Luke Young is confident that Aston Villa will secure a place in the Champions League next season, despite their recent stuttering form, because, he says, their destiny "is in our hands".
Young and his team-mates returned from Dubai yesterday after a five-day break in preparation for the final 10 games of the campaign – starting with the home game against Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday. Martin O'Neill's side remain three points ahead of fifth-placed Arsenal, despite six games without a win in all competitions.
"We are aware of the situation and the games that are to come," the Villa defender said. "If we don't finish fourth it will be down to ourselves. We don't need to worry about others because it is down to us. Destiny is in our own hands with a quarter of the season to go. We would have taken this [at the beginning of the season]. We just have to keep focused. There are 10 games to go. That is like a mini-season for us and we will be up for the challenge."
After finishing sixth last season, Villa were determined to push the established "big four" and are delighted with their situation. "If anyone would have asked whether we would have taken the number of points we have at this stage, and the position in the table, we would have snapped their hands off," the 29-year-old. "That's no consolation for the last two games [the draw at home to Stoke City and the 2-0 defeat away to Manchester City] and I accept that – but we know what we have to do and it is all in our hands."
Young has made 36 appearances this season, more than most of the Villa players including in the Uefa Cup while others were rested, and he has been glad of a few days' training in the sun. "It's been a long season and, for me, it was good not having a game for a few days because the last couple of weeks has been a game every three days," he said. "I think it will have done us good having a break and hopefully we will start putting in performances like we did earlier in the season."
O'Neill is hoping Villa's 11-day break from action by the time they face Tottenham will have enabled striker Emile Heskey to have recovered fully from his recent Achilles problem. Heskey aggravated the injury when on England duty against Spain in Seville in February and has not looked fully fit in recent games.
O'Neill is adamant Villa are capable of sustaining their Champions League push. "The players are really enjoying the situation they are in," he said. "There is a tremendous excitement among the players about the run-in. I think that's probably because we haven't been in this position before.
"The big four sides – Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool – have been there on merit now for some time. This season we're making it frighteningly difficult for them. They have budgeted for Champions League football – we haven't. The top four have had things to themselves over the past few years, but this time we have rattled a few cages and that has been the exciting part of this season."
"I'm excited by the prospect of finishing in the top four. The players have stuck with it and their performances on the whole have been terrific. Can we stay with it? There is no reason why we shouldn't be in the mix at the end of the season."Reuse content