| 10.4°C Belfast

Lerner begins search for new manager

Alex McLeish

Aston Villa owner Randy Lerner is launching his search for a fourth manager in less than two years after sacking Alex McLeish 11 months into his reign.

McLeish was axed after Villa came too close for comfort to being relegated from the Barclays Premier League as they stayed up by just two points, and Lerner has criticised the performance levels and results during the Scot's reign.

It was always a calculated gamble to appoint McLeish given his frosty relationship with Villa fans after his spell as boss of Birmingham, and Lerner said: "The most immediate action that we can take is to look carefully at our options in terms of bringing in a new manager who sees the club's potential and embraces our collective expectations."

He added: "We need to be clear and candid with ourselves and with supporters about what we have lacked in recent years. Compelling play and results that instil a sense of confidence that Villa is on the right track have been plainly absent."

Villa axed McLeish less than 24 hours after a performance the Scot described as "woeful" in a 2-0 defeat at Norwich - whose manager Paul Lambert is expected to be amongst the leading candidates.

Chief executive Paul Faulkner said: "We are mindful of the club's need to prepare thoroughly for the new campaign, and for the new manager to be able to begin working with the board so that he is quickly immersed in these preparations and also in the long-term objectives of the club. Our focus now will be driven by these imperatives."

McLeish faced a losing battle to win over the Villa fans but it was a season of gross underachievement which cost him his job.

He always insisted the campaign would be one of transition after being ordered by Lerner to drastically reduce the wage bill. He lost the services of Ashley Young and Stewart Downing last summer to Manchester United and Liverpool respectively, while Villa also suffered as a result of injuries to key players.

But Lerner still did not expect Villa to be so close to the drop which in financial terms would have been calamitous after a loss of more than £50million for the last financial year.

Villa fans insist the "negative football" served up by McLeish - and not his previous connection with Birmingham - was the main reason behind their clamour for him to be sacked. Jonathan Fear of 'Vital Villa' said: "We expect to see our team go for it. It's not about winning, drawing and losing. It's just seeing a bit of pride and endeavour in the games."