Villa dragged into relegation scrap
McLeish subjected to abuse from hostile Villa supporters
Thursday, April 26, 2012 - 19:44
Most of the home crowd turned on McLeish after Bolton’s shock comeback dragged Villa firmly into the mire.
Thousands of disgruntled punters, who have never got over McLeish’s Birmingham background, turned on Big ‘Eck last night.
He ran a gauntlet of hate and obscenities after the final whistle but continues to have the backing of owner Randy Lerner.
Villa’s American owner was at the game and reassured McLeish after this latest setback extended their run to one win in 13 League games.
Villa had victory in their grasp when, after a dominant first half, Stephen Warnock finally put the hosts ahead after the break.
But Bolton levelled 120 seconds later when Martin Petrov scored from the spot.
Incredibly the visitors then snatched the lead in the 64th minute after David Ngog netted.
Bolton’s vital win lifts the 18th-placed club to within three points of 15th Villa with a game in hand.
And McLeish admitted afterwards he had never experienced such a hostile response from angry supporters.
The Scot, whose side visit West Brom on Saturday before facing Spurs and Norwich, said: “It is a first. But I can understand the fans’ reaction, they are frustrated like I was.
“Unfortunately, we spurned a few chances in the first half and to see the game turning like that was horrible and a kick in the guts. After the way we played first half and Stevie putting us in the lead, for it to turn like that was incredible.
“We had the three points within our grasp and we lose the game. But the fans know the team are in a bit of trouble in a position Aston Villa fans don’t expect to be.
Chants included “f*** off McLeish the Villa is ours” and “sack McLeish my Lord”.
Bolton boss Owen Coyle hailed “a massive win” by his side as they climbed into 18th spot and are only one point adrift of Wigan.
Coyle said: “I was livid at halftime and let the players know that because we never got to the level we are capable of in the first half. But to be fair, in the second half, they were terrific even after going a goal behind.
“The character and the belief shown by the players after Villa’s goal was there for all to see and when we passed and moved the ball around we looked a very good side.”
Coyle hit out at the reaction of the Villa fans towards McLeish and branded their reaction “poisonous”.
“It is not a nice part of football. We have the best game in the world and that sort of thing is something I would like to eradicate.
“Surely there is an onus on you as a person to make your point without being poisonous about it,” he said.