LONDON • Former Aston Villa striker Stan Collymore has lashed out at Joleon Lescott after the defender said their relegation from the Premier League was a "weight off the shoulders".
Villa, European Cup winners in the 1981-82 season, lost 0-1 to Manchester United at Old Trafford on Saturday to confirm demotion following a disastrous campaign in which they have won just three matches and employed the same number of managers.
Lescott has endured a tough time since signing from West Bromwich Albion in September. The club skipper also angered Villa fans by posting a picture of a sports car on Twitter after a 0-6 home loss to Liverpool in February, and found himself at the centre of another controversy on Saturday.
"We showed a level of pride that there's probably not been enough of throughout the season," the central defender, capped 26 times by England, told the BBC. "It's about results, so regardless of how we played in patches today we are relegated... but now it's confirmed maybe it's a weight off the shoulders and we can give these fans what they deserve, some performances."
Collymore, who spent three years at Villa and now works as a commentator and presenter on radio station TalkSPORT, slammed the 33-year-old for his comments.
"Today this is a senior international footballer in the modern era, now confirmed 'maybe it's a weight off the shoulders.' Why is it a weight off the shoulders, Joleon?" Collymore said on a radio programme.
"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, that don't know where the next pay cheque is going to come from."
Villa's caretaker manager Eric Black said: "We've got to dust ourselves down, take it on the chin and try to get this club back to where the majority of people think it should be. I think now the club will do their utmost to show the supporters we're going in the right direction and that's the only way we can get the supporters back on side."
Opposing manager Louis van Gaal has been trying to win over United fans for months. While the victory - courtesy of Marcus Rashford's 32nd-minute winner - kept United in the hunt for a Champions League berth, the Dutchman admitted his side put in a laboured display.
"I agree that we have to give more entertainment for the fans but the most important thing was to win the game," he said. "It was not the best match of Manchester United this season."
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE