Gabriel Agbonlahor was quoted today as saying that he has "not heard the word relegation mentioned once" in the Aston Villa clubhouse. Obviously, he wasn't about to say that everyone was worried about it, because then he's just playing into the hands of fearmongering hacks like Stuart James. However, is there any Villa supporter out there who isn't talking about it? I worry about it every day, and I'm sure I'm not the only one. Gerard Houllier referenced it when attempting to justify the team selection against Manchester City in the FA Cup, but aside from that, I haven't heard anyone from the club talking about it like it's a genuine concern. So should they be talking about it? Or will that absolutely destroy the confidence of what has seemed to be a mentally fragile squad (As OptaJoe has reminded us throughout the season, Villa has dropped more points from a winning position than any other Premiership club.)
My question is somewhat rhetorical, because we'll never really know what gets talked about in the Villa clubhouse, but I get the feeling that some clubs that are aware of their chances of relegation have managed to unite as a team and perform to the best of their abilities. One notable example would be Wolverhampton Wanderers, who don't have any particularly exceptional players, but are able to fight their way through clubs like Manchester United and Chelsea with a kind of grit and determination that we haven't really seen at Villa all season.
A lot of that has to do with the manager and the personalities on the team. West Ham United have turned to Scott Parker to lead them out of the relegation zone that they seemed condemned to ever since the start of the season, and the journeyman midfielder is now being considered as a possibility for the Player of the Season award if he keeps them up. With the aforementioned Wolves, a lot of people point to Mick McCarthy's character and determination as the driving force behind that team's great performances, as they had been doing with Ian Holloway and Blackpool at the start of the season.
You might remember that at the start of the season, Blackpool were considered a certainty for relegation. It still may happen, considering how they've lost the plot as the season's worn on, but that "nobody believes in us" mentality has proved to be a successful motivational tool in every sport since the beginning of time. Perhaps Villa would be well served to confront their fate so that they can have a stake in deciding it, rather than testing again the often-fallible mantra of "too good to go down."