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Lambert defends Villa owner Lerner

Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert has launched a vigorous defence of owner Randy Lerner following rumours this week the American tycoon was considering selling the club.

Chief executive Paul Faulkner issued a categorical denial, insisting Villa had not been put up for sale and Lerner was "not actively looking to sell".

Despite that, the speculation raised questions about the 51-year-old's involvement in Villa, and what he has done for the club since his £62.6million purchase in 2006.

Although Lambert has been forced to operate on a tighter financial budget than his predecessors since his arrival in the summer of 2012, arguably Lerner cannot be faulted for the money he has spent.

So far Lerner has splashed out £250million on players, whilst his cash has also provided a new state-of-the-art training ground and upgrades to Villa Park, whilst there has also been a level of unseen funding for local community projects.

The only criticism that could be levelled at Lerner is he is rarely seen at matches, apparently only attending three this season.

Despite Lerner's lack of communication with supporters, Lambert said: "I think the fans really appreciate what they have - the stadium, everything.

"Anybody who decides to have a shot at him or criticises him is way off the mark.

"He is a private guy, which he is totally entitled to be, and you have to respect that.

"There's no great issue for the fans if Randy is here or not here, and with what he has done.

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"If you look at all the facts, the money he has put in and what he has done for the local community, let alone anything else, he is entitled to his way of doing things and you have to respect that."

Given the honest relationship Lambert enjoys with Lerner, he believes he would be in the know if the former owner of American football's Cleveland Browns was also preparing to sell Villa.

"It's well documented I'm always in contact with Randy and he's never spoken about anything like that whatsoever, we speak about football," added Lambert.

"I don't really buy into too much of that. I don't get involved in it, and I'm pretty sure I'd be one of the first to know.

"But he's every right to decide what he wants to do. He is the main person at this club.

"But as I've said before, nobody should ever criticise Randy for what he has done at this club.

"Right now we get on well and we are planning to drive the club forward. I know the remit here.

"As manager and chairman we get on really well. Our relationship is like that. It's no problem.

"He has been great, really supportive. When things were ropey last year he was really supportive, and this year he has been excellent with me."

On the pitch Villa find themselves in a lofty 10th position in the Barclays Premier League.

The reality is, however, given the tight-knit nature of the lower half of the table they are only five points off the relegation zone, spearheaded by Saturday's visitors to Villa Park in West Ham.

Exactly a year ago Villa beat the Hammers 2-1 on home soil, a result that helped the club kick on for survival.

Twelve months on and Lambert claims the difference within the club is "night and day...totally different".

With five of Villa's last seven home matches against teams in the bottom half of the table, Lambert is hoping this latest match with West Ham provides another watershed moment.

"We're hoping to push on again," said Lambert.

"If we go into the game with the same form we've been in of late then we will certainly be right in it, that's for sure.

"The main thing for me is we're playing well enough at this moment in time to win games."

Lambert has Gabriel Agbonlahor available after the striker missed the last two matches with a foot injury, but centre-back Ron Vlaar is out with a hamstring problem.

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