager after sacking 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 with Aston Villa's chief executive, Paul Faulkner, at Bodymoor Heath training ground yesterday morning, where he was told that his controversial 11-month reign was over.

Sections of the club's supporters never took to the appointment after McLeish quit city 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 his 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 recorded by an Aston Villa side since the 1890-91 campaign, when there were just 12 teams in England's 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. Our focus now will be driven by these imperatives and we will update when appropriate."

That Aston Villa are now searching for their fourth manager in less than two years is telling. In June last year they were turned down by Roberto Martinez, who elected to remain with Wigan Athletic.

As a result, Villa were forced to look elsewhere and decided the risk of giving the job to McLeish was worth it. This time they are expected to fight harder to land their number one choice.

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 up with a second successive promotion in the following campaign.

This season has similarly been a success story, with Norwich's Premier League position never in doubt, despite the fact they did not spend massively in the transfer market. Lambert has a win ratio of almost 50 per cent since he took over at the club nearly three years ago. Villa have been managed by Martin O'Neill, Gérard Houllier and McLeish in that period and there is clearly a desire for stability and progress following McLeish's sacking.

Villa goalkeeper Shay Given, who was signed by McLeish last summer when he moved from Manchester City, tweeted: "Sorry to see McLeish go as he is a good man but the fans wishes have been granted so we need to respect them as they are the soul of the club."

McLeish's CV

Rangers (2001-06)

After spells as Motherwell and Hibernian manager, wins seven trophies at Ibrox.

 

Scotland (2007)

In charge for just 10 games that include a memorable 1-0 victory over France in Paris, but fails to qualify for Euro 2008.

 

Birmingham City (2007-11)

Relegated in 2008; wins Carling Cup but goes down again in 2011.

 

Aston Villa (2011-12)

Ends season with the club's worst ever Premier League points total.

Runners and riders

Roberto Martinez

Wanted by Villa last year, and has enhanced his reputation this season by securing survival for Wigan once again.(Odds: 6-4)

Paul Lambert

The Norwich City manager could be tempted by a move to a bigger club. (7-4)

Rafael Benitez

Could return to management after a spell at Internazionale. (10-1)

Gus Poyet

The Brighton manager has spoken of his desire to manage in the Premier League. (12-1)

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