Aston Villa have suspended assistant managers Ian Culverhouse and Gary Karsa pending an "internal investigation," with club legend Gordon Cowans and veteran Irish goalkeeper Shay Given replacing the duo on a temporary basis.
• Hughes: Villa in freefall
Reports early on Tuesday suggested that Villa chief executive Paul Faulkner was due to attend meetings with the club’s manager Paul Lambert and his staff, as concerns grow over the form of a team that has collected just seven points from their last 10 Premier League games and is sliding toward the relegation zone.
Sources have informed ESPN that the position of manager Lambert is not under threat at this stage, but the move to replace trusted assistants Culverhouse and Karsa will do little to dampen the speculation that unrest is growing among the Villa hierarchy.
Villa confirmed the changes to the club’s coaching staff, with Lambert saying in a statement: “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.”
There were suggestions in February that Villa were close to agreeing a contract extension with Lambert, but the slump in results since appears to have turned the tide against the former Norwich boss.
Villa are the only club in the bottom seven of the Premier League not to change their manager this season.
Faulkner had released an open letter to the club’s supporters on Monday, urging them to get behind the manager and the team in the final weeks of the season.
“Four games ago, on the back of two good home wins, we were looking up the table and feeling confident of a strong, positive finish to the season,” Faulkner wrote.
“Since then we have suffered four consecutive defeats and that is hard to take. We are hurting. Fans are hurting, the players and the manager are hurting. The frustration is shared by everyone who loves Aston Villa.
“Now more than ever it’s time for us all to pull together -- fans, players, the manager, everyone at the club. Our immediate focus and combined efforts need to be concentrated on our game against Southampton this weekend and on our remaining games this season.
“We need to channel our energies into creating a positive atmosphere and getting the result we need on Saturday at Villa Park and in the games that follow. I’m frustrated when we’re not able to do that and I know the manager and players are frustrated as well.
“We know we can handle adversity. What we need now is for everyone to stick behind the team and continue to show the great support that is a hallmark of our club.”
Last Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at Crystal Palace left Villa just four points clear of the relegation zone.