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Club chiefs are alarmed at dwindling attendances and the conservative football under the Scot as they consider recruiting a director of football to work with the manager

EXCLUSIVE
By Wayne Veysey | Chief Correspondent

Aston Villa are preparing to sack Alex McLeish at the end of the season and overhaul the club's management set-up, Goal.com has learned.

Villa chiefs are ready to dispense with the Scot after winning just one of their last 12 matches, a run that has left the club hovering just above the relegation zone in 15th place.

Senior officials are believed to be alarmed at the conservative style of football under McLeish, which has yielded the fourth worst goals record in the league this season, and falling attendances at Villa Park.

Goal.com understands that owner Randy Lerner is considering sanctioning radical changes by introducing a continental-style set-up, with the manager working in alliance with a director of football.
FALLING FAST

 VILLA PARK'S AVERAGE ATTENDANCE
2006-07
2007-08
2008-09
2009-10
2010-11
2011-12
36,214
40,029
39,811
38,753
37,193
33,922

The American credit card magnate is ready to begin compiling a shortlist of managerial targets, with Roberto Martinez and Brendan Rodgers among the early names in the frame.

Martinez rejected the opportunity to be interviewed by Villa last June following Gerard Houllier’s exit but Goal.com revealed last week that the Spaniard will leave Wigan Athletic at the end of the season, regardless of whether the Latics stay in the Premier League.

A large section of Villa’s supporter base has never taken to McLeish because of his connections to neighbours Birmingham City, who dropped into the Championship last season under his stewardship, and his unpopularity has been heightened by a string of uninspiring displays this season.

Villa’s average Premier League attendance has slumped to 33,922 this season, comfortably the lowest since Lerner bought the club in 2006. Last season Villa averaged 37,193 for each home match and, in the four seasons under Martin O’Neill the average gates from 2006-07 to 2009-10 were consecutively 36,214, 40,029, 39,811 and 38,573.

Villa have been without record signing Darren Bent since he suffered an ankle injury in February that ruled him out for the season but only Stoke City (32), Wigan (33) and Wolves (34) have scored less than the Midland club’s 35 league goals.

American Lerner, once a regular at Villa Park, has cut back on his match attendance this season, although he visited the training ground a fortnight ago to deliver a speech to the playing squad.

"Nothing will happen before the end of the season but Alex McLeish’s position is being scrutinised by those at the top of the club," a source told Goal.com. "The board are considering changing the whole set-up. They knew this would be a season of transition after selling [Stewart] Downing, [Ashley] Young and [Brad] Friedel and were not expecting a top-six finish but they have been alarmed at the lack of ambition, particularly at home. The attendances at Villa Park tell its own story."

McLeish has two more years left on the contract that he signed last summer and Lerner will be loathe to fund another substantial compensation pay-out after making payments amounting to £12 million to ex-bosses O’Neill and Houllier and their backroom teams. The Villa owner also paid compensation to Birmingham for McLeish last summer.

GOING DOWN?
8/1 Aston Villa are 8/1 to be relegated this season with William Hill
Nevertheless, there is a growing consensus at Villa Park that the club should act when the season finishes, given that Villa have the seventh biggest stadium in the Premier League and the seventh highest turnover behind the six Champions League calibre clubs – Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City and Tottenham.

There is talk of a Lerner making available significant funds for transfers and wages in the summer but the club announced in February a loss of £54m for the year ending May 31, 2011.

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