Dean Smith confident Aston Villa can avoid relegation


Villa are battling to avoid an instant return to the Sky Bet Championship.

Boss Dean Smith believes Aston Villa can still pull off Mission Impossible.

The Premier League strugglers go to newly crowned champions Liverpool on Sunday a point from safety with six games left.

After travelling to Anfield they face Manchester United, Crystal Palace, Everton and Arsenal ahead of what could be a crucial final day trip to drop rivals West Ham.

They have not won in any competition since January but despite critics expecting them to go down Smith insisted Villa can pull of their escape.

“Unfortunately we haven’t got Tom Cruise with us but I’ve got 11 players and I’ve seen a desire in their eyes,” he said.

“They feel stung by criticism, you are going to get criticism when you’re in a position we’re in. Their job is to prove people wrong.

“Without a doubt, we have seen a better Aston Villa after the break.

“The points tally hasn’t shown that, we played Wolves last week and they are pushing for the Champions League and there was nothing between the two teams. The only quality on show was the goal.

“If we manage to stay up this season, which I believe we will, there will be a better Aston Villa next year.”

Smith pulled off a Great Escape in his first season as a manager at Walsall in 2010-11, guiding them to safety after taking over in January 2011 with the Saddlers bottom of League One and eight points from safety.

And he vowed he believes he will keep his record of never being relegated.

“I’ve still not been relegated as a manager and I don’t expect to be this season either,” he said.

“I’ve been in Great Escapes. I was at Walsall when we were eight points adrift. This isn’t adrift. This is a six-team battle,” he said.

“Only two of the teams in the bottom six have won (since lockdown) and both were in the last minute, Brighton against Arsenal and West Ham against Chelsea.

“We’re all battling for points. Every day you’re drawing on experiences you’ve had. At Walsall were eight points adrift and the following season was a battle as well and we managed to come through that by being a team that was together.

“You could say it wasn’t as big but for me at that time it was as big.”