Under-pressure Aston Villa boss Paul Lambert calls for support from fans, not protest

The Villa faithful are frustrated at the club's perceived stagnation

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The Independent Football

He faces the prospect of a fans’ revolt on Saturday, but Paul Lambert said he had the strength of character to cope as he urged Aston Villa’s disgruntled supporters to get behind their struggling side.

Three Villa fans’ groups have written an open letter urging supporters to vacate their seats in the Holte End for the first eight minutes of Saturday's match against Liverpool – one for each minute of owner Randy Lerner’s reign – in a protest at Villa’s perceived stagnation.

Manager Lambert himself is under growing pressure from dissatisfied fans, yet the 45-year-old stressed that he had “never been one to run away from anything” and cited the day he left Motherwell as a player in 1996 to look for a new club as evidence of his backbone, saying: “I didn’t have anywhere to go. I packed my bags and I left to go on trial at Dortmund. No job, no money, nothing.”

Lambert ended up holding the European Cup 12 months later but, if that was a fairy-tale ending, his Villa reign appears to have become a recurring nightmare. The Birmingham club scraped Premier League survival by finishing 15th in his first two seasons and now lie 13th after a winless run of six league matches, in which they have scored just one goal.

Fans chanted for Lambert to be sacked during the last home game, a 1-0 FA Cup win over Blackpool, while 67 per cent of supporters in this week’s online poll by the Birmingham Mail repeated that call. Yet the Scot said a protest would be counterproductive. “I understand everyone’s frustrations – no one is more frustrated than myself because this is a great club,” he said. “It’s probably fallen since [former manager] Martin O’Neill’s time. But this is not going to help anybody.

“I’m hoping they don’t do it. I’m hoping, if the guy in the next seat gets up to go, someone says, ‘Come on, back the team’, because we’ll certainly have a better chance with them staying than if they leave.”