Aston Villa only managed a 1-1 draw with League Two’s Wycombe Wanderers in the third round of the FA Cup, forcing a replay and extending their winless streak to 10 matches.
This was the last straw for many Villa fans, who have watched their club settle at the bottom of the Premier League table and look completely rudderless despite a managerial change in early November. So the group that traveled to Adams Park expressed their fury to the players as they boarded the bus home after this latest disappointment.
(Warning: NSFW language)
Most of the players tried to ignore the anger being shouted at them, but captain Micah Richards took it upon himself to try and ease the tension and make an appeal for reunification.
“Is there any passion on that pitch?” one fan asked him beside the dugout, with stewards acting as a human barrier between them.
“Do you think doing this is going to make it any better? It’s not,” Richards replied. “We’re trying. We’re trying the best we can.”
He remained admirably calm while listening to the supporters’ complaints and reasoned with them before concluding, “We’ve got to stick together.”
Too often when angry fans confront frustrated players, the result is shameful displays of violence or abuse, but this actually ended with handshakes.
Villa manager Remi Garde was later asked about the incident (via ESPNFC):
“It was brave of him to do that,” said Garde. “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, as a player, a manager, everybody at the club has to accept that criticism, because we are not winning — that’s football.”
I’ve always been fond of Richards (he has the best laugh in the game), but you learn the most about people in moments of adversity and this speaks volumes.