Villa chairman Lerner praises Cowans, Given

Aston Villa chairman Randy Lerner has praised Gordon Cowans and Shay Given for stepping up to help Paul Lambert with first-team duties.

The Premier League club suspended assistant manager Ian Culverhouse and head of football operations Gary Karsa on Tuesday, confirming that the pair would face an internal investigation.

Villa would not confirm the reasons for their suspension, only that Cowans and Given would assist manager Lambert when Villa host Southampton in the league on Saturday.

Chairman Lerner paid tribute to the pair, praising their willingness to help the club in difficult circumstances.

"Our manager has been faced with some unexpected issues that could have very easily set the club back," he told the club's official website.

"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."

Villa have lost four top-flight fixtures in a row to slip back into the relegation shake-up, with the Midlands club sitting four points clear of the drop zone heading into their final five games.