Since Martin ‘the players were magnificent’ O’Neill’s sudden departure at Aston Villa, speculation has been rife as to who will take over from the Northern Irishman at Villa Park.
One of the questions owner Randy Lerner will have to ask himself is whether to go British or foreign in his pursuit of a new manager. There has been a recent resurgence in the number of British and Irish (if we’re counting Barnsley’s finest Mick McCarthy) managers in the Premier League, with only six clubs (Arsenal, Chelsea, Man City, West Ham, West Brom and Wigan) opting to look abroad for a man at the helm.
The bad news for Villa fans is that probably the best British manager currently seeking employment is… well… Martin O’Neill.
Therefore, it is understandable that the temptation for Mr Lerner will be to look overseas for a new man in charge. The good news is that Sven Goran Eriksson is interested in the post, although frankly, you feel Sven would be interested in taking over Hartlepool under 8s if the money was right.
On the plus side, the Swede did a good job at Lazio, decent enough at Man City and maybe wasn’t as bad at the England job as we all thought after this summer’s poor showing. However, it should be noted that where he has been successful, he has had money to spend in abundance – something that wouldn’t be as forthcoming at Villa.
A gamble for Villa would be to promote a manager (whether British or foreign) from the Football League who has been successful on these shores, earnt his stripes and who knows the British game. Anyone disbelieving of this theory need only look at David Moyes who was picked up by Everton after doing an excellent job at Preston and has gone on to do a fantastic one at Goodison Park, transforming the Merseysiders from relegation candidates into top eight regulars.
So who fits the bill then? Well, like him or loathe him, you have to admit Billy Davies has a good track record: also beginning in the English game at Preston where he led them to the play-offs, moving to Derby and winning promotion after taking over a side that had just escaped relegation to League One, and now at Nottingham Forest where last season he led them to a third place finish in the Championship while working on a relatively tight budget.
The Premier League is a different kettle of fish altogether these days and it is up to Mr Lerner to decide if it would be worth the gamble in replacing O’Neill, who is reminiscent of a hyperactive Labrador puppy on the touchline, such is his enthusiasm for the game, with a yappy Jack Russell in Davies.
The decision, at the end of the day is in the American’s hands. Whoever the new man is, if they can get Heskey to score more than five in a season, I’ll be putting a tenner on them for the next England manager.