Caretaker manager Eric Black described Aston Villa’s relegation as “devastating” and vowed the rebuilding work would start immediately.
Villa were finally put out of their misery after a 1-0 defeat at Old Trafford against Manchester United confirmed what has been obvious for most of the season.
Black said: “It’s not been overnight but when the realisation hits that it is official, it’s a sad dressing room. I thought the performance (on Saturday), they worked extremely hard for it, but it’s not today (that’s caused relegation). It’s devastating really.
“We’ve got to dust ourselves down, take it on the chin and now try and get this club back to where I would think the majority of people would suggest it should be.
“I don’t think anybody can point any fingers at the players (on Saturday) in terms of their energy, their willingness to get a bit of sweat on the shirt.
“It’s a minimal step. I’m not talking here about changing the world. I just wanted in some small way to try and get supporters slightly towards the players again, and the only way they can do that is on the pitch. The job’s got to start now.”
Nothing other than a win would have been enough to keep Villa hanging on for another week but that never looked on the cards, even though United did not manage to get out of third gear.
The only goal arrived in the 32nd minute when Marcus Rashford deftly flicked home Antonio Valencia’s cross for his seventh in 12 games.
Rudy Gestede’s introduction as a substitute prompted Villa’s best spell, and the striker was denied by a last-gasp challenge from Daley Blind before hitting the post with a deflected volley.
The Villa fans made their feelings clear but supported their team throughout, and Blackadmitted they deserve better.
He said: “I’ve been stunned. The last two weeks at home we’ve had over 32,000 people there. For them to turn out in their numbers like that and again to follow them today, I think humbled is the right word.
“I know there are steps ongoing. There’s been a freshness brought back on to the board, they’re trying as quickly as possible to turn it round and give something to the supporters that encourages them to see that the club’s going back to where it should be. That’s really all we can do at this point.”