Joleon Lescott: Aston Villa defender criticised for relegation comment
Aston Villa captain Joleon Lescott has been criticised after describing relegation from the Premier League as "a weight off the shoulders".
Saturday's defeat at Manchester United confirmed the West Midlands club will drop into the second tier of English football for the first time since 1987.
Lescott said he hoped in the final four games "we can give these fans what they deserve - some performances".
But his remarks were called "selfish" and "insensitive" by some supporters.
Former Villa striker Stan Collymore, now a commentator for Talksport, said: "Why is it a weight off the shoulders, Joleon? It should hang on your shoulders.
"There's the Villa staff - there's real weight on their shoulders. People are getting made redundant that have been there 20 years and don't know where the next pay cheque is going to come from."
Lescott, who also came in for criticism for tweeting a picture of an expensive car after Villa were thrashed 6-0 by Liverpool in February, admitted a narrow defeat at Old Trafford could not paper over the cracks of a dismal campaign.
Villa's defeat to United was their ninth in a row in the league in a season punctuated by regular fan protests against the club's owner, Randy Lerner, and criticism of the players.
"We knew before the game what we had to do, but coming to Old Trafford is never easy no matter what situation you're in," said the 33-year-old.
"Throughout the game we showed a level of pride that there's probably not been enough of throughout the season.
"It's about results so regardless of how we played in patches today we are relegated. We need to find a way to get out of this run of defeats.
"Throughout the season we have given reasons for people to jump on us. It's a tough time at the minute."
'We have to ensure this never happens again'
Caretaker manager Eric Black is confident Villa can make a swift return to the top flight.
"We have players capable of playing in the Championship," said Black. "People in certain places will make sure Villa will come back, I'm confident of that and that process has to start now."
Black, who took over when Villa parted company with Remi Garde as manager in March after the Frenchman's 147 days in charge, added: "I would like to be part of it."
Only 18 teams from 67 relegated from the Premier League since its formation in 1992-93 have achieved promotion straight back into the top flight.
"The players are devastated," said Black. "It's been coming, we know that, but once the realisation that the R (for relegation) is against the side of your team, it is difficult.
"We have to ensure this fantastic football club goes back to where it should be and this never happens again."
Villa - one of the worst Premier League sides ever?
Despite their catastrophic season, the 2015-16 Villa crop are not one of the worst two Premier League sides of all time. If they pick up four points in their final five games, they could finish fourth on the all-time worst Premier League teams list.
BBC Sport's Pat Murphy:
"You didn't have to be a latter-day Nostradamus to have seen this coming. For the past six seasons Villa have lurched between five managers and two chief executives - directionless, with no defined strategy as the owner Randy Lerner became more and more detached from the club.
"But make no mistake. Lerner still has the final say on funds until he finds a buyer. The revamped board and creation of a four-man football board is, on that basis, simply cosmetic. Key decisions via the football board chairman David Bernstein will go to the club board chairman Steve Hollis, who then has to look across the Atlantic to be sanctioned. Unwieldy and time-consuming, with the lifeblood of decision-making still coagulating.
"Would traditional managers like David Moyes, Nigel Pearson, Mick McCarthy or Steve Bruce want to be bothered by all that complexity? All they'd want is to establish a direct line with the owner to get decisions made swiftly. The calibre of the next chief executive will be vital, too.
"The appointment of a new manager is the biggest decision to be made at Villa Park since Graham Taylor breezed in 29 years ago, making it clear to then-chairman Doug Ellis where the boundaries lay. It's asking an enormous amount of the new man to turn around the squad and playing philosophy inside a couple of months before grim reality sets in with the Championship slog.
"This current group of underachievers would struggle in the 46-game season that starts this August. I would only keep Ciaran Clark (and make him captain), Ashley Westwood, Jordan Ayew, Idrissa Gana, Rudy Gestede, Jack Grealish - and bring along promising youngsters such as Jordan Lyden, Andre Green, Keinan Davis and Lewis Kinsella.
"At least that lot would run around and look as if playing for Aston Villa meant everything to them. You couldn't say that about this current squad.
"It's fantasy to assume a revamped Villa squad could challenge for the Championship title at such short notice. A period of sober, humble realism is long overdue at the club. Just stop the rot, then restore pride and stabilise the slump. And hope that Lerner at last sells up. Villa need a constant visible presence there at the top - like a Peter Coates, Bill Kenwright or Jeremy Peace. Or - whisper it gently - a Doug Ellis of yesteryear."
Premier League lists that Villa 'top' this season
- Fewest goals scored (23). Next worst: West Brom (31) and Watford (32)
- Goals conceded (65). Next worst: Newcastle (61)
- Shot conversation rate, excluding blocks (9.1%). Next worst: Crystal Palace: 11.0%
- Games failed to score in (16). Next worst: Newcastle, Norwich and Watford (13)
- Games won (3). Next worst: Newcastle and Sunderland (7)
- Errors leading to goals (14). Next worst: West Ham (13)
Reaction on social media
As their drop into the second tier was confirmed, the term "Villa" became the number one social media trend in the UK, with more than 60,000 tweets shared in an hour around the final whistle.
The Times chief football writer Henry Winter tweeted: "Randy Lerner and some of the players need a long, hard look at themselves. No leadership. No commitment. No easy return either."
"Sad to see a great club like Aston Villa relegated so apathetically," tweeted Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker.
Some poked fun at the club while others commended the fact Villa fans were still singing in the away end at Old Trafford despite witnessing the pivotal result.
"Can hardly say Villa's fans have been put out of their misery by relegation - utterly betrayed by dreadful mismanagement of their club," tweeted BBC Sport's chief football writer Phil McNulty.