Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 September 2014

McLeish expects hostile reception

Stewart Downing

Alex McLeish expects the Aston Villa fans to give Stewart Downing "apprehension-inducing stick" when he returns for the first time since his £20million summer switch to Liverpool.

Downing made the move to Anfield as part of the Kenny Dalglish revolution following just two seasons at Villa Park after initially hinting he was prepared to stay. McLeish knows Villa will have to keep a close watch on the winger who scored the winner for the midlands club in the corresponding fixture last season.

When asked what sort of reception Downing would receive, McLeish said: "I don't know. I think Stewart was a well liked lad here at Villa but I'm sure the fans will wind up the opposition."

He added: "I'm sure Stewart will maybe not get too much flak because he is a decent lad and he did a decent job

"But maybe the fans will give a wee bit of apprehension-inducing stick shall we say!

"He is a terrific player, and £20million tells you he has got something in his locker. We know what he can do. We have to give him close attention and try and make sure he has a quiet return to Villa Park."

McLeish is aware of the threat posed by the Reds under Dalglish and believes his fellow Scot has spent wisely on the likes of Luis Suarez and Charlie Adam. But McLeish is also keen to maintain the proud record he had when manager of Birmingham against the leading clubs.

He said: "Kenny has done a terrific job. I think they have done some good business, spent a few bob on cracking players who make a difference like Suarez and Adam.

"At the end of the day, these guys have got to perform and they have been performing for Kenny. But we absolutely relish these games and over the last couple of years my record is pretty good against the bigger clubs in the home games.

"I think I went 11 to 12 games as a manager undefeated in home games against the bigger teams when it wasn't expected. I've got to believe I can do something similar at Villa. The players have got to believe they can take points from the clubs above us as well."

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