Villa close on McLeish

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Aston Villa appear to be moving closer to confirming former Birmingham boss Alex McLeish as their new manager.

Villa have not been deterred from pursuing the Scot despite fierce opposition from supporters and a war of words with their cross-city rivals.

McLeish has held constructive talks with the Villa hierarchy and the announcement of what would be a highly controversial appointment is thought imminent.

The 52-year-old only quit St Andrew's on Sunday and Blues accused their neighbours of tapping him up once it became apparent he was then a contender for the Villa Park vacancy.

Birmingham had announced they were standing by their Carling Cup-winning manager after they were relegated from the Barclays Premier League and are now demanding compensation.


McLeish had two years remaining on his contract and City are reported to want a pay-off of £5.4million. Threats to report Villa to the Premier League or to take out an injunction to prevent his appointment by their rivals, however, have failed to materialise.

Meanwhile, Villa fans launched their own campaign to prevent McLeish's appointment, culminating in a protest at Villa Park last night. The depth of ill feeling has not swayed Villa owner Randy Lerner and his board, despite apparently ending their interest in another candidate, Steve McClaren, after supporter disquiet last week.

Rafael Benitez apparently fell out of contention after wanting transfer guarantees while Mark Hughes, made early favourite after quitting Fulham, was never a serious contender.

Villa need McLeish to restore stability after a difficult year which began with the sudden resignation of Martin O'Neill five days before the start of last season.

His replacement Gerard Houllier was involved in a relegation battle before leaving the club after a health scare. McLeish took over at Birmingham in 2007 after previous spells in charge of Motherwell, Hibernian, Rangers and Scotland.

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