Aston Villa fans must get real – Alex McLeish

Villa fans must get real… we don't have the cash to be a top six club, laments McLeish

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UPDATED:

21:00 GMT, 27 April 2012

Alex McLeish says that Aston Villa's supporters should not be surprised at club's battle to survive the drop as their expectations of a top-six finish were 'unrealistic.'

Villa's boss was told by Randy Lerner to 'stay up' during a meeting between the pair following a poisonous evening at Villa Park in the wake of Villa's 2-1 defeat by Bolton Wanderers.

While the security of McLeish's position will depend on the outcome of the scrap to stay in the Barclays Premier League, he says no-one should be surprised at the struggle.

Unrest: Alex McLeish is not a popular manager among the Aston Villa fans

Unrest: Alex McLeish is not a popular manager among the Aston Villa fans

Asked whether it had worked out worse than he envisaged after taking the job, he replied: 'I looked at every scenario.

'One thing you certainly cannot do is take this league for granted. You can't come in and say: “The Aston Villa badge means we will be in the top 10.”

'I looked closely at the squad when we discussed the financial side of things and thought it was going to be a tough job.

'Villa were relegation-threatened last year with a stronger squad. But you obviously think that maybe players will play out of their skin and we'll get a wee bit of luck here and there and we can stay clear the whole season. But I knew there was no guarantees of that.

'I know the supporters don't want this. They want Villa to be up in the top six or something. That's Villa's history and heritage.

'At the moment, it's not realistic. But we want to be there again and everyone has to understand about the way we are steering the finances.'

McLeish suffered fearful personal abuse towards the end of Tuesday's defeat by Bolton, admitting he had 'difficulty putting my head on the pillow.'

He certainly appeared physically tired – but there was defiance in his voice as he welcomed back several senior players ahead of the derby against West Bromwich Albion at The Hawthorns.

Under pressure: The Scot has presided over a slide towards the drop zone

Under pressure: The Scot has presided over a slide towards the drop zone

'Stick is stick wherever it is – nobody likes it,' he said, 'none of you like getting it, I'm sure.

'Everybody tends to rear up if they get criticised. But I think you have got to learn to handle it and get a thick skin.

'I don't think I under-estimated the size of this challenge. I couldn't resist the challenge of this club.

'But I don't think I would have done too much differently. You maybe might have changed a decision here or there.

'But I knew at the start of the season we would have to be lucky with injuries. We have lost our captain, our vice-captain and the guy who was bought last year to score the goals to keep the club in the league.

'However, I've come out of tough situations before. We just have to try and win today's game.'