London (AFP) – Aston Villa manager Dean Smith said on Thursday he is refusing to panic despite mounting speculation that he faces the sack if results fail to improve quickly.

If Villa suffer a fifth successive Premier League defeat against Southampton on Friday, it could be the final straw for the under-fire Smith.

Reports this week suggested Villa have sounded out former Shakhtar Donetsk and Roma boss Paulo Fonseca as a candidate to replace Smith.

Villa are just three points above the relegation zone, yet the 50-year-old was in bullish mood ahead of the crucial trip to St Mary’s.

“I think the perception from outside of the football club is always different,” Smith said.

“If you’re asking me if I sleep well, yes, I sleep well. I still play well at golf. My wife is still talking to me so, if that answers your question, then yes, I feel fine.

“There is no panic, we’re in control and determined to put things right. There has been a reaction from all the players because they are disappointed with the results.”

Smith is enduring his worst run at Villa for nearly two years, with last weekend’s 4-1 home defeat against West Ham adding to the growing pressure.

But Smith, who led Villa to promotion from the Championship in 2019, sees signs that an upturn in results is just around the corner.

“We are not far from turning it around and we are in a determined mood, that’s for sure. There is a collective responsibility and the players have been working hard,” he said.

“I’ve been in this situation and we stayed up in our first season in the Premier League.

“I’m happy to take the criticism for them. I’m a big boy, I’ve been in professional football since I was 16 years old so I’ve seen an awful lot of things.”