Club captain and talisman Gabriel Agbonlahor has been axed out of the Aston Villa squad that will face Chelsea, after the English international was photographed smoking a shisha pipe in Dubai on a holiday in the Middle East over the weekend.
Aston Villa’s caretaker manager Eric Black has removed Agbonlahor from his plans against Chelsea, and Aston Villa are expected to conduct an internal investigation against the English forward amidst a great deal of bad publicity following the departure of Remi Garde.
Micah Richards was also photographed in Dubai, but on a separate trip and is not subjected to investigation, being free to play in Aston Villa’s upcoming match.
However Agbonlahor, who has found the net 73 times for Aston Villa in 317 games, is one of the most influential players in the Villa squad, and his absence could hamper Villa’s chances against Chelsea. Although the Villa forward was at the training ground on Friday, participating in a session with the first team, he was soon asked to pack up and and head home for the weekend.
Tough call for the manager
With Aston Villa reeling at the bottom of the table with only 16 points, the incident with Agbonlahor could not have come at a worst time. The fans will be hoping their player is not found guilty of the charges for fear of missing out on a key player for even longer.
The decision of calling Gabriel Agbonlahor lies solely with the interim manager Eric Black.
“There’s an internal investigation. I spoke to David Bernstein at length yesterday [Thursday]. The club have taken that decision”, Black said.
Black stated that removing Agbonlahor from the tentative Aston Villa squad to face Chelsea was a step taken from a footballing perspective.
“I’ve taken the decision from the footballing side to remove him from the squad just for this game, purely because I don’t want anything to distract the players and their surroundings for the game. I want that to be purely their focus for the Chelsea game”, he added.
“The investigation is into the things you have seen in the media. I won’t go into details because the investigation is still on-going and once those results have come in and the club have made a decision you will find out.”
Agbonlahor is not the first professional footballer to try the shisha. Earlier in 2015, Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling was caught smoking a shisha pipe, and Arsenal starlet Jack Wilshere was heavily criticised for his smoking too.