Aston VIlla boss Paul Lambert has declared his support for Nigel Adkins amid "ridiculous" suggestions that the Southampton manager is facing the sack.
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Victory for Villa at St Mary's, when the two sides meet on Saturday, will only increase the debate about whether Adkins should be relieved of his duties, just five games into the new season.
Four defeats and 14 goals conceded in their four games so far, including last weekend's 6-1 embarrassment against Arsenal, has placed Adkins in the spotlight, with rumours of Rafa Benitez and Harry Redknapp being lined up as possible replacements.
Lambert is well aware of the early difficulties Adkins and his team have suffered but believes his managerial counterpart should be afforded more respect, after guiding the club to the top flight with successive promotions.
"It's getting a bit silly now. Just look at what he has done for them. It's only four games into the season, I think it's a bit ridiculous," Lambert said. "But football is like that - you just never know what's around the corner. It's getting harder and harder every year but I think that's really unfair.
"Nigel's done a great job at Southampton. In the last few years they have done fantastically well getting promoted twice. The Premier League is an unforgiving division. Every game is hard, whoever you are playing. It doesn't matter if it's a side in the top six or bottom six. It's a hard, hard league."
Meanwhile, the former Norwich manager is hinting at a full debut for £8 million striker Christian Benteke, following the striker's first goal for the club last weekend, after coming on as a substitute.
"Benteke is only 21, that's what you have to remember, but his role in the last 15 minutes or so against Swansea was excellent," Lambert said. "He'll certainly give us a hand. There's no two ways about it - he's a big presence up there and his presence alone will un-nerve a few people. I was delighted with his contribution against Swansea."