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Houllier claims backing of Villa chiefs

Aston Villa manager Gerard Houllier says he can still count on the full backing of Aston Villa owner Randy Lerner and chief executive Paul Faulkner.

The Villa boss is under real pressure following a poor run of form that has seen the club slip to within one point of the relegation zone, and some supporters have called for his dismissal.

However, Houllier remains convinced that Lerner and Faulkner are supportive of him as the club goes through a difficult period.

Houllier, whose side visit Everton on Saturday, said: "I speak to Randy Lerner on a regular basis and I speak also to Paul Faulkner a minimum of once a day. We are very close and very tight together. We know what we are going through.

"It is important to be in a club where there is a strong belief and the trust is there. I think their support for me is just as strong. In fact, I am convinced of that.''

Houllier has dismissed suggestions of a dressing-room revolt but says he is ready to exile players who do not demonstrate they are fully commited to the cause.

He said: "I believe the club is unified. If someone is not with us and not giving more than 100%, he's got to leave because we won't make it. But I think we are all right and there is no problem.

"The spirit is good, we know where the land lies, we're not lying to ourselves, we are in a relegation battle, like others and we are aware of that. At the same time we have the quality and mentality to deal with that.''

Houllier also denied suggestions he has implemented a hard-line regime, despite reports that some players were unhappy about rules regarding the use of mobile phones.

He said: "Regarding the mobile phones, I only mentioned it on my first day but there was no ban. In fact, they are very reasonable because there is no use of them in the changing room and I don't go and check it.

"I heard about fines but I've never put a fine on a player who's been late. If someone comes in from London and they get stuck in a traffic jam, they ring.

"You are not going to give them another bang on their head by fining them. It has happened maybe once or twice. I hate fines and I never give fines."

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