Jores Okore is facing disciplinary action as caretaker manager Eric Black claims the defender is refusing to play for Aston Villa.
Last weekend the rudderless side’s relegation was rubber-stamped, with a 1-0 defeat at Manchester United confirming their 28-year stay in the top flight was coming to an end.
Indiscipline, poor signings and bad appointments have resulted in shocking displays on the field, the blame for which owner Randy Lerner claimed on Friday “lies at my feet and no one else’s”.
Caretaker manager Black had not seen the divisive owner’s “note to supporters” so was not keen to talk about it, although he was more forthcoming when it came to the playing staff.
Many players have let the club down this season but Black’s comments about Okore’s behaviour were shocking, claiming the defender has refused to play for the club.
“He didn’t want to be considered to go on the bench (against Bournemouth),” he said. “That was his initial reaction.
“Then he reflected on it over the weekend and then said he didn’t want to be considered if he wasn’t going to be involved.
“I gave him the weekend to reflect on it then got him in again with my assistant, then we asked his opinion again on where he stood on it and whether he has reflected on what he’d said. And he carried on with his stance.”
Okore’s fate is yet to be decided but disciplinary action is understandably being considered by Villa, whose season lurches from one crisis to another.
Joleon Lescott last weekend irked supporters by clumsily saying relegation was a “weight off the shoulders” and things have not been any better off the field, with the news of imminent job cuts followed by directors David Bernstein and Mervyn King quitting the club.
Then there is the small matter of former hero Gabriel Agbonlahor being suspended, with the club launching their second investigation into the off-field actions of a striker who has managed just one goal this term.
It is one of several disciplinary quandaries Villa have had to deal with over the course of a miserable campaign, which Black is trying to end with an iota of honour.
The caretaker boss would “dearly love” to win a match sooner rather than later, with his attempts to end a nine-match losing streak when Southampton visit on Saturday coming with a background of fan protests.
“For successful teams to work and to be successful you need certain parameters,” Black said.
“And a relegation and the season we’ve had, the uncertainty over whether players will be here or not, the uncertainty of the ownership all have an effect on players, whether we like it or not because they get all of this information fed to them all the time.
“It is my job to try to put it into a certain context for them and get them to try to perform.
“That is my soul reason, my raison d’etre, if you like, to try to get a competitive, cohesive unit out there on a Saturday to play against a lot of good teams.
“It hasn’t been straightforward because there have been an awful lot of elements to take into consideration before I pick or team or we do some type of training.
“I can control some of those things and I’m happy to try to control them.”
Black has not picked up the phone to Sir Alex Ferguson, his former boss at Aberdeen, in search of assistance, nor has his spell in temporary charge made him want the Villa managerial post full-time.
The first-team coach, who arrived to work with former manager Remi Garde in late January, joked he needs a holiday rather than the job, but believes the club remains an attractive proposition to prospective managers.
“It’s a fantastic football club,” Black added. “From the exterior I thought it was a fantastic football club and now having worked at it I know it’s a fantastic football club.
“It’s been wounded badly at the moment and it needs to come back.
“It’s a big step to come back and I’m sure no-one is under any illusions that it will just spring back into the Premier League without a lot of hardship and diligent work.
“But I’m confident the people put in charge will do that and it would be great to see Aston Villa back in the Premier League as soon as possible.”