Aston Villa seeing benefits of investing in youth says Stoke manager Tony Pulis

Villains have showed signs of improvement in recent weeks

Stoke boss Tony Pulis feels his Aston Villa counterpart Paul Lambert is starting to reap the rewards of putting his faith in youth.

The teams Lambert has fielded since taking over as Villa manager in the summer have not tended to have a great deal of Barclays Premier League experience within them and have featured plenty of players in their early twenties.

Their campaign has been something of a struggle so far results-wise but there have been encouraging signs of late, and Villa - currently 15th, two points above the relegation zone - head into tomorrow's home league clash with Stoke having taken five points from their last three games.

Certainly Pulis has seen enough from Lambert's men recently to suggest that the Scot's selection decisions are beginning to really pay off.

"I think Paul has decided to go a certain way - he has brought the youngsters in," Pulis said.

"We have watched the last few games and they have done exceptionally well.

"With youngsters you have to be patient. He has shown a lot of faith in them and I think they have started to reward him with some very good performances.

"I have a lot of respect for Paul - I think he has done smashing wherever he has been, and Villa is a great football club. We know it is going to be a very tough game."

A notable absentee from Villa's squad over the last few weeks has been England international Darren Bent.

The striker's omission - he is not injured - has been a major talking point, but it is not something Pulis is keen to give his opinion on.

Asked about Bent's situation, Pulis said: "He is not my player. Whatever Paul does and whatever Darren does at Aston Villa is their responsibility.

"You have to ask Paul about that. If you ask me about someone else's players, that is none of my business."

In terms of his own team, ahead of tomorrow's contest Pulis' side are on an even better run of form than their opponents, taking 13 points from their last five fixtures to move up to ninth in the table.

Stoke have won all of their last three matches and are looking well on course at the moment to achieve what would be their first top-10 finish in the Premier League.

For now, though, Pulis insists he is still taking the same stance as he has done in every top-flight campaign since he got the Potters promoted to the division in 2008 - focusing only on the 'safety' target of 40 points before setting any further goals.

"We fluctuate, along with maybe 14 or 15 other clubs in the Premier League," said Pulis, whose team have 22 points from their 15 games so far.

"We will have good runs and we will have bad runs.

"You have got lots of things happening around you - lots of people who have an opinion on why you are doing well or badly.

"That is part and parcel of it and you just have to make sure you stay focused as a group, keep believing in what you are doing and hope the results drop for you.

"We have to be at our maximum every game to get results in the Premier League - we are not good enough to do anything other than that.

"Luckily, in most of the games this year we have been at that maximum, and from that we have managed to get the results that I think we have deserved.

"But there is a long way to go and we have to get to those 40 points. I don't care what anybody says - that is our main aim every time we start a Premier League season."

PA

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