Aston Villa managed Alex McLeish has declared “I’m not a quitter” after sifting through the wreckage of Villa’s latest setback amid increasing pressure from supporters.
Villa were booed off at half and full-time in Saturday’s 1-0 home defeat to Manchester United with Shay Given and Jermaine Jenas injuries and Charles N’Zogbia’s indiscipline piling up their woes.
Despite the calibre of the claret and blues’ weekend opponents, the latest poor performance and result intensifies the heat on McLeish from sections of the club’s unconvinced fanbase.
McLeish accepts Villa’s form has not been good enough, with his players found wanting in both boxes, but the former Birmingham City boss is committed to getting it right and will not be forced out.
“I’m not going to criticise the fans,” said McLeish.
“You know how difficult it was for me coming here in the first place and I’ve just got to persevere.
“As I’ve told you guys, I’m not a quitter and I’ll go as far as I can to get this club turned around.
“But you know where you have to improve the quality, we have to make sure we defend with concentration and we’ve got to be a threat in the last third.”
Asked if he thought the jeers as he and his players trudged away from the field at half and full-time were harsh, he replied: “I didn’t, no, not in the first half.
“We didn’t pass it well, gave the ball away willy nilly. I don’t think we really believed in ourselves.
"Fans did not like it. I wasn’t particularly keen on it either. I was in unison with the fans on that one and the second half was better and they went right to the very end which I would have demanded of every team I’ve coached or managed. We got that.”
Randy Lerner witnessed Villa’s defeat and injury woes on Saturday and McLeish admitted he might need to ask the chairman for squad reinforcements in January.
“Yes, that will be a fact,” he said. “But, as I said, we’ve still got to try and trade carefully.
“But if we need emergencies, we have to seriously consider that as a club.”
Villa’s medical staff will assess Given (hamstring) and Jenas (Achilles’) today but it is unlikely either player will be fit enough to feature again in the club’s demanding festive schedule. Chris Herd also limped off with a hip injury.
There were suggestions Jenas, who has already spent two months of his season-long loan on the treatment table, sustained his injury by tripping over a sprinkler on the Villa Park pitch. It is believed to be the other Achilles’ to the one which ruled him out earlier in the season.
But McLeish said: “I never heard that – that’s news to me.
“If he’s gone over the sprinkler then it’s maybe just his ankle. He felt his Achilles’. We can scan him and then the doctor will have to give us his assessment.
“Shay may be a grade one hamstring, which is the smallest tear.
“It can be three or four weeks. A hamstring at any stage is never overnight. Let’s hope it’s not too severe.”
Charles N’Zogbia was left out of the matchday squad by McLeish after breaching club discipline by failing to report for a treatment session.
McLeish was offered words of encouragement by mentor and Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson after Saturday’s match.
“He just said ‘you’ve got to keep going’,” added McLeish.
“He said a few other things which will remain private but he said they were sweating a bit at the death after our second half.”