By John Curtis
The West Bromwich Albion midfielder Nigel Quashie is confident of avoiding a repeat of the relegation misery he suffered last season with Southampton. Quashie, who is available for today's derby at Aston Villa after completing a five-game ban, was left stunned as Albion's "Great Escape" doomed the Saints to the drop last May.
Bryan Robson's side are now gearing up for a similar battle after slipping into the bottom three following Birmingham's 1-0 win over Bolton in midweek, while Portsmouth have also reeled off a run of victories.
Quashie has greater faith in the ability of the Albion players to survive compared to the Southampton squad who went down 11 months ago. The combative midfielder, signed from Southampton for £1.2 million in January, said: "When I was at Southampton last season I thought West Bromwich were dead and buried. At one stage they looked as if they were out of contention to stay up.
"But they proved everyone wrong via a fantastic effort after being bottom at Christmas, and I think we'll prove it again. I can honestly say there are better players here than there were at Southampton last season."
The Scotland international added: "I can see why Albion stayed up last year. The spirit is good, everybody reacts in the right way even in defeat. While I haven't been playing, it has been a good opportunity for me to be around the changing room and see how the lads are reacting.
"No one has the fear of what could possibly happen. Everyone is positive and geared to trying to win the next game. I think we know what we have to do to stay in this League. We just need to concentrate on ourselves and not worry about what is going on around us. It's there for us to grasp with both hands."
Albion collected a precious point in the corresponding game with Villa last season, with defender Paul Robinson scoring a late equaliser. Quashie insisted: "I'm not worrying about their players because I think if we perform we will win. It's a massive game and these are the games you want to play in."
Robson believes it is crucial the Baggies keep their nerve during the final run-in. The manager said: "In this game you have to look to your own results and it is up to us to pick things up. We have to make sure we get a good result against Villa. My players have only six games to go and we have to pick up as many points as we can. I hope and believe the players can respond like they did last year. They need to hold their nerve and at the same time relax and enjoy their football."
With just one win in nine games, the pressure is on Villa, but their embattled manager, David O'Leary, is at pains to try to keep calm in what could be a difficult situation.
Villa are looking for the double over Albion but they go into the game on the back of a 5-0 hammering at Arsenal and fielding another young side due to a host of injury problems. O'Leary admitted: "With only one win from the last nine games we know we are not safe from relegation. I've been saying it for quite a while. You are not safe until you are safe. End of story.
"I always regard that you are not safe until you have the points to say you are safe. We have got to do that. It's in our own hands without a doubt. We have got four games at home and in the space of a week we can take care of moving into a safe position.
"Apart from moving to safety I also want to catch a few teams. Manchester City are five points ahead of us. They have got to come to play us at our place and they have had their injury problems of late."Reuse content