LONDON, Jan 9 (Reuters) - Aston Villa captain Micah Richards became embroiled in a heated pitchside debate with disgruntled fans on Saturday as the Premier League strugglers’ desperate season unravelled further with a 1-1 draw at fourth-tier Wycombe Wanderers in the FA Cup.
Villa’s travelling fans, dismayed to see a 10th successive winless game under coach Remi Garde, poured out their growing frustration in an impassioned discussion with defender Richards after his substitution in the dying minutes.
Richards stepped in to talk to a dozen fans next to the dugout after they expressed their anger about the result against the League Two side which left Villa without a victory in their last 16 matches.
One supporter, in the confrontation with Richards filmed by BT Sport, demanded to know where the players’ passion was, leaving the captain to protest to him: “We’re trying!”.
Richards’ interaction with the fans brought praise from his beleaguered manager.
”It was brave of him to do that,“ Garde told reporters. ”As professionals, we have to face our responsibilities -- not only Micah, me and all the players.
”To be fair, I didn’t see the incident, but I’ve been told about it.
”I understand that the fans could be angry. We have to accept that.
“Everybody has to keep calm, face their responsibilities, look in the mirror and ask themselves what they can do to get out of this difficult situation.”
Richards had been one of Villa’s better performers before coming off with injury, having scored their 22nd-minute opener before Joe Jacobson equalised from the penalty spot just after halftime.
Other players were let off much less lightly with some of Villa’s 2,500 visiting fans turning particularly on their struggling striker Rudy Gestede as he trudged back to the dressing-room.
Yet Villa can think themselves a mite unfortunate that they did not successfully negotiate what had always looked a tricky hurdle.
They had a strong claim for a penalty turned down in the first half, saw referee Michael Oliver award Wycombe a dubious penalty for Ashley Westwood’s clash with Matt Bloomfield and suffered more agony when Gestede’s late deflected shot struck the bar.
It could not stop the chants of “We want our Villa back” from the travelling support nor the chants of “You don’t know what you’re doing” aimed towards Garde after he substituted the impressive Carles Gil in the second half.
“Of course when you are not winning the manager is always making bad decisions,” Garde said.
“You can always argue that it was a good or a bad decision. I know what I‘m doing -- but sometimes it’s not working.” (Reporting by Ian Chadband, Editing by Ed Osmond)