Lerner stakes his Villa reputation on McLeish
In a moment that will define his Aston Villa reign, Randy Lerner has ignored the protests and turned back a tidal wave of discontent to appoint Alex McLeish as the club's new manager.
Lerner's gamble on the man who took fiercest rivals Birmingham City into the Championship in May - and brought Villa supporters on to the streets in protest at his impending move to Villa Park - will not come to rest on the middle ground.
If McLeish turns out to be a success, his appointment will be regarded as an inspirational move by an owner willing to fly in the face of public opinion. If the Scot is a failure, it is almost impossible to see how Lerner can retain the faith of Villa's fans.
Alex McLeish, 52, has signed a three-year contract at Villa Park
Lerner and McLeish have shown plenty of bravery by opting to join forces - and they will need to demonstrate the courage of their convictions again now.
After sidestepping ex-England head coach Steve McClaren amid supporter unrest, Lerner went for what was almost the 'nuclear' option in footballing terms by turning his attention to McLeish, who brought Birmingham their first major trophy in 47 years with February's surprise 2-1 Carling Cup final win over Arsenal at Wembley.
Former Rangers boss McLeish is used to pressure but he will need to show the strength of character he demonstrated at Ibrox if he is to win over the sceptics. And there are plenty out there with a Facebook group "Aston Villa Supporters - We don't want Alex McLeish" attracting almost 18,000 names.
Crossing the managerial divide is a hazardous occupation, as George Graham knows.
He won two league titles at Arsenal, as well two League Cups, the FA Cup and the European Cup Winners' Cup before taking over at north London rivals Tottenham in October 1998 after a two-year spell in charge of Leeds.
Graham guided Spurs to success in the Worthington Cup at Wembley in 1999 but was never fully accepted at White Hart Lane because of his connection with the Gunners and was eventually sacked in March 2001 despite taking Tottenham to the FA Cup semi-finals.
Graham knows the obstacles McLeish faces - as well as the battles he must win - and believes a manager in such a diplomatically difficult position must never waver from his trusted principles if he is to overcome disaffected supporters.
"I think Alex McLeish will cope with it very well," Graham said. "The fans have got to realise that managers are not fans of clubs. They are doing a job in a professional manner and move around the profession to improve themselves and try to achieve their ambitions.
"I think Alex sees an opportunity at Aston Villa. It looks to me as though he sees them as a club to give him that platform for success.
"I think a good start to next season will obviously help but there are fans you will never win over. I had that at Spurs because of my own background and successes at Arsenal. We won the League Cup at Wembley in 1999 and that kept them quiet for a year. But I knew I had to keep them happy every year.
"There are some Villa supporters he will never win over because he has come from Birmingham but I think McLeish will be a big success. He handled his managerial appointment in Scotland very well. He knows you are going to get severe criticism up there and he dealt with that perfectly well. We are talking about an experienced and strong character here."
Graham added: "Yes, Birmingham were relegated but he also brought them their first success in 47 years and got them back up to the Premier League when they were relegated [previously in 2008]. He should just go into Villa Park and be himself, not try to change to please people who do not approve of his appointment.
"From what I know of Alex McLeish, he is a very good manager and this is a very good appointment, which is all that should matter."
McLeish knows he has to win over the Aston Villa fans
Jonathan Fear, a respected spokesman for Villa fans and editor of the Vital Villa website, described the idea of McLeish's appointment as "an impossibility" when it was first floated.
After McLeish was confirmed as manager on Friday morning, Fear told BBC Sport: "I am actually relieved that it's done and we are talking about fact not rumour. I'm still amazed they've done it, though.
"Alex McLeish must be a very strong man to take this on but the lack of expectation may even help him. He is damaged goods to an extent because of Birmingham's relegation, so he has a reputation to rebuild. He will be hungry and he knows he has got to win the fans over.
"Let's face it, managers we thought were the bee's knees haven't brought us success, so you never know. Maybe a manager who has come with this sort of build-up might work out.
Fear said that McLeish can begin winning fans over by ensuring winger Stewart Downing stays at the club following reports he will leave.
Lerner will also be expected to support his new manager in the transfer market.
"He will be determined to back McLeish because this is an era-defining moment for him and chief executive Paul Faulkner," Fear said. "They will know they cannot afford to have got this appointment wrong."
Fear added: "Some people have said I am changing my position but I support the club not the manager. I have likened Villa to a nagging wife - you sometimes wish you could walk away but you know you can't and you never will.
"I'm gutted for the fans who feel they can't come back to Villa now but it is done, it's a fact and we have to look forwards."
Lerner and McLeish will hope such sentiments are shared by the majority who occupy Villa Park on a regular basis.