Relations between the two leading clubs in the second city have reached an all-time low and show no signs of improving any time soon after Aston Villa confirmed their intention to speak with Alex McLeish in spite of Birmingham’s firm opposition.
McLeish quit as boss of the relegated side by e-mail on Sunday and swiftly emerged as a contender for the Aston Villa job, however Blues acting chairman Peter Pannu refused to accept his resignation, believing that they are entitled to £5.4 million compensation.
Yet despite Birmingham making clear their stance, Villa announced on Tuesday night their intention to interview the former Rangers and Scotland manager, prompting their rivals to accuse them of a “tap up attempt” and “contempt of Premier League rules”.
The early indications are that a lot of legal wrangling lies ahead but having made public their interest in McLeish, they are 1/8 to eventually get their own way and confirm his appointment as successor to Gerard Houllier, who recently left on medical grounds.
The majority of Villa supporters appear hugely dissatisfied with their club’s decision to pursue the Scottish tactician, with many Birmingham fans not too sad to see him go, as though he did win the Carling Cup, he led them to two relegations in four seasons.
That, rather than his ties to the Blues, is the main reason they are unimpressed by his anticipated arrival, and the fact Randy Lerner and co are willing to overlook this is surprising after they shelved plans to talk to Steve McClaren due to a similar reaction.
Chris Hughton is rated the early 5/2 favourite to fill the vacancy left by McLeish at St Andrew’s, with Roberto Di Matteo not far behind at 7/2 in a fairly decent field. The off-field unrest hasn’t altered their odds of 8/1 to finish top of the Championship.