Aston Villa boss Alex McLeish: Stephen Ireland substitution was a tactical move & not about swearing

Villa boss insists Ireland was taken off due to ankle trouble and promises to address players over failure to acknowledge fans following full-time whistle after Tyneside set-back
Aston Villa manager Alex McLeish has emphatically denied that he substituted Stephen Ireland because the midfielder hurled abuse in his direction during his team’s 2-1 defeat at Newcastle United.

McLeish insisted that he had taken off Ireland at half-time over concerns regarding the player’s fitness and maintained that his decision had nothing to do with claims that Ireland had sworn at his manager following Newcastle’s first goal.

“I never saw the eff-off thing,” McLeish said in his post-match press conference. “I know he spoke back but at the same time players don’t normally hear the manager screaming at them from the touchline.

“But I kick every ball with them. I am passionate; I care. And I wouldn’t be so petty to take a player off for something like that if he is doing a fantastic job.

“But Stevie had an ankle problem. He wasn’t able to close down. When Guthrie sidesteps him to put the cross in I thought it was just too easy and that Stevie should have been making that tackle and at least putting a block on the cross.

“But it was clear at half-time that he did not have the capacity to get close to people. His touch was still great at certain times but at this level you need players with the legs and energy.

“If you want to look at everyone’s lip-reading I am sure if you want to look at everyone’s lip-reading I am sure you will get a few more and you could get another story from it if you want but it is a trivial question. I am not even discussing it. It is a ridiculous question.”

McLeish said that he would address his players over their failure to acknowledge the travelling supporters who had seen Robbie Keane cancel out Demba Ba’s 16th goal this season before debutant Papiss Cisse scored a late winner.

“They shouldn’t be doing that,” McLeish added. “Whatever happens, even if they go over and they are getting abused they should still show a bit of humility there and I will have a word with them on that.

“Defeat is a kick in the teeth. It was a very good performance but we still have a tendency to make mistakes. I felt we were well worth a point if not all three. Our first half was especially good.

“We controlled the game and going behind was awful to bear. We started the second half slowly and then again looked livelier after the break before Newcastle scored.

"The goals were disappointing but for us to we created lots of chances but Tim Krul was in top form.

"If the boy [Cisse] hit another like that then nine out of ten would sail over the bar but we seem to given the debut boys a dream start.”