Norwich City vs. Aston Villa  2 - 0


McLeish in talks over Villa future

14 May 2012 12:52

Alex McLeish will hold talks about his future at Aston Villa in the next 24 hours after a poor season ended in a 2-0 defeat at Norwich.

It is understood that club owner Randy Lerner will fly in from the US to speak with the manager and Chief Executive Paul Faulkner.

The discussion will centre on whether McLeish should take responsibility for the season's failures or whether the difficult circumstances he faced should be taken into account.

The Midlands club finished 16th and had to wait until the penultimate fixture to secure their survival, registering the club's worst home record in their history with just four wins at Villa Park.

Reports previously surfaced in April that senior officials were dissatisfied with the Scot, with attendances dwindling and notable unrest among supporters at his previous association with local rivals Birmingham and a perceived negative style of football.

Lerner has had three managers in three seasons at the club, after Martin O'Neill resigned in the summer of 2010 before Gerard Houllier left the club on health grounds last summer.

The American is rumoured to be considering the introduction of a continental-style managerial setup with a manager working in partnership with a director of football.

Roberto Martinez was approached last summer, but chose to remain with Wigan, and he will again be heavily linked with the position, while Swansea's Brendan Rodgers could also be in the frame.

Over the course of the season McLeish has had to cope with cut-backs to the wage bill, and has frequently been forced to turn to younger players after incurring long-term injuries, namely Richard Dunne, top goalscorer Darren Bent and the leukaemia diagnosis of captain Stiliyan Petrov.

He did however condemn his side's performance in their final day defeat to the Canaries and told reporters: "It was an absolutely shocking, woeful display. Maybe some of the boys were thinking about their holidays already."

He maintained his intentions to instigate changes at the club, who have already begun their preparations for next season with the signing of Australia international Brett Holman from AZ Alkmaar.

"That team needs a change and there will be change," McLeish said.

"We need to bring more quality into the squad. I'm expecting the board to back me. I understand the fans' frustrations about that display but I'm not a quitter."

"I might not have had the riches to spend of other managers, but believe I can turn Aston Villa around by adding quality and players who are going to work their socks off."

"It is up to me to turn the opinion around. I have to get a team in that Villa jersey with a winning mentality."


Premier League: Norwich 2 Aston Villa 0

13 May 2012 19:10

Norwich City capped off a superb first season back in the Premier League with a convincing 2-0 victory over Aston Villa.

The Canaries were in control at Carrow Road from the first minute and took an early lead when Grant Holt bundled home a free-kick.

Simeon Jackson made the most of Carlos Cuellar's error to double the lead as Villa offered very little in resistance.

The away side were poor throughout and did not do the job security of their under-pressure manager Alex McLeish any favours.

Paul Lambert gave Holt a last chance to impress England manager Roy Hodgson before the pre-Euro 2012 friendly matches, the former Nottingham Forest striker partnering Simeon Jackson in attack. Simon Lappin was handed a start at left-back.

Cuellar and Emile Heskey both started in what was to be their last appearances for Villa, the duo having both announced that they will be leaving the club upon the expiry of their contracts in the summer. Stephen Warnock was preferred to Charles N'Zogbia in midfield.

Villa have endured a miserable season and it did not appear as the relief of securing their Premier League survival had lifted any of the weight off of their shoulders. Norwich dominated the early exchanges and were quick to take advantage of the chances they carved out.

Bradley Johnson curled a free-kick in from the left-hand side which Holt bundled home - mainly with his shoulder - at the far post to give the Canaries the lead.

Villa were able to retain possession with relative ease but lacked the pace and urgency Lambert's team displayed from the outset.

Shay Given did superbly to deny Jonny Howson when the midfielder curled a shot towards goal from 20 yards.

Given also stopped Lappin's free-kick before Jackson beat him to double the Norwich lead. The Canadian striker latched on to Cuellar's poor header and tapped in the rebound from close range after his initial effort had been saved.

Elliott Bennett went close with two further shots before half-time as Villa's performance deteriorated drastically, with McLeish cutting a despondent figure on the touchline.

Barry Bannan was introduced at the break as McLeish looked to inject some attacking spark into his team by switching to a 4-2-3-1 formation. The early signs were positive - Stephen Ireland was denied by John Ruddy from 20 yards before the Norwich goalkeeper did well to turn away Heskey's deflected shot.

Norwich were quick, however to regain their grip on the game. Ireland and Heskey were left to chase shadows as Wes Hoolahan volleyed just over the bar after Elliott Bennett's cross from the right.

The Irishman turned supplier to set up Kyle Naughton for a shot that Given saved before the goalkeeper also stopped Ryan Bennett's header.

Given had to be at his best to prevent the lively Jackson from doubling his tally after 65 minutes. Cutting inside on the edge of the box, the former Gillingham man rifled a low shot that was tipped just wide.

At the other end, Ruddy was impressively alert. Largely untested throughout, he nevertheless was sharp enough to push Gabriel Agbonlahor's shot on to the post after the striker had cut inside from the left.

Elliott Bennett had proved a handful all afternoon and shot just over the crossbar on his weaker left foot following the impressive Howson's through ball as the Norwich chances continued to rain.

The Canaries' victory took them above Sunderland and Swansea to 12th in the table as they concluded a dream return to the top flight.


McLeish planning for next season

12 May 2012 03:35

Under-fire Aston Villa manager Alex McLeish insists he will not leave the club despite calls from outraged fans for him to be sacked.

In his first season in charge of the Midlands outfit McLeish has led Villa to victory in just seven games, the second lowest this season among Premier League clubs.

Villa fans staged a protest against the Scot's stewardship ahead of last weekend's 1-1 draw with Tottenham, which secured Villa's place in the Premier League after a nervy battle against relegation.

But the former Rangers boss remained upbeat ahead of his side's last game of the season away at Norwich and denied that he is preparing to leave.

"I have not given that any thought (to leaving) at all," McLeish told reporters.

"It's not something I have even thought about. You are speculating, it's all hypothetical.

"I think we have worked well together as board and manager and staff. We have had a difficult season but it was anticipated. We did say about it being transitional.

"Now hopefully we can move forward with some good signings and a little bit of change."

When asked whether his first season had been a failed one, McLeish was again on the defensive.

"After one season? Did you expect me to win the league?" he said

"When you look at the problems we have had, the amount of kids, we had a reserve team playing at Old Trafford last night and they could have qualified for my first team in the last few weeks.

"You have to be a little bit more understanding."

The former Aberdeen player also revealed that he is planning ahead for next season and hopes to talk to chief executive Paul Faulkner after the game against Norwich.

"I anticipate still being here next season," he said.

"I have emailed Paul, he's away on business just now and I have asked when we can sit down next week. He says he is back and available from Monday all next week.

"I expect us to sit down and talk next week."

McLeish did, however, concede that his spell in the Aston Villa dugout has been his hardest yet, although he feels luck has not been on his side.

"I couldn't say it was enjoyable," he said.

"It's been a huge challenge. You really enjoy it when your team is winning regularly. We didn't do that enough.

"We have underachieved in terms of past history, no doubt about that, in terms of name Aston Villa.

"We have missed Darren Bent for 19 games now. I would have expected four or five goals in those games at least which would have made things more comfortable."


Premier League preview: Norwich v Aston Villa

10 May 2012 15:50

Norwich City hope to finish their season on a high when they play fellow battler Aston Villa in Sunday's final round.

The match means little, except it will be a final farewell for Villa striker Emile Heskey, who has confirmed he is leaving the club.

Having experienced early season success, Norwich languished near the relegation zone and only confirmed mathematical safety after Easter.

Goalkeeper John Ruddy admits the relegation battle affected the side mentally.

"Although there was never a question mark over the effort we were putting into the games, the collective performance probably wasn't there as it had been all season, because of different circumstances: in tiredness maybe, the mental strain and just everyone having that weight lifted off their shoulders knowing that you're safe. It does things to people," Ruddy told the Norwich Evening News.

Once top flight football at Carrow Road was achieved, Ruddy said the Canaries played with an open mind.

"Arsenal (3-3 away draw) was very enjoyable; we got another point towards our total and if we can finish on an even bigger high in front of our home fans then that would be brilliant," he said.

Villa striker Heskey will play his last game for the club on Sunday.

The striker has had a frustrating season, returning only one goal in the last 16 months.

His three-and-a-half year contract expires in the summer, and the former England international believes he still has much to offer at the top-flight.

"I haven’t got a club to be honest," Heskey said.

"I'm 34, I still feel I can play so I don't see why I need to retire just now.

"I still want to play at Premier League level."

Heskey will have to reduce substantially his 50,000 pound a week salary, and said this season was one of his hardest.

"Sometimes when you get into a bit of a rut, your head gets down and you can't find yourselves getting out of it," he said.

"We have left it late (surviving relegation) but the lads have been battling on."

Premier League table

# Team MP D P
1 38 +64 89
2 38 +56 89
3 38 +25 70
4 38 +25 69
5 38 +5 65
6 38 +19 64
7 38 +10 56
8 38 +7 52
9 38 -3 52
10 38 -7 47
11 38 -7 47
12 38 -14 47
13 38 -1 45
14 38 -17 45
15 38 -20 43
16 38 -16 38
17 38 -23 37
18 38 -31 36
19 38 -30 31
20 38 -42 25
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