Lowton set for new Villa contract
Paul Lambert has identified Matt Lowton as one of the players he will try to reward with an improved contract if Aston Villa win their survival battle.
The in-form right-back, who has played every minute of his first season in the Premier League, has been at the club for only a year but is doing enough to convince his manager he deserves a new deal if relegation is avoided.
"There's a few of them who have done really, really well and who are playing really well and Matty's definitely one of them," Lambert said. "But we've got to achieve something first.
"There are a few of them that you would think: 'Yes, he has done great'. But there's no point in doing that yet - we've got to get over the line. That's the thing. We've still got goals to achieve but it's something at the end of the season that you would look at.
"I like to know what's happening (with negotiations) and I've got to because I see them every day, week in, week out. It's important I'm involved."
Lowton lit up Villa's march towards safety with his stunning goal in the recent victory at Stoke and was picked out by his manager as "man of the match by a mile" in Monday's slaughter of Sunderland despite the claims of hat-trick hero Christian Benteke.
So, is he capable of progressing from a League One player last season to international contender in the not too distant future?
"I don't know about England," Lambert said. "I haven't spoken to him about it, so I don't know what his thoughts are on that. I'm pretty sure in his own mind he would love to play for his national team.
"He has got to keep progressing the way he's going and if he does, his career will take care of itself. He's just an unassuming young lad who is doing really fine. He has fitted in really well. You know what you're going to get with him, I think, with his consistent performances.
"You're never quite sure which other clubs will have looked at him at Sheffield United but you've just got to have your belief that it's going to work.
"You watch a lot of players who might do you a turn. We got him for a million pounds or whatever it was and he has been excellent. He did great the other night. I think he has been playing really well for a few weeks now."
Lambert will also be hoping to tie down Benteke - a player he describes as unplayable in his current form - on a more lucrative contract as long as Villa stay up.
And he doesn't see an escape clause, similar to the trigger figure that Chelsea bid to take Demba Ba away from Newcastle, being part of any discussions.
"I don't think you can put any figures in because it just creates problems," he said. "It's not something I've ever thought about. To be fair to Christian, he has never ever said anything about contracts or anything."
While Villa have won four of their last seven games to move towards safety, Wigan, their arch rivals in the scramble for survival, took only two points out of 12 in April - the month in which they reached the FA Cup final for the first time.
Roberto Martinez, who is reported to have turned down the Villa post last summer, takes his team to Villa's neighbours West Brom on Saturday and Lambert believes the Latics' Wembley appearance could be a costly distraction.
"I think the way the fixtures have come certainly won't help," he said. "Playing at Wembley against Manchester City is going to be a big ask and a big task for them. That's what can happen but if you ask Roberto, he's probably looking forward to the cup final.
"Because of the magnitude of the games when you're playing the top teams, it gets really really tough. I've said before there are a number of teams in the mix... it's not just ourselves and Wigan. There's a right few there. Wigan have got to make the ground up, so whether that affects them or not I'm not so sure. But being in the cup final is still a great thing."