Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert insists he's under no obligation to pick Manchester United loanee Tom Cleverley, adding that the midfielder makes his starting line-up on merit for the hard work and determination shown in first-team training.
The 25-year-old moved to Villa Park from the Red Devils on a season-long deal in September and has been rewarded with 20 starts despite the fact he's yet to contribute a single goal or assist during his time in the Midlands.
Cleverley has actually been booed by a small section of Villa supporters who appear to be underwhelmed by his level of performances, while some sarcastically cheered when he was substituted by Lambert during Saturday's 2-1 defeat against Chelsea.
However, despite the ill-feeling fans have directed towards the Manchester United outcast, Lambert - who is under increasing pressure himself - has been pretty happy with Cleverley's contribution.
"Tom gives it everything he has got, everything to try and do well," the 45-year-old Scot is quoted saying by BBC Sport. "He is one of those guys who never hides from the ball.
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"He wants to do well here and sometimes [the booing] is part and parcel of football. It is not nice to hear."
On accusations that Cleverley is guaranteed a place in the team because of an underhand agreement in the terms of his temporary deal, Lambert rubbished those reports saying: "No way. I don't judge whether somebody is on loan. You pick a team you think will win a game."
Winning games is something that Aston Villa have struggled with in 2014/15 after recording just five victories from the 24 played, which leaves them languishing in 16th place in the Premier League table.
Lack of goals
Scoring goals has been the side's main Achilles heel this term with only 12 managed so far - an average of one goal every other game. Jores Okore's second-half header against the Blues at the weekend ended an 11 hour drought, but it still wasn't enough to earn Villa any points.
After Eden Hazard had given the visitors an early advantage, it was Branislav Ivanovic who secured the win with a thunderous volley to extend Chelsea's lead at the top of the table to seven points following Manchester City's disappointing 1-1 draw with Hull City at the Etihad Stadium.
Villa actually travel to the KC Stadium to take on the Tigers this evening in a game that could prove decisive in the scrap to avoid the drop. Steve Bruce's side are currently residing in 18th place, but know that victory will lift them out of the relegation zone above Lambert's strugglers.
On paper Aston Villa's squad does look too good to drop down to the Championship, and although they've struggled in the past couple of seasons they've always seemed to do just enough to retain their top-flight status.
Either way, it doesn't look like Cleverley will be sticking around even though his Manchester United contract expires in the summer. Louis van Gaal has made clear the former England international has no future at Old Trafford, so expect to see him disappointing fans at another Premier League club next season.
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