Clark: Villa can stave off relegation
Acting captain Ciaran Clark believes Aston Villa still have enough to haul themselves away from relegation danger despite their damaging weekend drop into the bottom three.
Villa's controversial 1-0 home defeat against a Southampton side who leapfrogged them in reaching the relative security of 15th place means they have now taken only 30 points from 38 Premier League matches dating back to last January. Their last five top-flight games have yielded a mere one point and they remain the joint lowest scorers in the division as well as the side with by far the worse goal difference.
The statistics make damning reading as the club prepare for Saturday's derby trip to West Brom but Clark insists that Paul Lambert's squad - soon to be strengthened by the return of more senior players and possibly a signing or two - have what it takes to survive.
"There are enough characters," he said. "There's definitely enough togetherness between us all. We've got a few experienced lads coming back from injury who will obviously help the squad and team.
"Over the next few weeks, it's important for us to pick up some points and, if we stick together, I'm sure we'll be able to do that.
"Ron Vlaar has been out for a while now and it was good to see him back on the bench. It's good for the team and squad to see players like that coming back.
"It's nice to be captain but, at the minute, everyone has got their role to play and should be a leader out there on the pitch. No matter who is captain, we all have to get on with our jobs. We have to stick together as a team.
"Having the experienced lads back gives the younger lads a boost. it gives them a bit of help to get through the games. Obviously the guys have been through it and know what to do.
"It is nice to have them back but there's enough togetherness about the lads. We'll show that we're all right. It's down to us and the lads that are there to turn it around."
No less a figure than Steve Gerrard has recently spoken of Villa's lack of experience, although the Midlanders impressively won 3-1 at Liverpool a week and a half before Christmas.
Clark wasn't aware of those comments but believes Villa can put behind them Saturday's crushing disappointment against a side who have damagingly done the League double over them.
In their hour of need, Villa have received a fillip from Rickie Lambert, the man who has now scored three goals against them in 2012-13 after Mark Halsey's dubious decision to award a penalty against Enda Stevens in the first half.
Lambert said after the game that he confidently expects Villa to climb well out of trouble. "They will stop up easily," he said. "They will go on a good run soon."
Villa fans will be despairing of that forecast, though, if their side are blighted by much more of the sort of misfortune that came their way during their third successive home League defeat.
"It's disappointing to lose to a penalty that's not a penalty and it was just a disappointing and frustrating way to lose a game," Clark added. "Our luck is out at the minute. Nathan Baker's hit the bar in the last minute. On another day, it hits the underside and flies in.
"In the next few weeks, hopefully it will turn and we'll get a bit of luck and maybe put three or four past a team.
"We need to keep our heads up. We have West Brom to come next weekend and we need to stay positive and look forward to that.
"We'll pick ourselves up in training and we'll get back together. We are a close team. There's a lot of games still to play and a long way to go. The teams around us still have a lot of tough games, too.
"We just have to concentrate on ourselves and our own performances to make sure we start picking points up.
"Maybe the fact we have been there before (near the bottom in previous seasons) will help the young lads and hopefully we can use it as positive.
"When you look at it a few seasons ago, we were around fifth or sixth place. It's turned around but there has been a lot of change and hopefully everyone will just stick by us. All the lads are sticking together. If everyone remains positive, we'll be all right."