Dave Woodhall wonders what’s happening inside the mind of Alex McLeish.
Some clubs have a talisman. Think of Thierry Henry and Paul Scholes returning earlier this season to the places where they made their names. You have to say that they did well; Manchester United look set to win the title again while Arsenal are over their midwinter slump, and much of that is down to the presence of players who bring back memories of past glories and therefore inspire confidence in their current team-mates.
Villa have got an anti-talisman, and you can guess his identity. Once Emile Heskey’s name is announced in the starting line-up, spirits sink and hearts become heavy. 90 minutes of depression are virtually guaranteed with defeat at the end of it all seeming a certainty.
Once more at the Emirates Alex McLeish extinguished all hopes of another memorable afternoon at a ground where Villa have got a good league record with a negative line-up, defensive tactics and a post-match attitude that smacked of defeatism. I could never understand why David O’Leary went out of his way to alienate supporters when he could have easily used them in his battle with Doug Ellis, but McLeish’s behaviour seems even more bizarre.
He knows Heskey isn’t good enough anymore, he knows the player’s inclusion in the team will mean both of them get stick, yet continues to pick him. He knows playing so defensively will be criticised, but does it regardless. He knows his comments about other clubs being bigger and better draw abuse, yet continues to make them.
McLeish needs all the friends he can get, yet he seems to go out of his way to alienate and infuriate. If anyone’s got any idea why he behaves like he does, please tell me because I haven’t got a clue.