Dean Smith revealed the way in which Aston Villa used their time away during lockdown to boost their chances of staving off relegation, and enthused about club talisman Jack Grealish after another vital contribution
Villa survived on the final day after their 1-1 draw with West Ham provided the crucial point required.
Speaking to BBC Sport about his side’s achievement, Smith said: “I’m pleased, proud and every adjective to go with it. A lot of people had us relegated but we have worked so hard.
We used the pandemic well. We have looked strong. A lot has been made of what we spent but we had to. I would have said this if we had been relegated or stayed up.
It is an achievement from the players. They have grown and become Premier League players. We need to build on that and recruit in the summer.
“We did a lot of work on how we wanted to defend. Douglas Luiz’s form has gone through the roof. It was always going to be hard for him playing catch up as he came in with days to go until the season started.”
Regarding the two sides that went dow as a consequence of Villa staying up, Smith added: “Condolences to Watford and Bournemouth. I can only imagine how they feel now. Eddie is a fantastic manager and a great coach. It had to be two out of three. But I am proud of what we have done. We were aware of what was going on. Bournemouth did what they had to do and so did we.”
Villa talisman Jack Grealish once again stood up and was counted, and Smith was understandably overjoyed with his ace: “I said to him he would come to the party and score. He has been getting better and better. He has come good when he needed to.
“It (his future) will all be sorted over the next month. Tonight we will enjoy a magnificent achievement. It feels better than when we went up through the play-offs.”
On staying up: “In pre-season we sat down and came up with three words that we wanted to work by – togetherness, prepared and relentless. We have grown into that. It takes a long time to build a culture and I think we have started.”