Football: Carbone backs under-fire Gregory

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The Independent Online
BENITO CARBONE, who was dropped by Aston Villa in Monday night's 2-1 defeat at Coventry, yesterday backed the club's under-fire manager John Gregory to lead the club out of their current crisis. The Italian urged the Villa chairman, Doug Ellis, to keep faith with Gregory - even though he had relegated him to the bench.

Villa have now taken just two points from their last seven matches and have slipped to 13th in the Premiership. It is a similar situation to when Gregory took over at Villa 21 months ago as Brian Little's surprise successor. But Carbone, who left Sheffield Wednesday to join Villa on a short-term contract until the end of the season, believes Gregory can revive the club's fortunes. "The manager decided I was not playing on Monday but it is not a problem," he said. "I accept his decision. Maybe I will play in the next game.

"It was another bad result but it is better to look ahead rather than back and it is very important now that we win at Everton. The players are not happy when they are losing. I am the same. That's football life. If we win once we will get more confidence and can get on a roll.

"I hope and I want nobody to touch John Gregory. I don't want him to go or leave. I came here because of this manager. I want him to stay. But the reason I want him to stay as Aston Villa manager is because he has the ability to turn things around. We've only had one good result since I came here against Wimbledon but it's a long season with many games still to come."

Carbone, whose agent, Gianni Paladimi, confirmed Chelsea's long-term interest in the player, insisted the managerial situation would not affect whether he wanted to stay or leave Villa in the summer. Carbone said: "My future is not dependent on whether the manager stays or goes."

Gregory is aware that fighting off relegation rather than rekindling hopes of a Uefa Cup spot will be on the menu unless there is a rapid improvement in Villa's fortunes. "We are not playing with a great deal of self-belief and confidence at present," he said.

Gregory, meanwhile, has cast doubt on the commitment of Ugo Ehiogu after the central defender failed to play in Monday night's game. The Villa manager was banking on the centre-back returning to bolster his defence after a calf injury and was clearly disappointed when the 27-year-old player declared himself unfit. Villa missed Ehiogu's presence as their sequence without a win was extended to seven games.

"I think Ugo would have played if it had been a cup final," Gregory said. "He would have wanted to play if it had been a cup final. We've now got a cup final on Saturday at Everton, so I will try and convince him the game is at Wembley. It might just wake him from his slumbers. It will be interesting to see if he's ready on Saturday."

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