Villa pull the trigger - will more managers follow?

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After an extremely disappointing campaign in the Midlands, Aston Villa manager Alex McLeish paid the ultimate price with his job, getting the axe from owner Randy Lerner yesterday.

The Scot was anything but a popular appointment, given his previous tenure with arch-rivals Birmingham City. That said, results on the pitch would have more than likely turned the fans around to his was of thinking.

It wasn’t to be, with just seven wins and 38 points in a season to forget at Villa Park. McLeish subsequently received his P45, and the club will look to rebuild following the 16th place finish in the Premier League.

With Villa pulling the trigger first in the top flight, the big question for many is: will other clubs follow?

At the top, it seems like Roberto Mancini, Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger are well set in their positions – how times chance in the course of a year.

Had City failed to claim the title, question marks would have undoubtedly been raised over the Italian’s position at the Etihad Stadium. The owners demand instant success, and whilst publicly they have always backed their man, a decision was taken out of their hands with a title win. The obligatory contract extension is set to follow.

And then there is Arsenal, with fans calling for the head of Wenger just a couple of months into the season. Instead, the Frenchman managed to turn things around and secure a third-place finish come the end of the season. His position is once again unquestioned.

Ferguson has earned the right to choose his own departure date, with retirement not too far along the line for the veteran Scot. Realistically though, he’s looking at another two years in power at Old Trafford before a replacement is sort after.

Of the traditional ‘big’ clubs, it’s Chelsea and Liverpool who have major uncertainty over their own managerial situations.

Roberto Di Matteo has done wonders at Stamford Bridge after replacing Andre Villas-Boas on an interim basis, guiding the Blues to FA Cup glory and a Champions League final – against Bayern Munich on Saturday night.

The results have helped make the Italian a legitimate contender for the position, although owner Roman Abramovich is likely to want a big name, meaning the former midfielder might miss out on the position. No other Premier League boss has been linked.

As for Liverpool, the return of Kenny Dalglish last January has failed to revive the club’s top four ambitions, with a disappointing run of form in the league this term seeing the club fall behind Everton.

Whilst Carling Cup success provided some silverware, failure in the FA Cup final meant there was little to show for the efforts of ‘King Kenny’, who is in America for talks over his future today (Wednesday).

Rumours that Wigan boss Roberto Martinez could be in line to replace the Scot appear premature, but there is no doubt that Dalglish is under pressure, irrespective of his stature at the club. It will probably save him this summer, but for how long?

Moving into the ‘second tier’, and over-achievers Newcastle will be sticking with LMA Manager of the Year Alan Pardew after a fantastic season in charge at St. James’ Park.

The former Southampton boss could do little wrong on the way to a fifth-place finish, with signings in both the summer and January proving big hits on Tyneside. Next up will be a crack at the Europa League.

As for the Toffees, they too enjoyed a great season, finishing seventh and reaching the FA Cup semi-final. At the start of the campaign, there were questions over David Moyes’ long-term position on Merseyside, but now it seems more likely that the Scot has a position with the club for as long as he wants it.

Martin Jol appears well-set at Fulham after guiding the Cottagers to a ninth-place finish this term, whilst promoted Swansea and Norwich will be desperate to keep hold of their managers should teams from above come calling on Brendan Rodgers or Paul Lambert.

West Brom are in the market for a manager after Roy Hodgson took the England job, and the aforementioned pair would both be well received at the Hawthorns. However, the current list of possible candidates is long, and could be someone who has impressed in the Championship.

Martin O’Neill took over from Steve Bruce with Sunderland in trouble, and despite a relatively poor end to the season, his instant impact has secured his seat at the Stadium of Light next season. Despite an unsuccessful season with Stoke, Tony Pulis is still safe at the Britannia Stadium.

Wigan might have to work some magic in their efforts to keep Martinez at the helm this summer, and the Spaniard is hot property in the top flight after guiding the Latics to survival in style. Villa are understandably keen on the former Swansea boss.

Mark Hughes also boosted his reputation with survival at QPR – his remit after taking the reigns from Neil Warnock – but is unlikely to be moving elsewhere this summer.

Of the relegated sides, Wolves have already made their move after Terry Connor failed to turn things around at Molineux. The decision to sack Mick McCarthy proved to be a failure during the season, and Stale Solbakken will be looking for an instant return from the Championship.

Bolton chairman Phil Gartside has pledged his allegiance to manager Owen Coyle after the Trotters’ final day demise, whilst the future of Steve Kean remains a mystery to many as he flies to India for talks with the clubs owners.

Reading, promoted as champions of the Championship, won’t be saying goodbye to Brian McDermott anytime soon, whilst Nigel Adkins is well set at Southampton after guiding the south-coast club to back-to-back promotions.

As for the play-off finalists – West Ham United and Blackpool – it’s a case of old managers looking to return, as Sam Allardyce and Ian Holloway face-off at Wembley on Saturday afternoon.

Whilst Allardyce hasn’t been popular at Upton Park, his task was to get the Hammers promoted, and a win at the weekend would achieve that goal. Holloway has once again got his underdog Tangerines in contention, and neither would be expected to leave their post with a win.

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