Paul Lambert: Aston Villa not obliged to play Tom Cleverley
Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert said he is not obliged to pick Tom Cleverley as part of the terms of his loan move from Manchester United.
The England international midfielder joined Villa on a season-long loan at the end of the summer transfer window.
But he has yet to score for Villa, who have only won three of his 20 league games. Supporters cheered when Lambert substituted Cleverley against Chelsea on Saturday.
Lambert is yet to omit Cleverley when he has been eligible but denied he is forced to pick him, saying in a news conference: "No, I don't judge whether somebody is on loan. You try and pick a team you think will win a game. I don't pick it through [anything else]. That is nowhere near [the mark]."
Former Norwich manager Lambert defended Cleverley, who is expected to leave Old Trafford in the summer when his contract expires.
He added: "Tom is one of these guys who never hides from the ball. I never criticise anybody for looking for the ball if they make a mistake. As long as you don't hide -- and Tom never hides.
"He gives it everything he has got, everything to try and do well. He wants to do well here and sometimes that is part and parcel of football. It is not nice to hear.
"There was a wee spell where he had one or two he gave way in quick succession; other than that he had a decent game especially in the second half."
Villa have lost their last three league games and have only scored once in the last seven but Lambert insists their dreadful form is not taking a toll on Cleverley.
"Tom has played in massive games, he is no novice," he said. "Confidence goes when you don't want to take the ball.
"He has got confidence, it is nothing to do with hiding from the ball, the boy takes the ball and gives everything he has got.
"I don't think it is that. He may be trying too hard which can go against you. He keeps on going with the ball and that is a big testament for him that he keeps doing it. He did okay on Saturday."