Monday media watch [25.01.16]
Daily Mirror: Rémi Garde could have found the men to pull off the second Great Escape in Premier League history. The wounds of a terrible season are healing and two weeks after Villa fans savaged their players for a dire display in the FA Cup at Wycombe they stood and applauded. At the Hawthorns 11 years ago, West Brom saved themselves from relegation with a last-day win from a situation every bit as bad as Villa's. And after five games unbeaten, two in the cup, Garde is looking for a sequel.
Daily Mail: Rémi Garde has stressed the importance of Aston Villa's players retaining a bond with supporters during their battle against the drop. Villa were given a standing ovation by 2,800 supporters at the Hawthorns following a draw that illustrated plenty of commitment. The players clapped back and Jordan Ayew and Carles Gil handed over their shirts. It marked a drastic change from the furious scenes following the FA Cup draw at Wycombe.
Birmingham Mail: Villa fans sang throughout, cheered their team off at the end and stayed behind after full-time to prolong their chants. Hardly the reaction from a set of supporters preparing for the Championship, is it? The claret and blue faithful still believe. They're still managing to smile even in these times of need. And, crucially, they're responding to Villa's mini-revival with an even more passionate backing from their position in the stands.
Birmingham Mail: Write Joleon Lescott off at your peril, he will always come back and prove you wrong. That's the message from Villa manager Rémi Garde, who watched the vice-captain produce his best performance of the season against a backdrop of boos at The Hawthorns. Albion supporters jeered his every touch as he returned with bitter rivals Villa and they even mocked the visitors with chants of: 'Joleon Lescott, he's sending you down'. His response was nothing short of what you would expect from a seasoned Premier League performer - classy and professional. And if you think the 33-year-old is a spent force, think again. There's plenty of fight in the old dog yet.
The Sun: Rémi Garde says Aston Villa are finally manning up. But after wasting this opportunity to collect a precious three points it was more a case of Man Down. The French boss has made it clear he will not stand for slackers and been rewarded with a five-game unbeaten run. Villa's lack of goals means it will be almost impossible to make up the ten-point gap between bottom spot and the safety of 17th. But after this nightmare season, Garde needs to cling on to whatever positives he can find. And a bit of attitude, as demonstrated by Villa's former Albion defender Joleon Lescott - is a start.
The Telegraph: After five seasons at the wrong end of the Premier League table, perhaps Aston Villa's luck was always destined to run out and Rémi Garde merely the latest in a line of fall guys fated to take the rap. Yet for the Frenchman the evidence of the past few matches is that it need not have been that way, if only he had been in the job sooner. Villa had four points from 10 games when Tim Sherwood was sacked in October. After Kevin MacDonald's one match in temporary charge, Garde's tally is nine points from 12, five of which have been gained from the last three matches, in which there has been a notable improvement in the team's appetite for a fight. Including the two attempts needed to see off Wycombe Wanderers in the FA Cup, they are unbeaten in five. Yet in the time it took Garde to galvanise spirits and impart his methodology, the points needed to reach the haven of 17th place in the league table stretched from four points to 11. It is now down to 10, but with only 15 games remaining.
The Guardian: Aston Villa maintain slim hopes of emulating Leicester City's survival last season but at the venue where the now league leaders produced a defining result last April, the present basement dwellers watched an opportunity to kickstart their own feat of escapology pass by. While Leicester won 3-2 against West Bromwich Albion with an injury-time winner from Jamie Vardy, Villa could barely threaten Ben Foster, who was returning to league action for the first time since tearing an anterior cruciate ligament in March. There are signs of encouragement - this five-match unbeaten run is their longest of the season - but a sense lingers that not enough time remains. Still, when reasons to cheer are so hard to come by, the slimmest ray of light can mean a lot. Only a fortnight ago the relationship between players and supporters was cantankerous after Brad Guzan and Joleon Lescott were accused of swearing at fans during the FA Cup third round draw at Wycombe. Things boiled over and the players withstood a volley of vitriol when boarding their coach outside Adams Park. But here, in their first away game since, support never wavered and at the end the players showed their appreciation. It is a united front and at least now they look like going down with something resembling a fight.
Best of the Rest
BBC Sport: Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal says he has not lived up to expectations after his side were booed by fans after losing to Southampton. United supporters were mutinous after Saturday's 1-0 loss at Old Trafford. "They have - or they had - great expectations of me, and I cannot fulfil them, so I am very frustrated because of that," said Dutchman Van Gaal. United are fifth in the Premier League table, five points behind fourth-placed Tottenham and 10 off leaders Leicester.
Sky Sports: Charlie Austin never doubted that he could succeed back on the Premier League stage after scoring the winner on his Southampton debut. Austin joined the Saints from QPR earlier in January and made his first appearance in their colours a memorable one when he scored the only goal in Saturday's 1-0 win over Manchester United at Old Trafford. The 26-year-old rose from the non-league ranks to the Premier League with QPR, and he remained at Loftus Road after their relegation despite being linked with a number of top division clubs.
BBC Sport: Didier Drogba is to remain with Major League Soccer club Montreal Impact, ending speculation the striker could return to former club Chelsea. Montreal announced that Drogba would join their pre-season training camp. And the 37-year-old tweeted: "On way to Qatar to do some preparation work for pre-season." Drogba held talks with Chelsea in December amid rumours he could join the club's coaching staff.
*The extracts on this page are taken from various newspapers and media outlets. They do not necessarily reflect the views of Aston Villa.