Relegated Aston Villa’s beleaguered players face three more weeks of public humiliation before their nightmare season comes to an end.
But Villa caretaker manager Eric Black has no plans to shield any of his highly-paid but underachieving troops from their fate in the final fixtures.
Angry Villa fans have targeted goalkeeper Brad Guzan, defender Joleon Lescott and midfielder Leandro Bacuna for particular ridicule, with the trio’s every touch booed during Saturday’s 4-2 defeat at home to Southampton.
But Black, who was also criticized by supporters for his substitutions, insists the abuse directed at players and himself will not influence his team selection for the remaining three games.
“When you’re bottom of the league with 16 points and you’re relegated, whether you’re in the right frame of mind I don’t know, but I can only pick on what I see,” Black said.
“People will have to judge things for themselves but I can only pick it on 37 years of football experience.
“That is all I go on. I can’t pick it on what journalists say or what supporters say.
“That would be unprofessional of me and there would be no point in me being here if we just had a lottery and picked the team.
“I am standing there so I will take it. That is not a problem.”
Black admitted he could have no complaints about the hostile atmosphere that greeted Villa in their first home game since their first relegation for 29 years was confirmed last weekend.
– Worst season –
“I can understand the fans’ frustration and the fans will definitely have their ideas on the team and the players they want to see,” he added.
“I think that multiplies because of the circumstances but I can’t be led down that road. I can’t succumb to that and I won’t.
“It is difficult circumstances for everybody and I don’t want to be accusing the fans of anything because they keep turning up.
“They are trying to voice their opinions in certain ways about certain players.
“But we are professional people, the garden is not always rosy and you have to respond and that’s all we can do.
“I’m not here to tell the fans what to do. They have had the worst season in recent history for this club.
“They have seen poor performances and poor results and they have every right to voice their anger.”
Two goals from Dusan Tadic helped Southampton to a victory that was more comfortable than the scoreline suggested.
He added to Shane Long’s opener while Sadio Mane made it 4-2 late on after Ashley Westwood had twice pulled Villa within one goal.
Southampton still harbor hopes of qualifying for the Europa League and manager Ronald Koeman said: “What you like is, at the end of the season, to play for something.
“That is always better than when the season is over. We are winning again and putting the pressure on them.
“That’s what we like to do and we have to do it next week.
“Liverpool have a tough schedule with the Europa League and that’s always difficult to keep the momentum in the Premier League.
“That’s good because we are close but we need more wins, we know.”
Jay Rodriguez made his first start for the Saints since September and Koeman was delighted with his contribution.
“Everyone knows Jay played twice in the under-21s and in the last two matches he came from the bench,” said Koeman.
“Today was the last step he makes by starting. Normally it’s a player who can score goals and what he needs is game time. It was a good opportunity to start.”
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