Highly rated MacDonald thrust into Villa spotlight

Up till now Kevin MacDonald has been content working away behind the scenes at Aston Villa, responsible for the early tutelage of fledgling talents such as Gabriel Agbonlahor, Nathan Delfouneso and Marc Albrighton. During his successful period working as reserve-team manager at the club he has generated a reputation as a talented and forward-thinking coach by leading his side to three successive Premier League reserve finals.

Now, instead of maintaining his low profile with Villa's second-string and promising youngsters, MacDonald will be looking to the familiar faces of Agbonlahor and Delfouneso in the first-team dressing room at Villa Park when he takes charge for the opening Premier League fixture of the season against West Ham United on Saturday.

To those outside the club, MacDonald will be best remembered for his playing days at Liverpool in the 1980s. The combative midfielder moved to Anfield in November 1984 for £400,000 from Leicester City, who had spotted him playing for Caledonian in the Highland League. He never quite established himself as a first-team regular but played a part in Liverpool winning the Double in 1986 under Kenny Dalglish and was part of the starting XI for the 3-1 win over Everton in the FA Cup final. A broken leg later that year left him on the sidelines and he was offloaded to Coventry City in 1989.

This is not the first time he has been in caretaker charge of a club, as he performed a similar task at Leicester when Brian Little left in November 1994, ironically to go to Aston Villa. MacDonald has also worked as an assistant to former his Liverpool team-mate Steve Staunton during his time as Republic of Ireland manager between 2006 and 2007.

However, this experience is unlikely to be a great preparation for being asked at short notice to prepare a side for the start of a Premier League campaign. MacDonald will have to pick up the pieces from Martin O'Neill's shock departure on Monday and any hopes of putting his own stamp on the side will have been hit by the number of absent players as a result of the midweek internationals.

In the opposing dugout on Saturday will be Avram Grant, who had his own share of managerial travails last season at Portsmouth, and MacDonald could soon be yearning for the anonymity of the Bodymoor Heath training ground.

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