LONDON • Aston Villa will speak to two senior players in response to allegations made by fans that they used abusive language when challenged over their behaviour while in the away dugout during Saturday's FA Cup 1-1 draw with Wycombe Wanderers.
Joleon Lescott and Brad Guzan were unused substitutes for the third-round tie and, according to one witness report, they spent their time engaged in shooting practice using chewing gum. When approached by supporters, it is alleged that they swore at them.
According to the Aston Villa section of the VitalFootball website, it was this altercation that led to fans confronting captain Micah Richards after he was substituted.
Footage of Richards dealing with fans was shown on BT Sport's coverage of the match, with the player telling angry supporters that "we need to stick together" and that "we're trying".
"I'm still believing (the players) are trying to do their best," manager Remi Garde said, "but at some point, you have to recognise that if they are doing their best and we are still not winning, then there is a problem."
Points accumulated by Aston Villa so far in the Premier League
Wins for Villa since the opening day of the Premier League last August
A fan protest is planned before today's Premier League game at home to Crystal Palace, but, before then, Randy Lerner will have met senior figures in New York for crisis talks.
The owner will speak to Tom Fox, the club's chief executive, and Hendrik Almstadt, the sporting director, to plot whether to spend money to save Villa's season or prepare for life in the Championship.
Villa are rooted to the bottom of the table with eight points from 20 games and are without a league win since the opening day of the campaign. But Garde is confident they can get three points today.
"Palace are doing very well. They have a lot of confidence. It will be a tough game. But we have the possibility to win this game," he said.
"It's a question of pride to play better and work harder."
Palace, seventh in the table and after three games without a league victory over the festive period, returned to winning ways on Saturday with a 2-1 victory at Southampton in the FA Cup.
But their assistant manager Keith Millen has warned his players not to give a wounded Villa any encouragement during their clash.
"They are under pressure and they desperately need a win," Millen said. "We have been there at the bottom of the league, so we know what that pressure is like.
"You are looking for something in the game to cling on to - whether it is the first goal or something to get the crowd involved - so we have to make sure we are ready for the start of the game."
THE TIMES, LONDON
ASTON VILLA V CRYSTAL PALACE
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