Prime Minister David Cameron secured another Premier League last week – and his revitalised football team also look to have done enough to be in office next season.
The Tory leader’s allegiance to Aston Villa was brought into question with a slip in the build-up to the general election, when he got his claret and blues mixed up and said he supported West Ham.
Cameron might have fluffed his lines, but a self-assured Villa team slowly ridding themselves of Paul Lambert’s conservatism, appear to have done enough with this win to ensure survival.
Tom Cleverley’s third goal in as many games banked the points here and sealed consecutive home league wins for Villa for the first time in 14 months. It put them four points above the relegation zone with two matches left and left manager Tim Sherwood quietly confident of his side’s top-flight future.
“It’s in our hands,” he said. “We’re going in the right direction. We do our job and we’re in the Premier League next season.”
There still remained a little caution about Villa’s approach in this contest – no doubt a hangover from Lambert’s tenure – as they worked themselves into good positions but were hesitant to take risks.
The telling moment arrived just after the half-hour, though, and inevitably the liberal thinking of the 19-year-old Villa winger Jack Grealish was instrumental.
Grealish glided to the byline and cut the ball back for Cleverley (left) to fire home from close range.
The scorer’s contract at his club, Manchester United, expires at the end of the season and Villa face competition for the loanee’s signature. “I’m just going to tell him if he doesn’t sign he’s not playing in the FA Cup final!” Sherwood joked.
“We’re going to talk to him at the end of the season, we’d like to keep him. It’ll come down to money but also where he can play his best football.”
West Ham improved slightly in the second half but apart from a James Collins header, did not threaten the Villa goal, much to manager Sam Allardyce’s chagrin.
“For a number of weeks we’ve failed to find the goals to wina game of football,” he said. “Whatever we do none of our players seems to be able to convert chances into goals.”
Aston Villa: (4-3-3) Given; Bacuna (Hutton, 78), Okore, Vlaar, Richardson; Westwood, Cleverley, Delph; N’Zogbia (Agbonlahor, 71), Grealish (Sanchez, 90), Benteke.
West Ham: (4-5-1) Adrian; Jenkinson, Burke, Collins, Cresswell; Amalfitano (Nene, 45), Kouyate, Nolan (Song, 45), Downing, Noble (Cole, 78); Valencia.
Man of the match: Grealish (Aston Villa)
Match rating: 6/10
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