Aston Villa's fanbase will be pivotal to the club's hopes of making an immediate return to the Premier League, according to caretaker manager Eric Black.
Villa have been relegated from the top flight for the first time since 1987, their demotion long viewed as inevitable in a dreadful campaign that has seen them win just three league games.
The West Midlands club's struggles have been set against a backdrop of animosity from supporters, who have been vociferous in their calls for owner Randy Lerner to sell the club.
But Black has called on the fans to turn out in force when the Championship season begins in August.
Speaking to the club's official website, he said: "I can understand their pain. I am hurting and I have only been part of it for just over two months. So you can only imagine how the fans must feel.
"I know it's hard for the fans at the moment but every club needs its supporters.
"We will need our supporters at the start of next season.
"We will need every one of them to ensure that we are a real force in the Championship."
While it remains to be seen how the team will cope with life in the second tier, Black hopes a charge to promotion next season will lure supporters back to Villa back.
"In the Championship you're going to have to win 26 or 27 [games]. That's a lot of weekends where you're potentially winning so the whole group becomes a lot happier and the supporters are happy.
"If we're top of the division in the Championship, I have no doubt that the supporters will come back onside. But the club have to make steps towards them first."
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