Defiant Aston Villa boss Alex McLeish is only focussing on Norwich City
16:54 11 May 2012
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Aston Villa boss Alex McLeish remains defiant in the face of increasing fan-led hostility to his much-maligned reign ahead of Sunday’s Premier League finale at Carrow Road.
McLeish concedes his first season at Villa Park has been disappointing after effectively only securing survival courtesy of last weekend’s 1-1 home draw against Tottenham.
The former Birmingham manager was roundly booed by large sections of the Villa Park crowd at the final whistle, but McLeish has again dead-batted exit talk prior to this weekend.
“I have not given that any thought at all,” he said. “I think we have worked well together as board and manager and staff. We have had a difficult season but it was anticipated. We did say about it being transitional. Now hopefully we can move forward with some good signings and a little bit of change.”
Asked whether the campaign has failed as a project, he said: “After one season? Did you expect me to win the league? Come on. When you look at the problems we have had, the amount of kids, we had a reserve team playing at Old Trafford Thursday night and they could have qualified for my first team in the last few weeks. You have to be a little bit more understanding than that question you just asked. I anticipate still being here next season, yes. It’s not something I have even thought about. You are speculating, it’s all hypothetical. We have underachieved in terms of past history, no doubt about that, in terms of name, Aston Villa. But losing four or five players at crucial moments of the season. We have missed Darren Bent for 19 games now. I would have expected four or five goals in those games at least which would have made things more comfortable.”
McLeish has won trophies north and south of the border in a long managerial career, but the former Rangers and Scotland manager admitted his debut campaign at Villa Park had been tough.
“I couldn’t say it was enjoyable,” he said. “It’s been a huge challenge. You really enjoy it when your team is winning regularly. We didn’t do that enough. It’s still a fantastic challenge. I knew if I was out of football for five minutes I would be wanting back in again. It’s in the blood.”
Villa midfielder Barry Bannan has urged his team mates to play with freedom at Carrow Road after securing their top flight status.
“Hopefully the lack of pressure will help us against Norwich,” he said. “if you look at the position we were in the last couple of games, there was a lot of pressure on the shoulders of the players and maybe they were playing a bit safer than they normally would or would have liked to have played.”
Norwich officials have confirmed City’s player-of-the-season presentation will take place following the final game.
The Barry Butler Memorial Trophy, voted for by supporters, will be presented on the pitch prior to Paul Lambert and the squad taking part in a lap of appreciation after the final whistle.