Villa continue unpopular McLeish talks
Aston Villa will push ahead with their controversial plans to secure former Birmingham City boss Alex McLeish as their new manager, despite widespread protests from the club's fans.
While Villa owner Randy Lerner held two rounds of positive discussions with McLeish on Wednesday night, several hundred supporters voiced their opposition to the Scot taking charge during a protest at Villa Park.
McLeish quit arch rivals Birmingham on Sunday and flew back from a family holiday in Corsica to speak with Lerner in London as the Villa chief searches for a manager to replace Gerrard Houllier.
Villa believe they are entitled to talk to McLeish after claiming he is a free agent. But Blues are still hoping to obtain £5.4 million in compensation for the remaining two years of McLeish's contract.
the move is also unpopular with Villa fans and during the protest, one of them, Chris Hearn, who had 'No McLeish' printed on his shirt, said "Our board has bankrupted Aston Villa's credibility. They aren't listening to us, but they'll notice when the team is playing in front of a half-empty stadium.''
Another protester, Brian Johnson, said: "I'll be totally disgruntled if they appoint McLeish. The board got it wrong with Houllier so they needed to get this one right, and I don't think they have.''
But Lerner has noted the success McLeish brought to Birmingham during the past three years, despite them being relegated from the Premier League last month.
The former Rangers boss guided Blues to promotion in his first full season at St Andrew's and secured a highest top division placing of ninth in 2009/10.
McLeish then led his side to Carling Cup final success over Arsenal at Wembley in February - the club's first major trophy for nearly 50 years.
Former Villa boss Ron Atkinson believes McLeish could win over supporters with a couple of major signings and by keeping hold of reported Liverpool target Stewart Downing.
Atkinson said: "You've got to admire Alex's courage for wanting it and for taking it on. But now he has to meet the hostility head on.
"He can't be a shrinking violet. He has to get out there and meet the Villa fans and tell them why he has come to the job.
"Ashley Young is off to Manchester United but he could win favour by saying that no-one else leaves and he'll have to say 'you're not going' to Stewart Downing.
"Also, nothing wins fans over more than a couple of bold, exciting signings. That will do wonders for his standing.''