'Unacceptable' Villa must become competitive force, says Lambert

(Reuters) - A club of Aston Villa's size should not be battling against relegation and their position in the Premier League table is "unacceptable", manager Paul Lambert said on Thursday.

Sixteenth-placed Villa are on a poor run of form, losing five of their last six matches, and have slipped perilously close to the relegation zone with a three-point advantage over 18th-placed Norwich City.

Having endured similarly disappointing campaigns over the last few years, American owner Randy Lerner, who bought the club in 2006, has hinted he will sell up at the end of the season.

"The chairman will come out and say what he's got to say in May," Lambert told a news conference.

"I don't know what he's going to say but with the tradition and history of this club it shouldn't be fluctuating like this. We've had four years of this.

"I'm not breaking ranks, I'm just saying the size of this football club needs to be up there. He's been fair with everyone and he will do when the time is right.

"The conversations I've had with him are always really good. It's not acceptable for this club to keep doing this, it's too big to do this. Everybody knows that."

Despite the uncertainty surrounding Lerner's future, Lambert wants to strengthen his squad and media reports have linked him with a move for Fulham's on-loan Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Lewis Holtby.

Lambert refused to be drawn on speculation surrounding the 23-year-old German, but says the Midlands club must attract players of superior quality if they are to be a competitive force.

"This football club needs players of that type of calibre, that sort of level for the size of this club," continued the 44-year-old Scot who took charge of Villa in 2012.

"It's unfair of me to comment on the players mentioned but this club needs players like that."

Villa play FA Cup finalists Hull City on Saturday in their final home match of the campaign and Lambert, who has suffered 10 defeats at Villa Park this season, knows the importance of the fixture.

"If you win it virtually puts everything out the road," he added. "It's a cup final and we're at home in front of 38,000 people. The ironic thing is that if we win we can finish above Hull."

(Reporting by Michael Hann, editing by Ed Osmond)

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