Aston Villa: Worst ever side to avoid relegation

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After a season of overwhelming underachievement at Villa Park, Alex McLeish is on borrowed time with Aston Villa.

The only surprise for me is that the former Birmingham City manager has been afforded this long in a job he was destined to fail. It won't be long before he's reaching for his P45.

American owner Randy Lerner is believed to have already flown in for emergency talks with McLeish and chief executive Paul Faulkner, in the aftermath of Sunday's limp 2-0 defeat at the hands of Norwich City.

The result meant Villa ended the 2011-12 campaign in 16th place with just 38 points - two clear of the dreaded drop zone - a total that is one point less than when the Scot was relegated from the Premier League with the Blues this time last year.

Having also encountered their worst home record in the club's entire history - Villa have registered just four wins at Villa Park and three away from home - McLeish's players became only the second side in Premier League history to survive with less than eight victories all season.

Bryan Robson's West Brom team of 2004-05 only managed six wins, yet climbed out of the relegation zone on the final day to finish 17th with 34 points, but that stat is hardly going to help a manager who has steadfastly refused to walk away from his role with the west Midlands club.

"I am not a quitter," said McLeish in his post-match interview yesterday. "I can totally understand the fans' frustrations and I am the man who carries the can for the performances, but it is also frustrating for me to watch that kind of stuff.

"It is up to me to turn the opinion around and will do my best. I have to get a team in that Villa jersey with a winning mentality and I can change the fans' opinion."

McLeish always stressed that this year would be a season of transition for Villa, after replacing Gerard Houllier at the helm last summer. But, even so, it was still a surprise to see the club only secure its top-flight status on the penultimate weekend of the campaign.

The 53-year-old has been forced to contend with a number of issues that have not helped his team's cause on the pitch. The summer sales of Ashley Young, Stewart Downing and Brad Friedel helped in part to slash the club's wage bill, but the loss of several key players through injury and illness forced McLeish to turn to a number of inexperienced youth players.

Darren Bent, Richard Dunne and Stiliyan Petrov have all endured lengthy spells on the sidelines, and would have undoubtedly helped aid McLeish and Co. in Villa's quest for survival.

After Martin O'Neill quit the club in the summer of 2010, and Houllier had to leave last summer on health grounds, McLeish's controversial appointment came to fruition 11 months ago last June.

However, his long-term future now depends on whether Lerner decides it is time to search for a fourth manager in less than two years, or take into account the difficult conditions the current boss has been forced to work under.

"I might not have had the riches to spend of other managers, but believe I can turn Aston Villa around by adding quality and players who are going to work their socks off," added McLeish.

"You can start fearing for your job at any time. That would be really negative. I will go into the meeting as positive as possible."

The widespread protests from Villa supporters calling for McLeish's sacking have hardly helped the manager's cause as he prepares to sit down with the Villa Park hierarchy.

And, whilst there has not yet been an official announcement from the club in response to reports suggesting McLeish has already bid farewell to his players, his tempestuous reign is as good as over. Aston Villa are arguably the worst side in Premier League history to avoid relegation, and the buck must surely stop with him.

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