Aston Villa boss David O’Leary rounded on his critics after seeing his side push Newcastle into meltdown on a remarkable afternoon at St James’ Park.
The Midlanders kept their cool to win 3-0 as Graeme Souness’ side self-destructed to finish with just eight men after Lee Bowyer and Kieron Dyer were dismissed for fighting with each other after young defender Steven Taylor had been red-carded for deliberate handball.
O’Leary, a day after revealing he would be handed a £20m (€29m) war-chest to strengthen his squad this summer, was delighted with the way his side took the game to the Magpies and converted their chances.
Juan Pablo Angel fired them in front with just four minutes gone and Gareth Barry nervelessly converted two second-half penalties to wrap up the points.
But the Irishman saved his most pointed comments for those who have questioned him and his players in recent months.
“I am delighted from my own personal view to shut a few of the plonkers up that criticise me or the club and the team because they think we are this or that and the other,” he said.
“We have a basic squad and within that basic squad, we have lost Martin Laursen, we have lost the two forwards (Darius Vassell and Juan Pablo Angel) and we have lost Gavin McCann, who is still out.
“When we get those back, we are going to be, obviously, a better team, and we had three of those people back at Newcastle. I think in (Darius) Vassell and Angel, we were better because we had them back, and we have missed Laursen back all season.
“It is lovely on behalf of the players to shut a few people up, and I am delighted for them.”
Where Newcastle failed to celebrate their good news – Alan Shearer’s decision to stay on for another season – Villa made the most of theirs, although O’Leary insisted talk of big money signings had not been a factor.
“It was April 1 you remember, so I might be winding you up, you never know,” he joked.
“It was the first time maybe this season for our limited, small squad, that we have probably had our best team out, although I would have to include McCann in that.”
Villa had to weather something of a storm after taking the lead, although Newcastle squandered chance after chance and failed to make keeper Thomas Sorensen work hard enough as Laursen and Olof Mellberg, who limped off at half-time, held firm.
With Vassell and Angel causing all kinds of problems for Jean-Alain Boumsong and Andy O’Brien, who had a game to forget, the Magpies lived dangerously but it was referee Barry Knight who became the central figure in an unfolding drama.
He missed Jlloyd Samuel’s handball which should have resulted in a penalty and waved away Nicky Butt’s justifiable claims for another after a push by the same man.
The official had little choice but to point to the spot at the other end and produce a red card for Taylor after 72 minutes when the defender blocked Vassell’s goalbound shot with his arm and Carr’s foul on Vassell seven minutes later resulted in another, despite appearing to take place outside the box.
“We have got two penalties that were not iffy, they were stone-wall penalties,” said O’Leary.
“The rules are the rules with the referee. I think it is good enough to be able to just get your penalty instead of having somebody sent off but they are the rules and I cannot help that.
“This team has won the game here by a mile, and it is a great result because you look at the players they have and the money they have.”