Fresh doubt has been cast on the future of the Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert after the suspension of his two closest allies at the struggling Premier League club.
Ian Culverhouse and Gary Karsa, Lambert's assistant manager and head of football operations respectively, have been suspended pending an internal investigation. However, they are not expected to return to their positions.
Lambert, speaking after Villa's 1-0 defeat at Crystal Palace on Saturday, had alluded to "things" going on "behind the scenes" and it is rumoured that Culverhouse and Karsa had fallen out with key players and staff.
Villa's dismal run of form may be a more obvious factor and the club hope that the shake-up will lift a team still needing at least one more victory to secure Premier League survival.
Culverhouse and Karsa, who had worked with Lambert in each of his three previous managerial posts at Wycombe, Colchester and Norwich, have been replaced temporarily by under-21s coach Gordon Cowans and Shay Given – a goalkeeper largely sidelined by Lambert – who took training with the Scot today.
A Villa source insisted that the decision had been made with Lambert's blessing, stressing that "the manager's position here is rock-solid", and the Scot himself said: "I'm delighted to have Gordon and Shay to assist me in preparing the team for Saturday, which is what the whole group is focused on."
However, dissent is growing among Villa's fanbase, who have seen a record 10 home league losses this term and no signs of progress in Lambert's second season. Villa host Southampton on Saturday looking to avoid a fifth successive defeat.
The club's chief executive, Paul Faulkner, had said on Monday: "Now more than ever it's time for us all to pull together – fans, players, the manager, everyone at the club."
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