Randy Lerner has told Aston Villa’s players to ‘stand strong’ in order to save themselves from getting sucked into relegation trouble.
The Villa owner rallied the troops when he watched the team training this week and gave a rousing speech ahead of the Easter weekend’s crunch double-header with Liverpool and Stoke.
Already in the country to visit Stiliyan Petrov in hospital, the American tycoon stuck around to see how the team were bearing up after learning that their captain had been diagnosed with acute leukaemia.
But instead of just watching the players being put through their paces at the club’s Bodymoor Heath training ground, Lerner took a hands-on approach to offer his support for the final eight games of the season.
He encouraged Villa’s youngsters to take their chance while the walking wounded recover and urged them to focus on climbing the table rather than looking over their shoulders.
“Randy was in on Tuesday morning,” said manager Alex McLeish. “He was in to see Stiliyan on Monday but he came up and spoke to the lads and said a few words about Stan.
“He wished the players all the best and told them to be strong and be in charge of their own destiny for the remaining eight games. It was good for the chairman to do that with the boys.
“He came on to the training field on Tuesday, he normally just observes but he had a couple of words about Stan’s illness and said that we’re obviously all standing toe-to-toe to support Stan.
“He also told the lads to have the confidence and belief in themselves for the last eight games and for the youngsters to really make a go of it.”
McLeish felt the visit was beneficial and has helped increase the focus for the weekend’s games.
On Saturday Villa travel to Anfield to take on under-performing Liverpool before hosting Stoke at Villa Park on Easter Monday.
McLeish is likely to include a number of youngsters once again as the treatment table is still full.
Of course, the Scot would prefer to have his regular senior players available and be able to use his talented academy graduates more sparingly.
However, he feels they are fully prepared for whatever is thrown at them, having spent the season alongside the regular first-teamers on a day-to-day basis.
“At the end of the day, if you are good enough, you’re old enough and it doesn’t matter about the age,” he added.