Tuesday 24 October 2017

MacDonald stakes his claim for permanent role

Aston Villa 3
West Ham 0

John Ley

AS a Premier League rule, caretaker bosses rarely get to take over on a permanent basis. And when they are given a rare opportunity, it usually ends in tears.

But while history is important to Aston Villa -- this is their 100th season of top-flight football -- the consensus is that Kevin MacDonald should be given the chance to buck the trend.

Men such as Tony Adams and Lawrie Sanchez failed to maintain momentum after successful temporary spells and MacDonald, looking ill at ease with this instant success, insisted he was not even contemplating the prospect of the full-time job. But his players and in particular his captain, Stiliyan Petrov, were calling for Villa's owner Randy Lerner to give the 49-year-old Scot a chance.

Clearly popular with the players, MacDonald could not have scripted a better start. There were no signs of a hangover from the shock of Martin O'Neill's ill-timed walkout. If anything, Villa played with a vigour and zest rarely witnessed last season, albeit against a pitiful West Ham United side.

Petrov seemed to speak for his team-mates when he said: "It was great after everything that happened last week, especially for Kevin. I said to him before, 'you try and hold on to that job.' He has the opportunity and he's really determined to stay there."

Villa have the smallest squad in the division and, with injuries, MacDonald gave rare starts to 20-year-olds Marc Albrighton and Ciaran Clark, with Andreas Weimann (19) and another 20-year-old, Barry Bannan, also featuring.

Older heads created the win, with Ashley Young providing the spark behind John Carew, who could have had a hat-trick, and James Milner professional in all ways ahead of his proposed move to Manchester City.

Goals from Stewart Downing and Petrov put Villa in charge before Albrighton enabled Milner to add a third in what is likely to be his last game. Milner left applauding the fans, suggesting he is on his way, but his attitude could not be faulted.

MacDonald refused to consider taking the job permanently, but he has experience. In 1994, when Brian Little left Leicester, he had four games as caretaker, winning the first against Arsenal before two defeats and a draw saw Mark McGhee installed.

After the win, bookmakers slashed his odds from 10/1 to 5/1 favourite.

"It's nice of people to say that but that's not my priority at the moment," he said. "I like to just get on with my job and we'll see what happens from game to game or from day to day."

As for West Ham, it is going to be a long season. Avram Grant, who witnessed the demise of Portsmouth, was let down by his players and admitted he has one target: survival. "I know it will take time," he said. "I believe you need to build for the future and to do that it is easier if you have a good result immediately."

Grant will consider that the attendant thunder and lightning on Saturday could be a metaphor for what lies ahead. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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