Aston Villa boss Paul Lambert is trying to remain focussed on this afternoon’s visit of Saints despite finding himself in the centre of a media storm.
Villa, who today welcome Saints to Villa Park, announced this week that assistant boss Ian Culverhouse and head of football operations Gary Karsa had been suspended, but no explanation was given, writes ADAM LEITCH.
An ongoing internal investigation means the Villa manager is unable to shed further light on the matter, though Lambert confirmed he has no intention of leaving the club himself.
Anticipation, therefore, was high that Lambert would be able to reveal more about the surprise removal of two of his long-term lieutenants when he appeared at a weekly press conference ahead of today’s Premier League clash with Saints.
But, in an occasionally tense exchange, he was committed to keeping his counsel.
“You need to appreciate that due to it being a legal investigation I can’t really comment on anything,”he said in a brief opening gambit.
Pressed for further information, he went on: “I’ve given a comment and I hope you respect that. I respect you asking the question and I think you have to respect my answer.
“If you want to talk about the football side of things and results I’m happy to answer.”
Enquiries continued to focus on the elephant in the room, rather than the club’s relegation battle or the arrival of Saints, but Lambert stuck resolutely to his chosen path.
“I’m expecting you to give me a question, but the statement I’ve given there is end of. If you want to ask me about the game, everything going on with the game and results, I'll happily answer.”
When asked, finally, whether victory over Southampton and an upturn in form following four straight defeats would make the week's events worthwhile, he said: “I don't think anything’s worth all this.”
Lambert is at least boosted ahead of today’s game with Leandro Bacuna returning to the squad. The Dutchman, who can play at full-back or in midfield, missed the defeat to Crystal Palace with a hamstring strain but is back in contention to face the Saints.
Otherwise, Lambert is choosing from the same squad with Christian Benteke, Libor Kozak, Charles N'Zogbia, Jores Okore, Nicklas Helenius and Gary Gardner still out.