February 1, 2013 by Made In Brum
As we play Nottingham Forest on Saturday, for the eagerly awaited return of Mr McLeish, I’d like to talk a little bit about the circumstances of his departure for our arch enemies Aston Villa. I can completely understand why he’s hated for doing so, and as a biased Blues fan I loved watching Villa struggling near the bottom for a season, thankfully Paul Lambert has continued his good work.
However – and I’m prepared to come under some criticism from fellow Blues fans for writing this – I’d like to question: from an entirely neutral viewpoint, did McLeish do the right thing in moving to Villa at the time?
Of course I was horrified when I found out he’d left. He’d already signed 4 players for us that summer, including Chris Burke and Marlon King, so he’d very much prepared us for an attempt at a promotion push in the Championship.
Then Villa came calling for him as Gerard Houllier had been taken ill, and they’d decided not to stick with Gary McAllister, who was made interim manager towards the end of that season. Now, if I was in those circumstances, I would definitely have rejected the offer to go to Villa.
Firstly, having won the Carling Cup with Blues, I’d want to, in a sense re-emphasize the glory of doing so by getting the club back into the Premiership and establishing us there. Although it was a day I’ll never forget, relegation certainly sobered the experience of winning the cup and I’d want to put that right.
Also, the Villa fans didn’t want him, which you can understand. It’s a very strange decision from the board to go all out for a manager who has recently relegated their rivals by playing defensive, it has to be said: boring football. If they could have persuaded Roberto Martinez to come, that would have been a much better choice, and would have got more out of their talented attacking players like Bent, Agbonlahor and N’Zogbia.
However, it was hardly McLeish’s fault that Villa came in for him. He must have known the perilous financial situation Blues were in under Carson Yeung. So, from his point of view, the choice was: Would you rather manage a club with no money, a questionable owner in charge, having to sell it’s best players and potentially facing a decline in English football. Alternatively, would you rather manage a club that finished 9th in the Premiership last season, and one that can pay you a lot more money?
If Aston Villa weren’t our arch-rivals, it would have been a complete no-brainer. I’m not saying here that the fact that Villa were our rivals shouldn’t have been a factor at all in his decision, but if he was able to put that aside in his mind and value ambition over loyalty, then I can begin to understand why that was the decision he made.
From his point of view, all he needed was a few good results at the start of his career at Villa and all of their fans would have been swayed. He ended up completely failing with them and bored Villa fans to tears, which no-one will be happier than me about – whilst we got to watch some fantastic entertaining football in Europe for a year under Hughton – and I sincerely hope his career crashes and burns at Nottingham Forest.
I think he’s a boring, negative manager and to leave your club for your local rivals is an immoral decision. However, you have to look at football as a whole and accept that morality has very little place in it. If you kid yourself that most players/managers are going to be loyal to the club they love when a better offer comes in, football will invariably disappoint you.
By Gabriel Sutton (_@thescore)