When the going gets tough the tough get going – and Alex McLeish has shown he is as hard as nails by turning from a Bluenose to a Villain
It is easy to question the dignity of the way McLeish quit Birmingham and moved across the city to take the vacant manager’s job at bitter rivals Aston Villa.
When McLeish resigned as manager of Birmingham by email, it reminded me of the time Phil Collins famously dumped his second wife by fax.
Not a lot of class in the the way the message was sent. And to make jilted City’s anger worse, confirmation that their man had been courted by the enemy was the ultimate betrayal. It was a storyline that alienated Birmingham and Villa fans in equal measure.
The question now is will McLeish be given the time he needs to turn the hostility around and give this managerial merrygoround an unexpected twist? Whatever the outcome he has already demonstrated a remarkably thick skin.
It is 30 years since Aston Villa were champions of England. And there is little chance of McLeish bringing Villa that kind of glory any time soon. But I’d love to see the new man in the Villa Park hot seat win over the disgruntled natives.
Despite taking Birmingham down twice in four seasons he did taste Carling Cup glory with an historic win over Arsenal that took silverware back to St Andrews. And his previous successes at Rangers are testament to the Scot’s impressive pedigree.
With the right backing from Villa owner Randy Lerner, there is every chance McLeish will be Villa’s most successful manager for many years. But this is McLeish’s biggest test so far.
Meantime, the final word goes to former Villa winger Tony Morley who greeted the news of McLeish’s appointment by declaring: “I admire the man because he’s stuck to his guns. A lesser man would have just walked away and said I can’t handle this.”