sport

Lerner comes out fighting

Aston Villa chairman Randy Lerner has issued a bullish statement in reaction to the suspension of two of his coaching staff, stressing the importance of "loyalty and commitment" to the club's cause.

Villa, in the thick of a fight against relegation, suspended assistant manager Ian Culverhouse and head of football operations Gary Karsa pending an internal investigation on Tuesday.

The exact nature of what has happened at Villa is not yet known, but the club were quick to promote development coach Gordon Cowans and goalkeeper Shay Given to assist manager Paul Lambert in their challenging season run-in.

Villa are four points above the Premier League drop zone with four games left and the usually elusive Lerner said: "Our manager has been faced with some unexpected issues that could have very easily set the club back.

"In watching him handle matters along with our chief executive, I've seen total loyalty and commitment to Aston Villa while Gordon, a Villa man through and through, has repeatedly stepped up to support the club regardless of the ask.

"Shay too has been unhesitating in answering the manager's call. I couldn't ask for more from people who are up for this challenge and the very real obstacles we have to overcome, as is everyone at the club."

Lambert took his first training session with Cowans and Given in tow on Wednesday as they prepare for a crucial game at home to Southampton on Saturday.

Midfielder Ashley Westwood insisted it was business as usual in an enjoyable day at the club's training ground at Bodymoor Heath.

"Straight away they've put on a good session, the lads were flying around everywhere," he told Sky Sports News.

"It's the decision of the staff to change things and we are just concentrating on the football. We have a big game at the weekend and we owe the fans a result and a good performance. If we do then that gets everyone on our side."