Black praises Lescott’s ‘courage’

The Daily Telegraph - Total Football - - TOTAL FOOTBALL PREMIER LEAGUE - By Jon Cul­ley at Villa Park

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.

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