Lambert accepts fan criticism but calls for Villa unity
28 April 2014, 10:32
London - Aston Villa boss Paul Lambert has called upon the club's disgruntled fans to get behind their out-of-form team for next week's key home clash against Hull City where victory would preserve their Premier League status.
Villa were 10th after beating title chasing Chelsea last month but one point from the six matches since has seen them sucked into the relegation battle and the fans turn on Lambert, with the future of owner Randy Lerner also in doubt.
A 4-1 defeat at Swansea City on Saturday left the former European champions in 16th on 35 points, three ahead of Lambert's old club Norwich City, who are 18th and occupy the final relegation place but have played a game more.
"Criticism is not nice but I've had it as a player and as manager. I'll take it," Lambert was quoted as saying by British media on Monday.
"I've never shied away from it. I'm the manager and it's my job to protect the players. They are the ones who play the game.
"I totally understand the supporters' feelings. This is a huge football club and expectation levels are so high because of what has been achieved in the past. The club should never be in this position, that's the bottom line.
"I'll take the criticism, but if there was ever a game where the supporters need to get behind the team it's next Saturday."
Barring an unlikely run of results from the teams at the bottom of the table, Hull secured their Premier League status for another season after coming back from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 at 19th placed Fulham on Saturday.
Hull are in 13th with 37 points and Steve Bruce's side have an F.A. Cup final against Arsenal to look forward to and Lambert will be hoping to take advantage of the chance to claim the three points with daunting trips to Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur to finish.
However, Villa have managed only five wins at home this campaign, only two goals in their last four league outings and will again be without long term injury concerns Christian Benteke and Libor Kozak for the run in.
Still, Lambert, who survived a relegation battle last season in his first campaign with the club, remained optimistic they will be playing in the Premier League next year.
"We'd be more worried if our fate wasn't in our own hands," the former Borussia Dortmund midfielder said.
"We've got three games left, others have got two. One win will do to keep us up and next week's game is now a cup final."