Aston Villa was my toughest challenge of my working life -Paul Lambert breaks silence
Paul Lambert has admitted managing Aston Villa was the "toughest challenge" of his working life but that he remains proud of his time at the club.
Lambert, 45, was sacked on Wednesday after almost three years with the club after Villa dropped into the bottom three of the Premier League.
The Scot said he had been tasked by owner Randy Lerner to overhaul the squad and cut wages, and warned as to the scale of the job.
Lambert said in a statement issued through the League Managers' Association: "I am extremely proud to have managed Aston Villa, a founder member of the Football League, and this sentiment will always remain with me.
"My initial remit was to conduct a massive overhaul of the playing squad, lower the overall wage structure of the playing staff and achieve this whilst keeping the club in the Barclays Premier League.
"There was also a concerted effort to purchase and develop younger players who would provide a solid footing for the football club to move forward and enhance the value of the playing squad in the future.
"When I came on board the club's owner, Randy Lerner, warned me that I was embarking on the toughest challenge of my working life and he was not wrong.
"But I have never stepped away from hard work and I put my heart and soul into the job from my first day until my last."
Lambert signed a contract extension after a good start to the season in September, however Villa's form deteriorated and included a dismal run of 659 minutes without a top-flight goal.
It ended against Chelsea on Saturday but Tuesday's loss at Hull saw them drop into the bottom three.
First-team coach Scott Marshall and goalkeeping coach Andy Marshall will be charge ahead of Sunday's home FA Cup tie with Leicester and former Tottenham boss Tim Sherwood, current Real Madrid assistant Paul Clement and USA head coach Jurgen Klinsmann installed among the bookmakers' favourites to replace Lambert.
Lambert thanked Lerner, his coaching staff, the players, the fans and former chief executive Paul Faulkner - but perhaps significantly not Faulkner's successor Tom Fox.
He said: "To the players, my sincere thanks to each and every one of them. They are a fantastic group of players and I wish them every success for the rest of their playing careers. I hope to see many of them achieve great things in the game.
"Finally, I pay tribute to the supporters who are among the most passionate I have ever encountered. They rightly hold huge expectations for their beloved football club and I sincerely hope they are rewarded with the success they deserve.
"I completely understand their frustrations and always shared their view that the football club is too big not to be competing at the top end of the table. I hope that can happen."