LONDON (Reuters) - Aston Villa forward Gabriel Agbonlahor has been dropped from the first team pending an investigation after pictures were published by British media of him apparently smoking a shisha pipe.
Villa, who are bottom of the Premier League, announced that Agbonlahor would not be included in the squad for Saturday’s Premier League game against Chelsea as the club looks into his behaviour while on holiday in the United Arab Emirates.
The decision to remove Agbonlahor from the squad was taken by caretaker manager Eric Black, who took over this week after Remi Garde was sacked following a dismal five-month spell in charge.
“There’s an ongoing investigation which will run its course, I’m sure,” Black told reporters on Friday.
“Obviously I can’t give you any more information on that as we stand but that is underway. I’ve taken the decision myself that I want us to focus on football matches now so I’ve removed Gabby from the squad for Saturday.
“We don’t need this to be about Gabby Agbonlahor. We need this to be about the 18 players who are possibly going to play for Aston Villa on Saturday.”
Villa are nine points adrift at the bottom of the table and 12 short of Norwich City in 17th place.
They have won only three league games in a woeful campaign and parted company with manager Garde this week after he failed to turn around their flailing fortunes having replaced Tim Sherwood, who was sacked in October.
Agbonlahor, who has three England caps, has played 18 games for Villa this season but scored just once and dropped to the bench for Garde’s final match in charge, a 1-0 defeat to Swansea City before the international break.
The 29-year-old Agbonlahor was pictured during a trip to Dubai with club team mate Micah Richards and Crystal Palace pair Dwight Gayle and Fraizer Campbell.
“It’s part and parcel, unfortunately, of modern-day football. I can assure you Aston Villa’s not the only club that’s had to deal with this,” Black added.
“It’s not specific to Aston Villa. We’ll deal with it in the right manner and try to remove those issues and focus purely on what this club should be about. That’s playing football and the next challenge is Chelsea on Saturday.”
Reporting by Toby Davis; editing by Patrick Johnston
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