Since acquiring Aston Villa in 2006, Randy Lerner has always enjoyed a good relationship with the Villa faithful. Of course, the individual to take over from unpopular former owner Doug Ellis was always going to be popular, but the American has gone out of his way to ensure the club’s traditions have not been forgotten.

The refurbishment of the iconic Holte Pub that had fallen into disrepair; the investment in a retro mosaic on the exterior façade of the Holte End; the commissioning of a statue of Club and Football League founder William McGregor. These are just some of the steps that Lerner and his board have taken to honour the Aston Villa’s heritage. And all have been warmly received by supporters.

But Lerner’s appointment of former Birmingham City manager Alex McLeish to fill the managerial position left vacant by Gerard Houllier, who was forced to leave the club due to health problems, has ignited a wave of fury not seen at Villa Park since the reign of Doug Ellis.

An estimated 1,000 fans attended a protest at Villa Park on the day that Lerner and McLeish met for talks and a larger number of supporters have voiced their displeasure at the appointment on social networking sites. Yet despite an avalanche of vocal criticism over the proposed appointment, Lerner and chief executive Paul Faulkner pressed on undeterred.

With the Glasgow born manager now in the Villa Park hot seat the protests have dispersed and a truce has been called. The Scottish manager, affectionately known as “Big Eck”, has empathised with the club’s fans, stating: "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.”

The former Scotland boss will need to rebuild a squad that underperformed last year, although there is a pool of talent for McLeish to work with. January transfer window signing Darren Bent should guarantee a return of 20 goals with back-up from Emile Heskey, Gabriel Agbonlahor and England Under-21 international Nathan Delfouneso.

In midfield club captain Stylian Petrov’s experience will prove invaluable with a number of promising youngsters competing for a place in the engine room. Big things are expected of former Leeds United youth product Fabian Delph having now fully recovered from a knee ligament injury, while Scotland international Barry Bannan will be hoping he can make his mark after featuring intermittently last season, and Tamworth-born winger Marc Albrighton should capitalise on Ashley Young’s pending departure to Manchester United. Retaining the services of England winger Stewart Downing, who has been linked with a move to Liverpool, will also feature highly on “Big Eck’s” list of priorities.

At the back McLeish needs to decide if there is to be a radical overhaul or if instead he will stick with a defence that often looked fragile last season. Richard Dunne, James Collins and Carlos Cuellar are all capable, but can the ex-Blues chief forge them into a cohesive defensive unit?

Behind that trio in the pecking order are Republic of Ireland international Ciaran Clark, Nathan Baker and United States international Eric Lichaj. All three youngsters will be working hard to impress McLeish when the Villa squad return for pre-season training on 7th July.

Following Brad Friedel’s departure to Tottenham Hotspur, the Villains are in the market for a goalkeeper and Birmingham’s Ben Foster is likely to be at the top of McLeish’s shopping list. But whether Blues are prepared to do business with their city rivals and former manager remains to be seen.

McLeish will be thankful that he has a full pre-season to make his mark, and the fixture computer has also been kind. Villa’s opening seven matches all look winnable, starting with Fulham away. And importantly, the Scot knows that he needs to get off to a good start otherwise the knives will begin to sharpen.

With the initial controversy now over and a new manager at the helm the club can try and move forward. For Lerner, his Claret and Blue honeymoon as chairman is almost certainly over. The appointment of an ex-Birmingham City manager will define his reign in the Midlands. And for McLeish, the toughest challenge of his career will be to win over the Villa faithful.