Houllier delighted by Villa 'fight' after late winner at Upton Park

West Ham 1 Aston Villa 2

All the signs at Upton Park on Saturday pointed in opposite directions for these clubs, towards safety for Aston Villa and relegation for West Ham United. But if West Ham want an example of what can be done to arrest a slide, they could do worse than follow Villa's claret and blueprint.

Just under a month ago, Villa lost 1-0 at home to Wolverhampton Wanderers shortly in the wake of reports of dressing-room disharmony and criticism of coaching staff by players.

Before the next match, away to Everton, there was "a short meeting", in the words of Gérard Houllier, the manager. He refused to reveal details of what was said, but several of his players suggested that the agenda included the need to rediscover their team ethic and fighting spirit.

The results speak for themselves – a 2-2 draw away to Everton, a home win against Newcastle, and Saturday's well-deserved comeback victory in East London. "We just said we were starting a new league, and in just three games we have picked up seven points," Houllier (above with Ashley Young) said. "More importantly, we have come back twice in those games from going behind. The fighting spirit is, to me, the base. Whatever the talent, you need to work and fight."

No player exemplified that winning combination of talent and fighting spirit more than Ashley Young. After a busy afternoon running at Lars Jacobsen, he still found the energy in injury time to charge after a loose ball and cross for Gabriel Agbonlahor to head the winner, and Houllier admitted that keeping him will be difficult. "We will discuss it with him," he said. "He puts the effort in every single game. His stats are fantastic."

Whether West Ham have as much talent as Villa is arguable, and fighting spirit has not been a given this season. Only once have they come from behind to win a league game, and when they lose a lead, heads visibly drop, as they did on Saturday.

However, they recovered from a three-goal deficit away to West Bromwich Albion to take a point after Scott Parker had spoken out at half time, so maybe the injured England midfield player – badly missed on the field against Villa – still has a key role to play, even if his achilles problem keeps him out of the next two matches, as expected.

Those games are difficult trips to Chelsea and Manchester City, but West Ham cannot afford to write them off in the hope of securing safety by winning their final three matches, against Blackburn Rovers, Wigan Athletic and Sunderland.

"I think more or less we need nine points to be safe," Avram Grant, their manager, said. "The next two games are very hard but still we are not going to give up about [sic] these games. They won at the last moment and we are very disappointed." Time for that Villa-style team meeting.

Scorers: W Ham Keane 2. A Villa Bent 36, Agbonlahor 90. Subs: W Ham Gabbidon (Da Costa, 14), Hines (Obinna, 58), Ba (O'Neil 62). A Villa Agbonlahor (Heskey 78). Booked: None. Man of the match A Young. Match rating 6/10. Possession: W Ham 49% A Villa 51%. Attempts on target: W Ham 7 A Villa 11.

Referee M Halsey (Lancs). Att 34,672.



News
Alex Salmond said he accepted 'the democratic verdict of the people'
newsSNP leader says Scotland must move forward as 'one nation'
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
tvSeries celebrates 20th anniversary
Sport
Yaya Touré (left) and Bayern Munich’s Spanish defender Juan Bernat
footballToure's lack of defensive work is big problem for City
Voices
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Sport
Wembley Stadium
footballNews follows deal with Germany
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week