Black praises Lescott’s ‘courage’
When Joleon Lescott was a young boy dreaming of playing for Aston Villa he might have woken up screaming at the thought it might come to this, effectively elevated to public enemy No 1 among the diehards on the Holte End and all around Villa’s historic stadium.
It must have felt like that on Saturday, after a week in which one of his former heroes, Paul McGrath, branded him a “slime bag” and another, Stan Collymore, called him a “disgrace” after he ill-advisedly described the confirmation of Villa’s relegation from the Premier League as “a weight off the shoulders”.
Given that Villa fans passionately booed his name as the home lineup was announced over the public address system, it was no wonder that Lescott had a shocker and was at least partly culpable in three of Southampton’s four goals.
Yet Eric Black, the man asked somehow to plot a course through what remained of a shambolic season when Rémi Garde’s spell as manager ended last month, offered support to the beleaguered former England defender, applauding his professionalism and suggesting that merely being on the pitch, amid such raw hostility, represented courage of a kind.
“I don’t know the ins and outs of Joleon’s relationship with the club but he is a Birmingham boy and he has been a fan all his life, so I can only imagine that he will be feeling it hard,” Black said.
“I can also imagine that that’s why he’s not downed tools and he keeps turning up. I can’t point the finger at Joleon Lescott because of his attitude or his desire to be in the team, so I give him credit for that. He’s never missed a [training] session since I’ve been here.
“I think it takes a lot of courage to keep doing it [playing] because it [the booing] started at the beginning of the game.”
Having allowed Shane Long to put Southampton ahead with a free header, Lescott’s failure to keep pace with Long led directly to the second goal. Sadio Mané’s header for the fourth might have been prevented, too, had Lescott been more alert. Ashley Westwood, whose commitment is consistent, deserved his two goals, yet Villa conceded so readily that Southampton might have scored more.
As it is, with two goals by Dusan Tadic in between those of Long and Mané, they remain in contention for a Europa League place.