Aston Villa have suspended Gabriel Agbonlahor with immediate effect as they begin an internal investigation into allegations over his recent behaviour. The long-serving striker, who has spent his entire senior career at Villa Park and was appointed as club captain by Tim Sherwood in August 2015, was pictured by The Sun partying at a London hotel in close proximity to canisters of legal high nitrous oxide on the same day that his club's relegation to the Championship was finally confirmed following an insipid 1-0 defeat to Manchester United.
Agbonlahor was ruled out of the trip to Chelsea earlier this month after being photographed with a shisha pipe during a trip to Dubai, although no further action was taken. The 29-year-old attracted more criticism last week when caretaker manager Eric Black, describing the player as "not at the level to contribute the way he should", announced that he would be made unavailable for a fortnight in order to undergo a fitness regime designed to get him up to speed with just weeks of the season remaining.
Responding to this latest controversy, a short statement released via Villa's official website read: "Aston Villa Football Club has today suspended Gabby Agbonlahor pending an internal investigation. This is following allegations concerning his conduct at the weekend. There will be no further comment from the club in relation to this matter until the investigation has been completed."
Such an episode will only serve to reinforce the sense of anger and bewilderment felt among Villa fans, who have seen their rock-bottom side win just three league matches in 2015-16 en route to their first demotion for 29 years. Sherwood was sacked in October and his replacement Remi Garde lasted just five months before leaving by mutual consent.
The fractured relationship between players and supporters was perfectly encapsulated by the reaction to Villa captain Joleon Lescott's comments following that aforementioned loss at Old Trafford. After Villa's ninth successive defeat, the centre-back provoked a furious reaction when he claimed that maybe confirmation of an inevitable relegation was a "weight off the shoulders". In February, he apologised for accidentally tweeting a picture of an expensive Mercedes after a 6-0 thrashing by Liverpool.