Paul Merson still believes he can steer Walsall clear of relegation after three successive defeats, but a fair proportion of the fans who made the short journey to the Potteries no longer believe him.
They turned on him and chairman Jeff Bonser as the hapless team showed a lack of character, desire or determination and tamely allowed Port Vale to leapfrog them in the battle for safety.
Chants of ?Merson Out?, ?Bonser Out?, and ?Where?s the money gone?? came from behind the goal where a few hundred Saddlers fans had watched yet another shocking performance.
One middle-aged fan even hurled his red replica shirt on the pitch while adding a gesture which left no one in any doubt about his feelings.
It is only towards the end of a painful season that Merson seems to have realised that relegation is possible for a second successive year.
So he spent much of his 37th birthday yesterday making phone calls to other managers and contacts in the game in an effort to borrow two new men for the last eight games of the season.
?I have permission to bring in a couple of players to freshen things up ? it?s got to be somebody better than I have already ? but it?s getting them in. It?s whoever is going to pay the ransom,? Merson explained.
Asked about the fans? reaction he said: ?It?s not nice to hear ?Merson out, Merson out?, and, no disrespect, but I am the best player.
?I have four or five clubs wanting to take me, but I want to stay here. I am desperate to do well.
?I shall make sure we get out of trouble. But games are running away. I want to stay, I love it here. And the majority of fans are great to me, but today it was quite loud.
?We always said, from the first game, it would be up to the fans. If they want me out, I will be out. If they want me to stay, I stay. That?s always been the case.?
Merson described the chants against himself and the club chairman and owner, Jeff Bonser, as a ?double whammy? for the fans to want both of them out.
Would he be prepared to stay on if the Saddlers are relegated for the second year in a row?
?I would want to stay, but I think the fans would string me up,? he replied.
Merson hopes he can keep the team up then bring in players he has earmarked for next season. He would happily be judged on the performance of the men he has recruited rather than inherited.
One player he recruited for this game, goalkeeper Andy Oakes, turned in a man-of-the-match performance. If he had not, the Saddlers would have been buried. The free transfer man from Derby County looked a great signing and he said later he was convinced his new club had enough quality to stay up then rebuild and go for promotion.
Teenager Daryl Taylor, who appears to lack the confidence needed to go with his flashes of talent, missed a chance to give Walsall an early lead, but with Matty Fryatt acting as a lone striker, the visitors carried little threat in the first half.
Only fine saves from Oakes kept them alive until halftime, but within six minutes of the second half Michael Cummins headed in a Craig James free-kick and Vale never looked back.
Billy Paynter threaded a pass through the defence for Lee Matthews to add a second in 57 minutes, and it was all over, despite Taylor and Darren Wrack hitting the woodwork.
Walsall have won only one of their last eight games in a division which is no theatre of excellence, and unless the players start competing, they could yet go down with a wimper.
Scorers: Cummins (51), Matthews (57).
PORT VALE (4-4-2): Goodlad; Abbey, Collins, Rowland, James; Birchall, Hulbert (Brown, 46), Cummins, Sonner; Paynter, Matthews (Eldershaw, 84). Subs: Brain, Hanson, Lowndes.
WALSALL (4-4-1-1): Oakes; Wright, Roper, Bennett (Emblen, 82), Aranalde; D Taylor (Standing, 65), Osborn, Surman (Leit?o, 61), Wrack; Merson; Fryatt. Subs: Coleman, K Taylor.
Referee: M S Pike (Barrow).
Booking: Port Vale ? Abbey (foul).
Walsall man of the match: Andy Oakes ? a fine debut by the goalkeeper whose saves prevented a much bigger defeat.