Former hero Tony Morley says Aston Villa are suffering for a lack of this on the pitch

The European Cup winner believes the club are missing a true leader such as former captain Stiliyan Petrov.

Aston Villa legend Tony Morley has told the Mirror that the Premier League's bottom side are missing an influential leader in the mould of Stiliyan Petrov or Morley's former captain Dennis Mortimer.

Villa are nine points adrift from safety with just eight matches remaining with just two months remaining of an abysmal season in which they have won only three times, and look certain for a first relegation since 1987.

Morley, who won the First Division title and the European Cup with the claret and blue club at the start of that same decade, insists that part of their problem has been the lack of a leader to pick the team up when things are not going well.

The 61-year-old former winger told the Mirror: "Everytime we go a goal behind you can actually see the heads drop. We haven't got a leader in the side.

"What I mean by a leader is someone who doesn't have to play well but they can tell players what to do and give them a bit of a telling off.

"Someone like a Petrov or Dennis Mortimer, when I was playing. They didn't have to play well but they could tell you what to do, but we don't seem to have that in the side which you need - especially when you are struggling."

Villa have arguably failed to replace Petrov in that regard since the club captain was diagnosed with leukaemia in 2012 and ultimately retired a year later.

Captain Fabian Delph played the role of midfield general for the club last season, helping to lead them to safety and an FA Cup final, but this season senior players such as Gabriel Agbonlahor, Micah Richards, and Joleon Lescott have all failed to impress with the armband.

That has been one amongst a myriad of factors which has seen the Birmingham club win just three league games all season to leave them on the verge of ending their ever-present record in the Premier League.

Register for ASTON VILLA team updates

Register for HITC Sport - Daily Dispatch