Aston Villa boss Gerard Houllier has moved to clarify remarks he made after the club's 3-0 defeat at Liverpool in the wake of a furious reaction from the supporters.
Speaking after the match, Houllier said: "If I have got to lose 3-0, I would prefer it to be to them as I like Liverpool.''
With Villa hovering just two points above the relegation zone and on a poor run of, it was the kind of remark which was sure to rile the club's restless supporters. But Houllier insists nothing should be read into his remarks.
"To the fans who travelled to Liverpool and to all Villa supporters, let me assure that we are working as hard as we possibly can to achieve the level of success which this great club aspires to," he said. "Everybody is hurting because of recent results and I and my staff are working on putting this right.
"No-one likes to lose 3-0 against any team and, if comments I made in the immediate aftermath of our defeat by Liverpool have been misconstrued - comments which were intended to be humorous, by the way - let me put them into context.
"The experiences I enjoyed with Liverpool some years ago will always stay with me, as will many experiences I have had in football both before and since, and I have taken all these experiences into my job as manager of Aston Villa.
"I understand the fans' feelings of hurt and disappointment at the moment - I am hurting as much as anybody, believe me - and I say emphatically that we will battle through. Building lasting success at Aston Villa is my focus and my commitment to this challenge is resolute.
"It is down to us collectively as a club to work hard to bring joy and success to the fans because the fans are the most important. They are passionate, vocal and fantastic, which I stated when I first came here.
"They know we are in this together and their support will be vital on Saturday for our game against West Bromwich Albion.''