McLeish hopes to win over Villa fans

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The Independent Football

Alex McLeish insists his previous experiences when in charge of Rangers means he is thick-skinned enough to cope with the switch from Birmingham to Aston Villa.

McLeish's move has made him public enemy number one with some sections of Blues and Villa fans after his move across the city on a three-year contract.

There has even been speculation that McLeish's own safety could be at risk from some supporters.

But McLeish coped with the intense Rangers-Celtic rivalry in Glasgow and believes that will stand him in good stead for what lies ahead.

He said: "I've got to have thick skin. I managed Rangers. I got it in the neck from those fans up there at times and I came through that and I'll come through this.

"That experience doesn't make me absolutely totally used to it. No one can ever get used to it.

"But I am thick-skinned, I've had experience of it and that should stand me in good stead.

"I won't say it won't ever happen again but I've got to show the fans I can turn it around and hopefully the fans chanting against me coming here, will be chanting my name."

McLeish, who discussed the move "at length" with his family, admits he was "a little surprised" by the hostility but hopes it will not get out of hand.

He said: "I'm sure a few people wanted to punch me! At the same time, I can understand the passions and emotions of football.

"As long as it doesn't get out of control, then I can understand people's feelings.

"Have the passion but don't let it don't to extremes."

McLeish added: "Am I fazed by it? No. Have I had it before? Yes.

"Have I come out of it stronger? Yes, so I really look forward to the challenge of managing this fantastic football club."

McLeish is determined to win over the Villa fans but knows there will be more pressure on him to achieve positive results because of the nature of his move.

He said: "Maybe there is a bit more pressure on me from that point of view to get results.

"But, at the same time, it is the remit of every manager, in any job, about getting a good start, a fast start, and Martin Jol will be saying the same thing at Fulham.

"The message to the fans is let me prove myself and I'll win you over.

"It's not a case of proving them wrong because I want to go forward with the Villa fans.

"I want to prove to them that I am the man for this job."

McLeish would also have no qualms about returning to St. Andrew's to try to sign players if he thought they would enhance Villa.

He has already been linked with moves for keeper Ben Foster, defenders Roger Johnson and Scott Dann plus midfielder Barry Ferguson.

McLeish said: "I know there are many great Blues players there but the policy I've always maintained at any club I've ever been at is never to talk about any other club's players.

"I'm getting bombarded over the last couple of days with text messages from agents and clubs asking me about this player and that player, and would I want them.

"We are just going to assess things at the moment, look at the squad.

"If a Blues player was the right fit, I don't think it would put me off. If I thought a player could improve Aston Villa then why not?"

With Ashley Young set to join Manchester United, McLeish wants to keep hold of Stewart Downing who is being linked with a move to Liverpool.

He said: "I don't know if the Young deal is a fait accompli but I'll certainly be looking to try and keep Stewart (Downing)."

McLeish confirmed that Villa assistant manager Gary McAllister was leaving the club but Gordon Cowans was remaining as one of his first team coaches.