Randy Lerner, the Aston Villa owner, is expected to use the upcoming international break to appoint a new manager, whatever the outcome of today's match against Everton at Villa Park. In the wake of last week's 6-0 thrashing at Newcastle United, followed by the club's Europa Cup exit at the hands of Rapid Vienna, Kevin MacDonald, the caretaker manager, seems convinced he will not be handed the job full-time.
MacDonald, though, has been on the coaching staff at the club for 15 years and is highly respected. He is likely to play a significant role in helping Lerner decide who is the best man to replace Martin O'Neill, who quit the club four days before the start of the Premier League season. With Villa's next game not until September 13 against Stoke City, the club now has time to properly interview the list of candidates.
Their No 1 choice would have been Mark Hughes, but the timing of events during the summer saw him take over at Fulham when Roy Hodgson, rather than O'Neill, was appointed as Liverpool's new manager. It is unlikely Hughes could be lured now. Leading contenders to take over at Villa are Alan Curbishley, Slaven Bilic, Gareth Southgate, Martin Jol and Ronald Koeman. Bob Bradley, the US national coach, and Sven-Goran Eriksson, the former England manager, have made it plain they would be interested but sources close to the club suggest they are unlikely to be appointed. And MacDonald may well feel easier at developing a working relationship with either Curbishley and Southgate if he is to become the club's new technical/football director.
Ajax are unlikely to let Jol go but the availability of the Dutch legend Koeman will interest the club. One of the main reasons O'Neill fell out with Lerner and decided to go was because he felt the club's American owner interfered too much on transfers. For his part, Lerner believed O'Neill's power and judgement had run out of control on that front. "The owner felt that eventually under O'Neill there were just too many players who had been signed for big fees and big wages who ended being a long way from the first team," said a source close to the Villa board. "Ideally, Lerner wants to change the structure so there is a strong link between him and the manager. The club are likely to appoint a technical director as well as a manager."
Ahead of today's game, MacDonald said he has been consulted about potential new signings ahead of Tuesday's transfer deadline and the identity of the new manager. "I have been in contact with Mr Lerner for a lot of the time," said MacDonald, who has also worked closely with Paul Faulkner, the chief executive. "He's been very supportive of what's gone on. A lot of people would say that the club has been put on hold, but Paul has been doing things behind the scenes."
He agreed, though, the last week has probably ruled him out. "I think the results over the last two games would suggest that. As far as I know there is nothing on the horizon," he said. "I've been asked about who I thought might improve the team. I am not about to divulge that but I have been asked." MacDonald said the club is braced for a flurry of activity ahead of the window, with Tottenham Hotspur still hovering to make a swoop for Ashley Young, after Spurs secured qualification for the Champions League and Villa were dumped out of Europe.
"I am sure clubs will be interested in some of our players because there are some good players at Aston Villa," MacDonald said. @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org Aston Villa v Everton, today, ADMC Sport 3 & 5; to order: 600-2388 or www.admcsport.com