Aston Villa seek manager with ‘Premier League experience’

By Ralph Ellis
martin o'neill
Martin O'Neill - quit Villa job (Photo: Dagur Brynjólfsson)

martin o'neill

The next manager of Aston Villa, according to the club’s statement on Sunday, must have “experience of managing in the Premier League”.

After Sunday’s 1-0 win over Everton, caretaker boss Kevin MacDonald explained that he was going to make a decision on Monday over whether he wanted to be a candidate. Villa’s players certainly showed they wanted him, defending heroically through a second half battering as they clung on to Luke Young’s first half goal.

But does the club’s position mean their efforts were in vain? MacDonald remains the favourite for the job, but does three games count as experience? If not, then even if he decides he is ready to step up to the plate he has got no chance.

It is a peculiar stance, anyway. Carlo Ancelotti had no experience of managing in the Premier League when he turned up at Stamford Bridge at the start of last season. A League and FA Cup double later, he will spend the international break top of the table with the division’s only 100 per cent record, and his team favourites to retain their title.

Tony Pulis, whose Stoke side were beaten 2-0 at Stamford Bridge, had not managed in the top flight either before winning promotion and he has not done so badly in two seasons, has he?

In fact, only eight of the current top bosses had “experience of managing in the Premier League” before they began their current jobs. Sir Alex Ferguson had only worked in Scotland before Manchester United took him to Old Trafford. If they had applied the Villa rule then the greatest managerial career in modern sport might never have happened.

Fergie is still on top of his game all these years later, as demonstrated when Wayne Rooney ended his goal drought and United strolled to a 3-0 win over West Ham. Top flight experience does not seem to be doing Avram Grant too much good, does it?

Arsene Wenger was memorably dismissed as “Arsene who?” by one newspaper when he took the job at Highbury back in September 1996. It is just as well the Gunners board had a wider view of the game than Randy Lerner. A 2-1 win at Blackburn where Sam Allardyce worked for both Bolton and Newcastle before taking over underlined that the Gunners deserve to be third favourites for Wenger’s fourth title.

Roberto Mancini did not have experience of managing in England, of course, before he was handed the job of moulding Manchester City’s £200m team together. Does a 1-0 defeat at Sunderland mean he is not up to it? It was hardly the boss’s fault that Carlos Tevez missed one of the easiest chances you will ever see.

Liverpool’s Roy Hodgson did tick the “experienced” box when he went to Anfield this summer, which no doubt helped him persuade Fernando Torres to stay. The Spanish striker got the only goal in a 1-0 win over West Brom, whose boss Roberto Di Matteo is new to the top flight.

Then there is the wonderful Ian Holloway, getting his first taste of the top the hard way, but making it four points from three games after a 2-2 draw with Fulham in Blackpool’s first home game. Alex McLeish had also not managed in England before he started work at Birmingham, but a 2-2 draw at Bolton keeps his team undefeated.

Chris Hughton is a good example for MacDonald. He had been a number two for years before he was asked to step up at Newcastle. The signs of Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Wolves were that he has adjusted perfectly well.

There are few more experienced than Harry Redknapp, but he still could not stop Tottenham throwing away points as they lost 1-0 at home to Wigan (managed by Roberto Martinez, who wouldn’t have got his job year ago under the Villa principle).

The bottom line is that Villa owner Randy Lerner’s stance makes Alan Curbishley and Gareth Southgate strong contenders if MacDonald doesn’t get the chance. Would either be better qualified than the likes of Jurgen Klinsmann or Ronald Koeman? Answers on a postcard addressed to Villa Park.

Reproduced with permission from © The Sporting Exchange Limited


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