Blues fury after McLeish linked to Villa
Birmingham City have warned local rivals Aston Villa that they could face legal action if Alex McLeish is named as Gerard Houllier's successor following their manager's shock resignation from St Andrew's yesterday.
Birmingham's acting chairman Peter Pannu wrote to Villa chief executive Paul Faulkner directly after receiving McLeish's resignation via email while on business in Amsterdam.
And although there was no attempt to accuse Villa of making an illegal approach for McLeish, Pannu is understood to have informed his counterpart that Blues' legal team would be on alert if the Scot resurfaces at Villa Park.
Villa had no comment to make last night, but McLeish's resignation a day after becoming the bookmakers' favourite to become Villa manager has prompted a surge in speculation that he is on the cusp of being named Houllier's replacement.
It is certainly a suspicion that is being harboured in the boardroom at St Andrew's, and it could mean an increase in animosity between the two clubs as sources at the Blues insist no official approach for McLeish was made by Villa.
Birmingham were said to be in "complete shock" last night, although acutely angry might be the more accurate description. They had assumed McLeish was recharging his batteries on holiday in Corsica, having left for the French island last Tuesday, ahead of returning to continue to oversee the club's summer recruitment strategy. In a further twist, there are unverified claims that Randy Lerner's private plane flew to Corsica late last week. There is often billowing smoke without fire, but the fact that the Villa owner is known to have met Gerard Houllier at the Frenchman's holiday home there last summer could send conspiracy theorists into a spin.
The club's Chinese owners, however, are upset at what they interpret as duplicity on McLeish's part. A measure of the atmosphere at St Andrew's was given by the tone of their statement confirming McLeish's resignation. In a terse, 50-word statement, the club revealed that the 52 year-old had informed them in an email.
Meanwhile, Steve McClaren looks set to return to club management in England with Nottingham Forest after Billy Davies was sacked. (© Daily Telegraph, London)