VILLA BEGIN SEARCH FOR NEW BOSS
Aston Villa owner Randy Lerner will today launch his search for a fourth manager in less than two years after sacking Alex McLeish 11 months into his reign.
McLeish was axed after Villa came too close for comfort to being relegated from the Barclays Premier League as they stayed up by just two points.
Lerner has criticised the performance levels and results during McLeish's reign and the final points tally of 38 was one less than he achieved when relegated in charge of Birmingham last season.
It was always a calculated gamble to appoint McLeish given his frosty relationship with Villa fans after his spell at St Andrew's - and one that clearly failed.
Lerner said: "We need to be clear and candid with ourselves and with supporters about what we have lacked in recent years.
"Compelling play and results that instil 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."
Villa axed McLeish less than 24 hours after a performance the Scot described as "woeful" in a 2-0 defeat at Norwich whose manager Paul Lambert is expected to be amongst the leading candidates.
Chief executive Paul Faulkner said: "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."
McLeish faced a losing battle to win over the Villa fans but it was a season of gross underachievement which cost him his job.
He always insisted the campaign would be one of transition after being ordered by Lerner to drastically reduce the wage bill.
He lost the services of Ashley Young and Stewart Downing last summer to Manchester United and Liverpool respectively.
In addition the likes of record signing Darren Bent, defender Richard Dunne and skipper Stiliyan Petrov have spent lengthy spells on the sidelines through injury or illness.
But Lerner still did not expect Villa to be so close to the drop which in financial terms would have been calamitous after a loss of more than £50million for the last financial year.
Villa fans insist the "negative football" served up by McLeish - and not his previous connection with Birmingham - was the main reason behind their clamour for him to be sacked.
Jonathan Fear of leading Villa fans' website 'Vital Villa' said: "I think it was inevitable that McLeish would go.
"It is a shame the situation arose. I know they (Lerner and Faulkner) are desperate to get stability into the club but it never was a great fit.
"I think most Villa fans tried their very best to support McLeish once he was appointed. It has really frustrated Villa fans to keep having the Birmingham connection rammed back at us.
"If we had taken from them a really good manager who shot us up the league and won us something, we would all find it quite hilarious.
"But his reputation was of playing negative football. I know he riles against that - but the evidence we've seen this this year was of awful football.
"We expect to see our team go for it. It's not about winning, drawing and losing. It's just seeing a bit of pride and endeavour in the games."
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