Robert Pires took a swipe at his manager Gerard Houllier and haspredicted that Aston Villa will be playing Championship football nextseason.
The former France international has lifted the lid on a'highly-charged' and 'strained' atmosphere in the Villa Parkdressing-room, which is sure to deteriorate further should Villa loseat Sheffield United today.
The 37-year-old, who won the FA Cup three times with Arsenal, said:'This is not an easy time for me. I'm on the bench, and I can't helpthe team as I don't get to play.
'Gerard Houllier does not have confidence in me. I can't understand why not, and I'm going to have a talk with him about it.
'I am disappointed, as I want to play and to help my teammates. Hedoes not even bring me on for the final 20 minutes, and it isfrustrating.
'Relationships between Gerard and certain players are strained andhighly-charged. He has brought in a new culture and a different way ofworking.'
Villa's under-fire boss has admitted himself that today's tie at Bramall Lane, along with the outcome of next weekend's Birmingham derby, will be crucial to his chances of staying in a job.
'The atmosphere in the dressing-room after the Sunderland game was very heated,' said the ex-Arsenal midfielder, after Villa's sixth defeat in their last eight matches, 'the fans called for Gerard to go straightaway.
'However, he's been kept in his job as he clearly has the support of chairman Randy Lerner.
'I'm afraid that we will be relegated. I'm scared that doubts will set into the players' minds.'
It may be too little, too late, but Houllier's charm offensive was transparent in the extreme.
Saluting fans who had called for him to be sacked just 48 hours previously as 'fantastic,' he recognised he was under the spotlight, claiming the next week would be 'decisive' in his battle to turnaround a desperate situation.
'I belong to this exclusive private club of four people under great pressure and I'm quite delighted to belong to that category of people,' he said. 'You lose a game and it's a crisis. You win a game and you are a hero.
'It's a long-term job I have got the backing of the people at the club which is very important and we are here for better or worse.
'I'm trying to stay focused because otherwise I will become distracted or polluted by the atmosphere.
Thaw: John Carew aired his views
'We want to reward the fans for their support by getting better results. That's why the cup match and the Birmingham game are vital.'
However, there was no sign in a thaw in the relationship between John Carew and Houllier after club captain Stiliyan Petrov pleaded with the duo to sit around a table and thrash out their differences.
'John is a grown-up,' added Villa's boss, 'if he feels he is not fit enough for a game, as he told me a few weeks ago, I take that on board.
'We spoke before the Manchester CIty game and he didn't feel up to playing. He has missed training for various reasons and neede to work on his fitness which he is doing now.
'I know there were talks with West Brom. I don't know where it will lead to. To me, Carew is a Villa player and, as soon as he is available and fit, I will be delighted to have him in the squad and to play.'
Houllier confirmed that Villa had made an enquiry for Lyon's Jean Makoud but that the two clubs were still haggling over a price and that he was also interested in taking Wayne Bridge on loan until the end of the season.
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Explore more:People: John Carew, Robert Pires, Stiliyan Petrov, Gerard Houllier, Wayne Bridge Places: Lyon, Birmingham, France