Tim Sherwood has warned his Aston Villa players they will be dropped if they do not wake up to the enormity of the club’s perilous position.
Villa are second bottom of the table after falling to their seventh straight Premier League defeat, 1-0 at Newcastle on Saturday. Sherwood, who has overseen two of those losses since taking over from Paul Lambert, issued a stark appraisal to his new charges.
“I don’t want to see any heads dropping and if I do see heads drop on the training field then they won’t play,” he said. “We need a siege mentality. It’s not about them and me, it’s about us – we’re in it together.
“I have sat down with all of them individually. I’m taking responsibility and they need to start taking responsibility as players. They’re up for that.Give me a crap performance, but give me a win – now is the time for points.”
Papiss Cissé scored Newcastle’s first-half winner – and Sherwood added: “Anxiety got into the team. Sometimes you need to pick your way through and use your brains and your quality. Now is the time to start showing that quality. There isn’t a problem with heart and character. There is no lack of desire there.”
The size of Sherwood’s task is highlighted by the club’s last 12 Premier League games. They have produced just three points. That is unquestionably relegation form and the 3,000 travelling supporters at St James’ Park unfurled a banner attacking the club’s American owner Randy Lerner which read: “Too little, too late, Lerner out”.
Key to turning around the belief that Villa are doomed will be reinvigorating striker Christian Benteke. Sherwood dramatically revived the fortunes of Emmanuel Adebayor during his time in charge at Tottenham; now he must make a similar impact with Benteke to improve on a season that has so far produced just two league goals.
Against Newcastle the Belgian was denied a spectacular overhead goal by a fine Tim Krul save, volleyed narrowly wide and saw a 71st-minute effort ruled out for offside.
“If you look through the whole squad then no one is really playing to their maximum,” said Sherwood. “You look at Christian because he was the headline striker and everyone wanted him, but I thought he was good. He had the overhead kick and had chances, one where it came across the box and he should have gambled.
“So he could have had two goals and been on a winning team. It’s fine margins. He needs a goal.” As do Villa, quickly. That 12-game run has brought them just three.