Aston Villa manager Dean Smith is grateful to the fans and the board for keeping faith with him despite a string of poor results plunging the club into the EPL relegation zone.
Since Smith signed a new contract at the end of November, tying him to Villa for another four years through to 2023, their form has slumped alarmingly ahead of vital league clashes at home to Norwich on Boxing Day and at Watford on Saturday - the only two clubs below them in the table.
Despite a 2-2 draw at Manchester United, and with Villa through to the semi-finals of the Carabao Cup, four successive Premier League defeats have dropped the club into the bottom three.
The supporters, though, have so far stayed with Smith, although at the end of the 3-1 home loss to Southampton on Saturday, a few boos could be heard for the first time, which he understands.
"They've probably taken stock of where we were this time last season," said Smith, referring to the fact a year ago Villa were mid-table in the Championship.
"We've had nine home games this season, full houses, 42,000 fans, and that's probably the first time they've had to have a bit of a pop at the end of a game.
"While we've been competitive in most of the games, the disappointing part of the first half (against Southampton) was after we conceded that first goal, and how uncompetitive we were.
"That's something that can't happen again, and the players know that."
Smith at least has the firm backing of owners Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens, emphasised by his recent new deal.
Other Premier League owners have previously shown themselves to be extremely fickle and nervous in the past, with five managers sacked in the top flight already this season, including two at Watford.
"I haven't had to speak to them," said Smith, regarding Sawiris and Edens. "I've spoken to our sporting director (Jesus Garcia Pitarch) and our chief executive (Christian Purslow), who I regularly speak to after every game.
"They are fully aware of what we are trying to do at the football club, which is move it forward, and I'll continue to do that.
"Their support has been fantastic and I feel we're giving them something back. The last few games we haven't, so it's important we turn that around."
Villa face the Canaries without influential midfielder John McGinn, who is out for around three months with a fractured left ankle, centre-back Tyrone Mings and striker Keinan Davis (both hamstring).
Australian Associated Press