McLeish steered former club Birmingham City to Carling Cup victory over Arsenal, but could not prevent their relegation this season [GALLO/GETTY]

Aston Villa ignored the protests of their fans and hired cross-town rival Alex McLeish as manager on Friday, less than a week after the Scot quit relegated English Premier League rivals Birmingham by email.

McLeish, a former central defender who served Aberdeen and Scotland for many years, succeeds Gerard Houllier who resigned on June 1 through another bout of ill health.

The move led to a furious Birmingham demanding compensation to cover the final two years of McLeish's contract and also led to protests from fans at Villa Park who dislike McLeish because of his Birmingham connections.

Concerns

McLeish maintained his determination to win fans over:

"I know that some of our fans have voiced concerns and I can understand why," McLeish said.

"It will be up to me to convince you that I am the right man to drive the club forward and I intend to give absolutely everything to prove that I can be a success at the club."

McLeish described the lure of Aston Villa as "irresistible."

"I am honoured to have this opportunity to manage a club with such a fantastic history as Aston Villa's," he said.

"The heritage, the history of success and the tradition of Aston Villa are compelling and irresistible. The challenge for me is to try to add my own chapter."

Reputation

The 52-year-old established his managerial reputation at Scottish Premier League clubs Motherwell, Hibernian and Rangers before taking over as Scotland manager in January 2007.

The national team appointment did not last long as he moved to England to replace Steve Bruce at Birmingham in November of that year.

Birmingham were relegated at the end of his first season but he took them straight back up to the top flight for the 2009/10 campaign where they finished ninth, their highest position for more than half a century.

McLeish has won the backing of mentor and United maanger Alex Ferguson [GALLO/GETTY]

This year proved to be a very mixed one as McLeish went from the highs of stunning Arsenal in the League Cup final to the lows of a dramatic decline in league form which ended in relegation on the final day of the season.

Villa had a lacklustre season, finishing ninth, and Houllier was forced to relinquish control for the last five games of the season after he was confined to bed for eight days in April a decade after undergoing open heart surgery.

The 63-year-old then stepped down and Villa approached Wigan Athletic manager Roberto Martinez, among others, to fill the vacancy but the Spaniard opted to stay put and McLeish became available soon after.

"Unquestionably, Alex meets the criteria we set out at the beginning of our search which was based on proven Premier League experience, leadership, a hardworking ethic and, most importantly, a shared vision for Aston Villa,'' chief executive Paul Faulkner said.

"Alex's vast experience and proven abilities demonstrate clearly that he is a strong leader and an ambitious man.''
 
Villa have not yet confirmed the length of McLeish's contract but have said the Scot will commence duties immediately.

Despite the storm of protest which has greeted his move to Villa, McLeish's mentor Sir Alex Ferguson, who managed the player during his years in charge of Aberdeen, backed him to be successful.

"It doesn't matter whether there are 50 against him, 500 against him or five against him because the experience and the ability he has got, believe me, he will prove that he can do the job," the United manager said. 

Source: Agencies