Speaking to the Times, Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert has backed the under-performing Tom Cleverley to silence the boo boys amid growing criticism among the claret and blue faithful.
Cleverley, 25, arrived on a season-long loan from Manchester United on September 2, with the aim of reigniting his stuttering career in the west Midlands.
The midfielder has since made 23 total appearances for the club, but his performances have come in for considerable criticism from the fans, even leading to suggestions that he is only being played every week because of a clause in the loan agreement.
Lambert has since refuted those rumours, however, insisting that the England international is in his line-up on merit.
“No, no way. It’s nothing like that,” he said. “I don’t judge someone on whether they are on loan or not.
“I try to pick a team that I think will win the game. That’s all I ever do. I don’t pick it for any other way."
Cleverley was substituted for Scott Sinclair in the 74th-minute of Saturday’s 2-1 defeat to Chelsea to widespread taunts from the home crowd, but Lambert believes the treatment was far from warranted.
“It’s not nice to hear,” he continued. “There was wee spell where he gave the ball away a few times in quick succession.
“But other than that I thought he had a decent game, especially in the second half.
“Your confidence goes when you don’t want to take the ball - but Tom does,” he added.
“Maybe he’s trying too hard. That can sometimes go against you. I’ll never criticise anybody for looking for the ball if they make a mistake.
“Tom never hides. He tries to give it everything he has got.”
Villa could have purchase Cleverley on a permanent basis for £7 million during the winter transfer window, but the club opted against exercising the buyout clause, despite the Daily Mail reporting that United had threatened to recall him if the option wasn’t taken up.
Out of contract at Old Trafford at the end of the season, it has since been suggested that he will head to Everton in the summer, per the Liverpool Echo, having been a target for Roberto Martinez prior to his move to Villa Park.