BIRMINGHAM, England (AP) – Alex McLeish completed his contentious move to manage Aston Villa on Friday after quitting archrival Birmingham, accepting he needs to win over supporters who opposed his appointment.
The rare switch in managerial jobs between neighboring clubs not only enraged Birmingham, which demanded compensation to cover the final two years of McLeish's contract, but also some Villa fans, who dislike McLeish because of his connection to their main rival.
But Villa's American owner Randy Lerner pressed ahead with appointing the 52-year-old Scot as his third manager in less than a year.
''I am honored to have this opportunity to manage a club with such a fantastic history as Aston Villa's,'' McLeish said. ''I know that some of our fans have voiced concerns and I can understand why.
''It will be up to me to convince you that I am the right man to drive the club forward and I intend to give absolutely everything to prove that I can be a success at the club.''
McLeish, whose contract details have not been announced, is replacing Gerard Houllier, who left Villa last week because of heart problems after just nine months in charge.
''Unquestionably, Alex meets the criteria we set out at the beginning of our search which was based on proven Premier League experience, leadership, a hardworking ethic and, most importantly, a shared vision for Aston Villa,'' chief executive Paul Faulkner said. ''Alex's vast experience and proven abilities demonstrate clearly that he is a strong leader and an ambitious man.''
Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson, who gave McLeish his break as a player at Aberdeen, is convinced he can succeed at Villa Park.
''I have known Alex since he was 18 years of age when he went to Aberdeen,'' Ferguson said. ''He was always intelligent, he was always inquisitive in his nature, he was always asking questions, and these to me are essential ingredients for being a successful manager.''
McLeish's first competitive fixture at Villa will be the Premier League opener at Fulham on Aug. 13.
''Once the fans are confronted by the reality that Alex is the manager, they will step back and say, 'Well, we have made our complaints and voiced our opinion, let's see what happens next and give the man his chance,''' Ferguson said.
''There are some good players at Aston Villa and overall it's a really good setup. There are some good young players and therefore he will have that opportunity to weld it all together, the youth and the experience.''
McLeish played for Aberdeen and Motherwell as a center half and made 77 appearances for Scotland.
The move into management began with Motherwell in 1994 followed by Hibernian and Rangers, where he won two Scottish Premier League titles.
He became manager of Scotland in 2007 and nearly secured qualification for the 2008 European Championship in a group that included Italy and France.
He left the Scottish job to take charge of Birmingham in November 2007. Although the club was relegated from the Premier League last month for the second time in his reign, the team qualified for the Europa League in February by winning the League Cup, ending its 48-year title drought.