McLeish takes criticism on chin
Alex McLeish insists he can still win over the Aston Villa supporters despite their vitriolic abuse hitting new heights this week.
The Scot has been targeted by fans over the course of this season with criticism worsening in recent weeks, as Tuesday's 2-1 defeat by Bolton left the side three points off the Premier League bottom three.
Supporters are planning further protests for Villa's home match against Tottenham on May 6, but first McLeish must take his side to local rivals West Brom on Saturday hoping to earn a result which could go some way to determining their future.
Former Rangers and Scotland boss McLeish - who has also managed Villa's rivals Birmingham - insists his skin is thick enough to take the fans' stick and has lamented the injuries and illnesses which have contributed to Villa's plight.
He said: "In terms of the abuse, there was nobody more disappointed after the Bolton game than me.
"I was absolutely gutted. I'm telling you, I don't care what any supporter says, there was nobody who felt as bad as I did going off that pitch.
"I don't criticise the fans for having a go or booing at the end of a game, when it's another home game we've lost and defeat was snatched from the jaws of victory, in what was a blooming good performance.
"We definitely deserved more but we didn't get it and it's left us with a battle for the next nine points."
Asked how the fans' abuse affects his family on nights like Tuesday, McLeish said: "Yes, my son was there, my wife was there, my family were there.
"It's part of the game, I accept it. It's something that they have grown up with as well.
"It's part of football and it's not something you can change. You have to accept it. If you don't want to hear that, don't be in this game."
McLeish refused to contemplate whether he would still be in charge at Villa Park next season.
"I'm not thinking about my future, I'm concentrating on these nine points," he insisted.
Asked if he would leave if Villa did not stay up, he said: "I can't say, it's all hypothetical."
His stock is unlikely to rise with Villa fans even if he avoids relegation, but he believes he can still get supporters back on side.
"Well, let's see if I can turn it. I believe so. I've done it before.
"I've done it at Rangers. We had a bad year then turned it again with some good planning and that always helps."
He added: "The fans aren't seeing the top Villa side, they are seeing a lot of inexperienced kids.
"Sometimes there are more kids in the team than there are experienced players, so they have to take that into consideration. That would be the only thing I would ask that people understand from that point of view.
"Just because you wear that badge, doesn't mean to say you're European Cup quality.
"There's nothing I can do about (fans' expectations). I've just got to try to prepare these guys as well as I can and I feel I've done that. I don't feel the performances in the last two or three games have been bad."
Villa will be boosted by the return to fitness of vice-captain Richard Dunne from a broken collarbone.