The Aston Villa manager, Paul Lambert, has branded speculation over the future of his Southampton counterpart, Nigel Adkins, "ridiculous" as they prepare to do battle at St Mary's today.
Adkins' position is apparently in doubt just four games into the Premier League season. Saints sit bottom of the table, having conceded 14 goals in their four defeats so far, even though the club were among the country's biggest spenders over the summer. Southampton's poor start was exacerbated by a 6-1 hammering from Arsenal last Saturday.
But Lambert, whose own side endured a tricky opening few weeks before registering their first win against Swansea City a week ago, is sympathetic towards his rival.
"It's getting a bit silly now," Lambert said yesterday. "With what he's done for them, and when it's only four games into the season, I think it's a bit ridiculous. But football is like that – you just never know what's around the corner.
"It's getting harder and harder every year but I think that's really unfair. Nigel's done a great job at Southampton. In the last few years they have done fantastically well, getting promoted twice.
"The Premier League is an unforgiving division. Every game is hard, whoever you are playing. It doesn't matter if it's a side in the top six or bottom six. It's a hard, hard league," Lambert added.
Villa fans are eager to see more of recent signing Christian Benteke after the striker's goalscoring cameo against Swansea. The Belgium international is pushing for a place alongside Darren Bent on the South Coast and Lambert reckons the young forward is an exciting proposition.
"Benteke is only 21, that's what you have to remember," the Scot said. "He's only a kid and he's just starting his career. But his role in the last 15 minutes or so against Swansea was excellent. He came over after playing a hard game for his national team in the week. Coming back and playing for us, doing what he did, was excellent.
"He's only 21 and he'll make mistakes like everybody else but I thought he was excellent. He'll certainly give us a hand. There's no two ways about it – he's a big presence up there and his presence alone will un-nerve a few people. I was delighted with his contribution against Swansea, as I was with everybody's. The whole team was excellent."
Lambert hopes the squad's strength in depth up front can ease the burden on Bent.
"All I ever heard was 'Darren Bent, scoring, scoring, scoring' and, hopefully, having Christian will release that tension from it," he said. "But you need everybody to perform and in the last few weeks we've certainly had that."