Aston Villa a massive step closer, Petrov man of the match and manager speak

I think we need one more point to stay up, as in I think 38 will be enough this season, but I also think we will end up getting seven or ten more and I think all those, and there are a lot of you, that were all doom and gloom and worried about our future, will be in a much better mood.

I think after that has happened and the club tell us for a third or fourth time that the manager is going to be backed, he might get a proper run next season to show us what he is capable of and I think, when that happens and the manager has a proper chance to lay real footballing foundations, something the previous manager could never really do, then rather than just flirt with the next level, we might just actually make it.

Levels


So there can be no confusion, I just want to explain what I think levels are before I get to the match yesterday. The level we are playing at doesn't mean we finish fourth. The level we are playing at is the mentality, or the style of football and that we accept it and believe it is the way forward.

There really isn't a benchmark, but all we have to do is look at the football and nobody can deny that we are trying to pass it more, that we are wanting to play to feet more and that we hit far fewer long balls.

The level is about more than just where we finish. It is about making sure the mentality and style is right and that from top to bottom it is understood. We can't go back after this and that is why it is so important that the manager gets this opportunity.

Manager Speak

Gerard Houllier

I think we deserved it. We showed desire, commitment and fighting, battling qualities, which are a must in this sort of situation. Maybe we weren't relaxed enough at times but I think that's down to the pressure. When you have pressure, the team's fighting spirit plays a big part.

You can't have egos. The team performance comes above everything else. I thought they all worked for each other. The effort of everyone was fantastic. That sort of game could have done with more fluency but the fact we didn't get the second goal got us a bit edgy.

I thought Brad was fantastic. He made two great saves and helped us keep the three points. I was very pleased for James too because he travels forward a lot for set-pieces but doesn't always get the reward he deserves. But his movement and connection on the ball for the goal was good.

Alan Pardew

[Young's] the most fouled player in the division and we kept saying: 'You touch him and he goes over'. I think it was in Joey's mind that it was something we talked about. And he hardly touched him and down he went again. That's a fact. I didn't think it was a free-kick.

I've added this quote from Pardew because we've noticed it for a while and now others are noticing it too. Young goes down easy and it is part of his game. I accept that, but I don't like it when he needs treatment every other time he goes down. I don't understand the limping and then a moment or two later, everything is okay.

Players and Man of the Match

This was the closest vote yet and man of the match, by one vote, is Stiliyan Petrov. Second place, one vote behind him was James Collins.

Brad Friedel, Luke Young, Richard Dunne, James Collins, Kyle Walker (Carlos Cuellar, 78), Stewart Downing, Ashley Young, Jean Makoun (Nigel Reo-Coker, 67), Stiliyan Petrov, Gabriel Agbonlahor (Robert Pires, 86), Darren Bent.

Final Summary

The football is getting better. The manager has had one transfer window to bring in his players and when he has had the summer and another, it will be even better.

The match yesterday wasn't the best football we are ever going to see and Brad Friedel made a couple of very good saves but Newcastle didn't really come into the game until the last ten minutes. It was almost as if they came to make it difficult for us.

I'm not trying to make light of the football, I just accept that it is going to take time. The most important thing about yesterday was three points and we got them.

The most important thing and we really should remember this; is we are a much bigger step to safety today than we were yesterday. Forget all the speculation surrounding the manager. Forget the twelfth man and forget the scarf thing. Right now, we should just be happy.