“Two of the traits we believe are of crucial importance are that candidates have experience of managing in the Premier League and a strategy for building on the existing strengths in our current squad.”
With the promise of the installation of a permanent manager before the next league game, Villa Chief Executive Paul Faulkner fuelled the fire of anticipation ahead of the interview selection process.
Of course, with this statement, the club have not categorically confirmed that they will appoint someone who has previously managed in the English Premier League, but they have given us some, if very miniscule, indication at least of the type of personnel they are looking to attract.
And with the next league fixture being held at the Britannia Stadium, MON’s successor surely has a tough short term task on his hands – but more importantly, he will arrive with the expectation of kickstarting a stalled vehicle and indeed building on the existing strengths in our current squad.
So as the race for the hot seat rises in temperature, I thought I’d take a look at the updated list of potential candidates burdened with the seemingly thankless job of awakening the sleeping giant.
Sven Goran Eriksson 7/2
Strangely, I think Sven’s personal life precedes him. Instantly, when people hear his name, they laugh or sigh and construe him as some sort of performing jester – in the wrong profession.
But as a football manager, I have to admit that the Swede has led an unblemished career and I would find it difficult to hold any objections to his appointment as next Villa manager.
Sven was fast-tracked into national acclaim after a superb one-season-wonder job with Degerfors as a young manager; and unbelievably, right up until his engagement with the English national team, Eriksson only failed to deliver silverware with just one club in those 23 years. His success as a club manager is indisputable. Even very recently, with Man Shitty, the 62 year old sex god mentored the Sky Blues’ best season for decades – dragging an underperforming club, devoid of a trophy in 30 years, into the Premier League top 10, winning two Manchester derbies (first time since 69-70) in the process before being bizarrely axed despite the infamous ‘Save Our Sven’ campaign.
I never understood why he wasn’t appreciated throughout his England tenure either. Imagine the shame of 3 consecutive tournament Quarter Finals (only Brazil matched this), or the embarrassment of being dumped out by Brazil (eventual champions), Portugal (the host country after a penalty shootout after that Urs Meier incident), and another penalty shootout defeat by Portugal in 2006 (with 10 men). In fact, England achieved their highest FIFA ranking of 4th in the world under the guidance of their lambasted manager – and after topping each of his qualifying groups, Eriksson was then succeeded by Steve McClaren who failed to even reach a major tournament.
Surprisingly, the only actual failure of Sven’s career came throughout his time at Mexico. Not bad for 33 years in football management eh? Yes, he had the benefit of a fantastically generous financial backing at Lazio, but after providing a return of 7 trophies in just 4 seasons, Eriksson proved to be sure-fire value for money.
Even his other apparent flops in the transfer market have proved a lot of people wrong. I’m probably Corluka’s biggest critic, but he is the one now starting for a Champions League outfit every week at Spurs. And I’ll put my hands up and admit that I hadn’t heard of Geovanni or Martin Petrov – but both turned out to be real gems. And of course, Elano “The Piledriver” won a place in a Brazilian first XI after being let loose by Eriksson. As a Premier League manager in the transfer market, I believe that Rolando Bianchi was Sven’s only dud (and an expensive mistake at that).
So his proven competencies within the field of management are indisputable and Sven would not only be a very safe option, but an exciting one at that. Having passed his only Premier League test to date, and achieving status as one of England’s best manager’s in a long, long while, Eriksson could be the perfect choice to take charge of a team full of Britons at Bodymoor Heath.
Kevin MacDonald 4/1
Tough one. Yes, he masterminded 9 conceded goals in 2 games and we foolishly failed to close out the game against Rapid Vienna, but Kevin currently has us in Champions League contention.
Of course, I’m speaking extremely prematurely and the Everton performance wasn’t heartening at all – but we won. Last season, we bowed out of Europe at the same stage, to the same team, and we leaked 7 goals at Stamford Bridge. The players’ leader, Petrov, has already backed the Scot to be given the permanent position and it would provide a simple and smooth transition from the Martin O’Neill era.
I like MacDonald’s calm and seemingly calculated approach before, during and after games, and after 15 years of service, 3 successive Reserve titles, a victory against top 8 rivals, and backing and response from the players, maybe Kevin deserves another stint to show us what he can do.
And hey, if it doesn’t work, it’s not as if that would deter Sven from throwing his hat back in the ring should the opportunity arise in the future.
Gerard Houllier 5/1
Again, another name which shouldn’t be taken lightly. At the age of just 38, he delivered the French league title to PSG before returning to Lyon to bring back-to-back doubles in his latest managerial stint.
On top of this, the former French coach not only overseen the regeneration of Liverpool’s training facilities, but he was responsible for bringing the club out of relative obscurity and into the 21st century in a proud tradition after reclaiming their first European trophy for 17 years and ensuring that, along with his 50% win ratio, he left a Champions League legacy (3 qualifications) which eventually grew habitual for the Reds.
However, only averaging 65 points throughout his time at Liverpool (one more than Villa’s season last year), it is hard to judge how well Houllier would do with a lesser outfit. But, taking a Liverpool team (who had won just a mere League Cup in the 6 year built up to his time in charge) to 2nd place with 80 points, Gerard proved that he knows how to acquire points in the Premier League.
I’d be more interested than excited to see the appointment of Houllier.
Alan Curbishley 8/1
I’m a fan of Alan, however I know some will say that his consideration would be a question of ambition. Unquestionably a safe option, ‘Curbs’ is still to bring success to a Premier League side and I have a feeling that his appointment would be met with unenthused groans by hardcore Villains.
But I look at it differently.
After overseeing 2 promotions and top flight consolidation with Charlton Athletic, Curbishley remarkably (and famously) saved newly promoted West Ham’s season from certain relegation with just 5 months to work with – and later turning them into a top ten outfit the year after.
Although it might not get me jumping from my seat, I would support the acquisition of Curbs, the former Villain, and would remember that everyone deserves their chance once they’ve earned it.
If football was so elitist and managers could not climb available ladders of opportunity, we would not currently be treated by the work of David Moyes, the beauty of Wenger football – and dare I say it, we would have no Alex Ferguson.
Ronald Koeman 10/1
Hard to argue with an overall managerial win percentage of almost 62% isn’t it (even if the majority of his career has been spent in Holland)?
Ronald is a proven winner and led an extremely limited Vitesse outfit to a momentous European spot with a severely restricted financial backing in his first job as manager.
Success at every club he has taken, Koeman even delivered the Copa del Rey for Valencia (their first in 9 years) in the midst of an otherwise poor season.
Unfamiliar with his strategic approach, I’m impressed with his acclaims to date and would view the capture of the young manager as an exciting step for our club.
Martin Jol 16/1
Spurs treated him like dirt and after two consecutive top 5 finishes, the North London contingent were the only losers from his sacking after they wound up with Juande Ramos.
The Dutch man is still a relatively untravelled coach but his early years in the Netherlands saw him deliver a KNVB Cup in his first season as a football boss, before later winning 2 different Manager of the Year awards in 2 different seasons.
Spent big bucks on Darren Bent who let him down – and I am a big Bent critic, but boy he has proven that he will get goals and thus, has in some way justified Jol’s evaluation of him. I also wouldn’t just brandish Danny Murphy a write off. For £2m, Martin was investing in valuable experience for his squad and after leading Fulham to a Europa League Final, the Liverpudlian is still doing it.
What excites me most about Jol is not that he has followed on his Tottenham career with quick success at Hamburger and Ajax. No, it’s that he brought the likes of Dimitar Berbatov, Aaron Lennon and Gareth Bale to the Premier League for under £17m. How much would those 3 cost today? (Berbatov already made the club over a £20m profit)
After Eriksson, the 54 year old Dutch man would certainly be my choice to fill the void left by O’Neill. However, I fear he could remain committed to Ajax – but will surely feel that he has some unfinished business with the Premier League.
Phil Brown 20/1
Unfortunately, the name of David Moyes doesn’t even appear on the William Hill website, but by golly, wouldn’t that be nice. I thought he could be lured by the temptation of improved financial backing at our club (which appears to have, at least temporarily, evaporated), and the realisation that he has taken Everton as far as he could. But the jump to Aston Villa will probably prove an all-too-sidewards step at this stage for the Scottish man, who has built his own squad with The Toffees and is probably destined for greater things (when another infamous Scot retires).
For me, we are blessed with a nice choice of potential applicants, with a blending variety. We could afford to be conservative, play it safe, take a risk or go for gold – it’s up to the board now. But the future doesn’t seem as bleak as a lot of people might think and even some of the disapproved names have undoubted talent which Villains should open their minds to.
Either way, we can look forward to the optimism and hope of a new regime in the near future. And judging by the criteria, or hints, set by Paul Faulkner, the above names should be topping the list – and I am one fan who is happy to see some of those managers in the running.