Protests and pints sour the mood as McLeish battles for Villa's destiny


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The Independent Online

A planned protest outside Villa Park by disgruntled fans over Alex McLeish's management of Aston Villa and the continuing fall-out from the nightclub fracas involving three Villa players have given an extra edge to this afternoon's vital match against Tottenham in Villa's relegation battle.

"Everybody understands the frustrations," the defender Richard Dunne told the Birmingham Mail after it ran a half-page ad placed by fans calling for McLeish's head, "they're not happy with us as players and the management and the club as a whole. But we need the supporters because they want to watch Premier League football next season. The best thing they can do is support us and whatever happens, happens."

McLeish must decide whether to select James Collins, Chris Herd and Fabian Delph, implicated in a row in the small hours of Tuesday morning. They have all been disciplined by the club, Delph receiving a lighter punishment as he apparently acted as peacemaker in the incident. "We knew about it on Tuesday and acted very swiftly," McLeish said. "We're very disappointed. We won't tolerate that kind of behaviour.

"If selected I think the most important thing is that they've been punished. They've shown a bit of humility, which is the least we can expect."

The events have clearly soured an already heated atmosphere around Villa's final home match of their increasingly fractious season.

"It happens at every club," McLeish reasoned. "It happens at even the top clubs. It's the culture of one pint too many. I think it reflects badly on Randy Lerner, the club, myself and most importantly the players themselves. They owe us."

Delph has an injury which is keeping him out until next season, but Herd and Collins could be selected for Villa's vital last two matches, giving McLeish yet another tricky decision.