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Premier League

Paul Lambert thanks Randy Lerner and Aston Villa fans for showing patience

After a difficult start to the season, Villa pulled away from relegation trouble

Aston Villa boss Paul Lambert thanked chairman Randy Lerner and the club's fans for buying into his philosophy as a difficult season came to a close.

A 2-2 draw with Wigan yesterday ensured the midlanders finished five points clear of the relegation zone after battling against the drop for most of the season.

Lambert has had to rely on Villa's youngsters to pull them through, with five wins from the last 10 games proving enough.

The Scot said: "It's been really hard. Especially in that Christmas period when we couldn't get a win. But the big thing was the crowd stayed with it. I think that was a very telling factor.

"Because we were in a transitional period, we knew we had to come through it. I think the club would have kept on sliding. We had to strip it right back and get it going.

"Randy Lerner's been absolutely fantastic with us. He knows the philosophy, that we're trying to build the club. And you see that performance and the performances of the last five months, it's been extremely high."

It was a different story for Wigan, whose demotion to the npower Championship after eight years in the top flight was confirmed with defeat by Arsenal on Tuesday.

Relegation came only three days after the finest day in Wigan's history when they beat Manchester City at Wembley last Saturday to win the FA Cup, and the trophy was displayed on the pitch before and after yesterday's game.

Attention at the DW Stadium will now turn to whether Roberto Martinez will stay at the club he used to play for and has managed for four years.

The Spaniard, who has been heavily linked with Everton, will meet chairman Dave Whelan next Monday to discuss those matters after the dust has settled.

He said: "Sometimes it's good to have a little bit of breathing space and reflect and make sure we sit down with the chairman and make the right decisions.

"But that doesn't mean anything (is decided). Next season for Wigan is an incredible campaign. It's the first time we're going to be in Europe, and we don't go into the qualifying rounds, we go straight into the group stages, which means you've got six games guaranteed.

"We've got to defend the FA Cup, and then you're involved in a competition where you have to play 46 games. We need a large squad, we need the youngsters to be ready.

"You saw three or four players who have been working extremely hard. The structure's working at the football club and we need to be very excited for the future.

"We've got the best chairman ever. He said he won't stop until he gets Wigan Athletic back into the Barclays Premier League, and when he says something like that, you better believe him."