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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Jul 20, 2006

Aitken interested in taking over at Villa Park

Roy Aitken is eager to succeed David O'Leary as Aston Villa manager but Alan Curbishley is believed to be chairman Doug Ellis' number one target.

After three years as assistant to O'Leary at Villa Park, Aitken has been handed the reins on a temporary basis following the 48-year-old Irishman's departure last night.

The former Aberdeen boss only returned to training on Tuesday after undergoing surgery earlier this summer following a cancer scare.

The Scot described himself as being 'not 100 per cent' and admitted he would 'have to take it easy for a few weeks', but now finds himself in the middle of a maelstrom at the midlands club.

Although Aitken has not been a manager in his own right since a two-year spell at Aberdeen ended in 1997, the 48-year-old is refusing to rule himself out of the running.

'I've got my own track record in management up in Scotland. I won a trophy with Aberdeen and I know what the job is all about,' stated Aitken on the club's official website.

'I've had a lot of responsibility here at Villa over the last three years and I'm grateful to the club for the opportunity I've been given.

'I'm not fazed by this. Now I'll just concentrate on getting the players ready for the start of our pre-season games.'

The first of those is tomorrow against Walsall at the Bescot Stadium, yet while Aitken would certainly represent the cheap option to Ellis, former Villa player Curbishley is likely to be the preferred candidate.

Curbishley walked away from Charlton at the end of last season after 15 years at the helm, and claimed he wanted to take a year off.

But the lure of resurrecting a big club that has long failed to live up to its potential may prove irresistible.

Inevitably, former Celtic manager Martin O'Neill has been mentioned, but after being linked with more high-profile jobs without taking them up, it is hard to see the Ulsterman stepping into the Villa Park hotseat.

Reserve team and youth team coaches Kevin MacDonald and Gordon Cowans have been linked but while such a combination likely to be popular with fans as they are hugely respected they lack managerial experience.

Even if he fails to land the job, Aitken knows he is going to have to live with the speculation over the next fortnight or so while trying to prepare the players for the new season.

Despite his health problems, he believes he can cope as he added: 'The best part of my job is being out with the players on the training ground.

'Villa fans know they'll get enthusiasm, passion and organisation, while I've good people around me in [head of sports sciences] Steve McGregor and [goalkeeping coach] Eric Steele. 'So we will do our best to get the boys prepared. I've always had a good relationship with the players, and I'm sure they'll respond well.

'As for the speculation, that's not a problem, that's football. I'm long enough in the tooth to know how the game works, so that's expected.

'I'll carry on with the job and I'll do it professionally, with a purpose and an attitude that will carry through to the players, which is what I do anyway every day. That's part of my responsibility.'

Aitken insists there is no need for him to pull the players together despite what appear to be conflicting views from the dressing room regarding the statement that has sparked the furore over the past few days.

Maintaining the players are united, Aitken added: 'There's no split in the camp as far as I can see on the training ground, and that's vital.

'I'm sure that will be seen in the pre-season games, and the players are ready for them.

'Their work ethic is fantastic, there is good quality in the dressing room and I'm sure they'll show that over the next few weeks.

'It's not for me to comment too much about what has gone on. That is in the past now, and I've said that to the players as well.

'It's important they move on and put the past few days behind them because it has been a bit of a media circus. It's been hyped over the top.

'As for the players, they know what actually happened. But as far as their efforts on the training ground every day are concerned, they've been first class, and that's the most important thing.

'We've games coming up and it's important we get the pre-season base under their belts to take them through the season.

'That's the most important thing for Aston Villa, to move on and get some results on the pitch.'

Meanwhile, sources close to O'Leary today claimed that the Irishman had received a full compensation package covering the remaining two years of his contract rather than a pay-off worth only six months' salary as has been suggested.