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Soccer-Villa owner Lerner to decide on future at end of season

Reuters

April 21 (Reuters) - Aston Villa's American owner Randy Lerner will wait until the end of the season before deciding upon his future with the club, amid speculation he is looking to sell his stake in the English Premier side.

British media have continued to report over the last week that Lerner is looking to end his ties with the former European champions, whom he purchased a 60 percent stake in at the start of the 2006-07 season.

Having invested heavily in new players early in his tenure, Lerner has cut back in recent seasons and Villa, under the guidance of manager Paul Lambert, remain in a relegation battle with four games remaining.

Those relegation fears were eased slightly after they held on for a goalless draw against Southampton on Saturday to halt a run of four successive defeats and they sit five points above the drop zone in 15th.

"Following the point yesterday at Villa Park, there have been stories about my selling the club. On a personal level, I had hoped the emphasis would have been on the amazing effort on the part of our manager and our players to regroup throughout a very difficult week," Lerner said in a statement on Sunday.

"As regards my personal role at the club and the steady rumours of a sale, I will address these after the season.

"Paul Lambert, (chief executive) Paul Faulkner and I speak daily and remain committed to the immediate job of limiting distraction and confusion in order that Villa have the best chance possible of finishing on a strong note."

LAMBERT FUTURE

Should Lerner step down from his role as chairman and exit the Birmingham-based side, speculation is likely to intensify about the future of manager Lambert.

The Scot, also a European Cup winner as a player with Borussia Dortmund in 1997, was appointed in 2012 and has endured some mixed results with his youthful squad, who have been hit by numerous injuries this season.

But Lerner, 52, who used to own the NFL's Cleveland Browns franchise, was full of support for the former Norwich City boss.

"Injuries to Libor (Kozak) and Christian (Benteke), compounded with the early loss of Jores (Okore) and the difficult rehab of Charles (N'Zogbia) have no doubt left Paul with far less to work with than is fair," he said.

"Still, Paul Lambert has done nothing but work within the parameters I've set, put the club first and continue to trust his players."

Villa face Swansea City away on Saturday before hosting Hull City and then rounding off their campaign with trips to Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur.

Lambert said picking up points from those games were his only concern and he was ignoring speculation a new owner might want a change in the dugout.

"It's not something I've ever thought about," the Scot was quoted as saying by British media.

"I just want this club to stay in this league." (Writing by Patrick Johnston; Editing by John O'Brien)

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