Lambert keeping the faith
Paul Lambert enters his most crucial week as Aston Villa manager confident that his side are equipped to handle the pressure of two vital matches that could go a long way to deciding their Premier League fate.
Lambert is facing the real prospect of relegation at Villa Park in his first season since taking over from Alex McLeish, and successive games against Reading and Queens Park Rangers will be pivotal for his side's fate, starting at the Madejski Stadium on Saturday.
Villa enter the vital games in the bottom three of the Premier League, but rather than sensing any fear among his young squad, Lambert feels they have the strength of character and fighting spirit to make a huge survival statement.
"You'd like to think everyone has got fight in them to win a game and it is ok to be aggressive," he said. "It will take a lot of courage. You need a lot of courage to take the ball as well. You need to go and play football and not get caught up with the occasion. In the last few performances, we certainly don't look like a team that is playing under pressure.
"We will try and play the game and not the occasion. If you get caught up in the occasion it can certainly hurt you - but we are not lacking in confidence or any courage to compete with teams. I do believe we will be fine if we keep playing the way we are.
"If you win these two games, you are right up there but a lot of teams will be saying that. We are certainly playing well enough to win them. The situation remains so tight between the middle and the bottom part of the table.
"I feel we've got some momentum to be honest. The confidence is there. I don't need to lift them. I can see it in training and the last few games. It doesn't look like a team that is frightened of the situation. That is the pleasing thing."
Lambert prefers not to dwell on the financial implications of losing Premier League status at Villa Park. The loss of TV revenue and the impact on turnover would be damaging for owner Randy Lerner.
But Lambert said: "I think there are more important things to worry about than finances at the minute. We will speak about it in due time but the main thing for me is football matches.
"The main focus now is to stay in the league. That is everyone's focus. It's not just the finances if you go down. No-one wants to go down, for your own prestige, everything."