Kevin MacDonald is heading a five-man shortlist for Aston Villa manager's job after an interview in the Aston Villa Hospitality section. The other contenders all possess greater Premier League experience but, after 15 years working in various coaching capacities at Villa Park, MacDonald boasts some significant supporters inside the club, including key players.

His cause is helped by a dearth of high-calibre managers available to take over a club that challenged for Champions League qualification last season.

Despite the recruitment difficulties, one candidate was interviewed yesterday by a panel headed by Lerner and Villa's chief executive, Paul Faulkner. The club hopes the process will be concluded swiftly, with O'Neill's successor installed by the end of the international break.

Although Aston Villa's board discussed the possibility of hiring Mark Hughes when there were fears O'Neill might quit at the end of last season, the Welshman joined Fulham just before the Northern Irishman left Villa Park.

Much as Hughes and Villa might privately wish their timing had been different, extricating the former Blackburn and Manchester City manager from Craven Cottage now would prove extremely tricky – not to mention expensive.