Alex McLeish 'fights on' after Aston Villa fans' patience snaps

Shambolic defeat at home to Bolton leaves hapless Scot staring at third relegation in four seasons

Aston Villa's last away fixture saw them face Manchester United and Sir Alex Ferguson. Next season it may be Peterborough United and Darren Ferguson.

Villa are this season's "too-good-to-go-down" team in the Premier League, a side no one tipped for relegation yet who are now drifting up the proverbial without a paddle. Dropping into the second tier for the first time since 1987 could be disastrous for a club who justifiably regard themselves as the biggest in the Midlands. Their better players would be likely to leave, revenue would almost certainly plummet and there is no guarantee of the instant return secured by Graham Taylor a quarter of a century ago.

The past 13 games have delivered a solitary victory for Villa as Wigan and Queen's Park Rangers have crept ever closer to them; they are missing seven players through injury and illness; and Alex McLeish, the manager few fans wanted because of his Birmingham connection and perceived cautious approach, trudged to the tunnel after Tuesday's 2-1 home defeat to Bolton with a torrent of abuse ringing in his ears.

Whereas his fellow Scot, Steve Kean, has endured such vilification all season at Blackburn, Villa's crowd had resisted openly venting antipathy towards McLeish, apparently willing to suppress their misgivings as long as the team kept a respectable distance between themselves and the bottom three. All that changed in the space of barely 50 seconds, the time it took Bolton to shrug off Stephen Warnock's 61st-minute goal and respond instantly by scoring twice.

Villa have never won fewer than six home matches in a season but the result left them with a wretched total of four from 18 matches and only Tottenham left to visit B6. "The ruthlessness, professionalism and clinical finishing just weren't there," admitted McLeish. Afterwards, the former Scotland manager was spotted deep in conversation with the club's American chairman-owner, Randy Lerner, and chief executive, Paul Faulkner. Few in his profession, if any, fall on their swords and he duly emerged, defiant if perhaps a little shaken, to assure the media he and the team would "keep fighting".

It may have seemed propitious for Villa's largely youthful side to be playing away on Saturday, far from the expectations of the Holte End. However, the trip to West Bromwich Albion, three and a half miles up the road, looks certain to be a bumpy ride. Mid-table Albion will be the West Midlands' only Premier League representatives if Villa join Wolves in the drop and Birmingham do not win the Championship play-offs. Their followers, moreover, will revel in Villa's plight, eager for a first double over them since 1973-74.

McLeish, facing a possible third relegation in his last four top-flight campaigns, hopes to have a seasoned campaigner, central defender Richard Dunne, back at The Hawthorns. Two more, James Collins and Stephen Ireland, should be fit to resume against Spurs and in the last match, at Norwich. Unhappily for Villa, given their paltry 36 goals in 35 games, he has no proven marksman to bring back, Darren Bent's ankle injury ensuring he will not play again this season.

Maybe no one should have been surprised by their failure to convert first-half chances against Bolton; the top scorers in the starting XI were a trio on two goals apiece. What was ominous, for a manager often branded "defensive", was the omnishambles, to borrow a phrase from politics, into which Villa's rearguard descended in the immediate aftermath of Warnock's goal.

Villa's problems, it is now clear, go deeper than being without experienced personnel. Even when McLeish had a near full-strength squad in the autumn they still failed to accrue sufficient points to offset the damage caused by the kind of run they are currently suffering.

Warnock manfully sought to deflect the criticism of McLeish on to the players. "It's our mistakes which have cost us, not the manager. He doesn't go to clear the ball and make a foul. That's our own individual errors and we need to learn from them," the midfielder said. "Now we need to go to West Brom with the belief that we can win. It's a must-win game, simple as that. Personally I feel we're not far off battering a team."

Villa's awful spring

Bottom six:

P/W/D/L/F/A/Pts

Aston Villa 35/7/15/13/36/50/36

QPR 35/9/7/19/39/57/34

Wigan 35/8/10/17/34/60/34

Bolton 34/10/3/21/39/67/33

Blackburn 35/8/7/20/47/73/31

Wolves (R) 35/5/8/22/34/75/23

Remaining games Saturday West Bromwich Albion (a); 6 May Tottenham (h); 13 May Norwich (a)

Villa's recent run

1 Feb QPR (h); Drew 2-2

5 Feb Newcastle (a); Lost 2-1

12 Feb Man City (h); Lost 1-0

25 Feb Wigan (a); Drew 0-0

3 Mar Blackburn (a); Drew 1-1

10 Mar Fulham (h); Won 1-0

24 Mar Arsenal (a); Lost 3-0

31 Mar Chelsea (h); Lost 4-2

7 Apr Liverpool (a); Drew 1-1

9 Apr Stoke (h); Drew 1-1

15 Apr Man United (a); Lost 4-0

21 Apr Sunderland (h); Drew 0-0

24 Apr Bolton (h); Lost 2-1

News
news

Emergency call 'started off dumb, but got pretty serious'

Sport
Erik Lamela celebrates his goal
football

Argentinian scored 'rabona' wonder goal for Tottenham in Europa League – see it here

News
The cartoon produced by Bruce MacKinnon for the Halifax Chronicle-Herald on Thursday, showing the bronze soldiers of the war memorial in Ottawa welcoming Corporal Cirillo into their midst
news
News
peopleFox presenter gives her less than favourable view of women in politics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
Funds raised from the sale of poppies help the members of the armed forces with financial difficulties
voicesLindsey German: The best way of protecting soldiers is to stop sending them into disastrous conflicts
News
The Edge and his wife, Morleigh Steinberg, at the Academy Awards in 2014
peopleGuitarist faces protests over plan to build mansions in Malibu
Property
One bedroom terraced house for sale, Richmond Avenue, Islington, London N1. On with Winkworths for £275,000.
property
Voices
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
voicesNigel Farage: Where is the Left’s outrage over the sexual abuse of girls in the North of England?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift performs at the 2014 iHeart Radio Music Festival
musicReview: 1989's songs attempt to encapsulate dramatic emotional change in a few striking lines
News
Mario Balotelli has been accused of 'threateningly' telling a woman to stop photographing his Ferrari
peoplePolice investigate claim Balotelli acted 'threateningly' towards a woman photographing his Ferrari
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Anderson plays Arthur Shelby in Peaky Blinders series two
tvReview: Arthur Shelby Jr seems to be losing his mind as his younger brother lets him run riot in London
Voices
Don’t try this at home: DIY has now fallen out of favour
voicesNick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of it
Arts and Entertainment
Miranda Hart has called time on her award-winning BBC sitcom, Miranda
tv
Sport
Phil Jones (left) attempts to stop the progress of West Bromwich Albion’s James Morrison on Monday
Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo, writes Paul Scholes
Arts and Entertainment
Saw point: Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence in ‘Serena’
filmReview: Serena is a strangely dour and downbeat affair
Life and Style
The Zinger Double Down King, which is a bun-less burger released in Korea
food + drinkKFC unveils breadless meat beast
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker