Belfast Telegraph

Lambert urges fans: Cancel protest

Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert has urged frustrated fans to call off a planned protest at the start of Saturday's clash at home to Liverpool.

Three unofficial fans' websites - Villa Blog, My Old Man Said and A Villa Fan - have called on fellow supporters to boycott the opening eight minutes of the Barclays Premier League clash with the Reds via an open letter entitled 'We Want Our Villa Back'.

They claim each minute represents one year for the eight owner Randy Lerner has been in charge as they are fed up at the way the club is being run and the direction it is going.

To rub salt into the wounds of the Villa fans, they have so far seen their side score just 11 league goals this season in 21 games, easily the worst record in the top flight.

Following Saturday's 1-0 defeat at rock-bottom Leicester the patience of the fans snapped and they turned on Lambert, calling for him to be sacked.

One local newspaper has this week conducted a poll asking whether the Scot should be axed or given more time, with 67 per cent demanding he go.

It is an unsavoury and unsettling build up for Lambert ahead of the game with Liverpool.

"I understand the frustration, and nobody is more frustrated than myself," said Lambert.

"Everybody involved with Aston Villa is frustrated at what has happened over the last five or six years since Martin O'Neill left and the team was in the top six.

"Martin had this club buzzing at that time, vying for Europe, going great, and what's happened has happened.

"But I don't think you can look at the chairman and say it's one guy's fault. It's unfair. He has the club's interest at heart.

"I understand the fans' frustrations, but we'll have a better chance of winning a game of football if they don't protest, if they stick with the lads, no matter how hard it gets at times.

"When the stadium is behind the players it's a great place to play football, and we've a better chance of winning if they don't do it.

"Whoever has planned it, I hope the guy next to them tries to keep them on their seat.

"I don't want Aston Villa fans to come to Villa Park - or even away from home - and not see the team win or not be entertained."

Lambert insists he can weather the storm of abuse from the fans as he is determined to instead shield his players.

Asked as to how he felt about calls for him to be sacked, he replied: "It's not great. I'm human, like everybody else, but I'm also big enough and strong enough mentally to handle it.

"But what I don't want it to do is affect the players.

"The fans have been great with me up until late, and I guess now they are waiting for something to go wrong.

"All I would say to them is stay behind the side. We need their support when times are tough."

Lambert has also made it clear he will not quit, adding: "I want to make a success of this.

"I'm obviously not happy with the way things are going, with what's happening in the last third of the pitch. But anybody that knows me knows I'm not one for downing tools and walking away.

"I've never done that in my football career, and I don't intend to do it now."

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