Chief Sports Writer Hyder Jawad on the importance of not upsetting the loyal supporter...
David O'Leary was a cultured defender for 20 years, he has impressed some chairmen with his ability as a manager and fancies himself as a bit of a charmer.
On the public relations front, however, he is not the most enlightened of individuals.
Nor, it seems, are Carlos Quieiroz of Manchester United, or Nigel Worthington of Norwich City.
When O'Leary's erratic Aston Villa team were 3-1 down away to Wycombe Wanderers in the second round of the Carling Cup last week, he expressed profound surprise and disillusionment that the supporters should jeer what was a wretched first-half performance.
O'Leary, who does not always reveal an extensive vocabulary and calls most people "my friend", later described the fans "fickle" and no doubt felt vindicated when Villa scored seven goals in the second half to win 8-3.
Queiroz, the United assistant manager, has effectively called the supporters of his club 'stupid' while Nigel Worthington said he "did not care" what the Norwich fans thought.
Whereas Worthington apologised and Queiroz could say that his translated quotes were misinterpreted, O'Leary missed the point alarmingly.
For a start, it is churlish to criticise those supporters merely for making a legitimate protest. They took time off work to travel to Wycombe, they paid for their tickets and they had earned the right to express an opinion. They had broken no laws.
Second, Villa deserved criticism for their ghastly first-half display. Even some of the players admitted it. Significantly, Gareth Barry, one of the Villa goalscorers in the second half, defended the right of those fans to vent their frustration.
These supporters contribute to the wages of O'Leary and the playing staff. They are loyal.
They applaud the team when it is appropriate, as it was at half-time during the match at home to Tottenham Hotspur.
Most importantly, these fans were there before O'Leary and will be there long after he has gone. It is not just the Villa players who are, to quote O'Leary's tiresome phrase, "an honest bunch of lads".
The supporters are, too, and it would be nice to hear O'Leary say that once in a while.
There is never a good time to criticise law-abiding fans but now is particularly misconceived.
Villa's attendances, like those of many clubs in the Premiership, are down on last season and there is a feeling that the bubble could be set to burst.
No longer can clubs take the sale of tickets for granted. The balance of power in the game is shifting ever so slightly in favour of those who have underwritten players' wages since long before Sky Sports existed.
When a manager comes out to criticise supporters, he helps to perpetuate the growing chasm between those who watch football and those who run it.
Villa are already a club where harmony is lacking. Note the delight among supporters when it emerged last week that Villa are again the subject of possible takeover. Nowhere in the Premiership is the relationship between chairman and fans so tenuous.
Only the American government can match Villa for faux pas, and O'Leary's comments last Tuesday night were a needless misjudgment, fully in keeping with the club's consistent failure to grasp the fundamentals of public relations.
Mind you, O'Leary might be a master of repetition but at least he usually talks to the media (although, significantly, he did not the day before the match against Chelsea).
Sir Alex Ferguson, the Manchester United manager, no longer talks to his club's own television station and his assistant, Queiroz, did not take too kindly to those fans who jeered Ferguson after the 2-1 defeat to Blackburn Rovers last Saturday.
Queiroz said: "People have been crying out for us to use a 4-4-2 formation and in the Blackburn Rovers game we played with a 4-4-2 system for the first time and lost.
"That is why football is a game in which imagination and, on many occasions, stupidity, have no limits."
But Queiroz's quotes were translated from Portuguese and he will no doubt claim the benefit of any doubt over how that was done.
Worthington apologised to his Norwich supporters for remarks he made after the defeat last Saturday by Reading.
Some fans booed Worthington's decision to substitute Paul McVeigh in the second half of the 1-0 defeat at Carrow Road. After saying that he did not care what the fans thought, Worthington backtracked yesterday.
" If my remarks have caused offence to any of our supporters, then I apologise wholeheartedly," he said.
"I was being interviewed not long after the game had ended. Saturday was frustrating for all concerned and nobody is more frustrated than myself, the coaching staff and the players."
The passion of the supporters should be applauded, not criticised. And that is why O'Leary might feel the need to offer an apology to the Villa fans.