Ashley Westwood preview exclusive: We need to fight like lions
Ashley Westwood says he will look down at the crest on his shirt before every top-flight game to provide him with added inspiration before the final 15 tussles, starting with Newcastle this evening.
Westwood is more than aware of the history and tradition of the club he joined on the last day of the August 2012 transfer window and he's eager to write new chapters in the future.
But first, he needs to help the team start a surge up the table, with the side lying in 17th place at present. Villa's crest - resplendent with the word Prepared, never a more apt expression - features a noble lion - and Westwood believes the side must scrap like that mighty creature between now and the end of the season.
"We have to come out fighting. We know that," said Westwood. "That's what the gaffer has told us as a squad too. You can't sit feeling glum about the cup exits.
"We have to come out and battle. We have a lion on our crest and we have to fight like lions, every player throughout the side.
"We have to try to win every header, every tackle, every battle out there on the pitch. We need to be totally committed.
"We went unbeaten for six games in a row and then we lost to Chelsea. I don't believe you become a bad team overnight. We know our capabilities. We know what to do.
"But the No.1 requirement for any team is a desire and hunger for the battle. We will be fighting.
"We are focusing on every game, being right for every match and I'm sure we will be fine by the end of the season.
"You look at the badge and you know what it means to play for this club. It's the badge, it's the training ground, it's the home ground, it's the fans, it's everything.
"I was there for the cup semi-final second leg, with the crowd making all that noise. I've never seen anything like that before. It was a real eye-opener for me. I am so glad I am part of it here at Villa.
"It's 15 battles now for us. Every game is tough. But we always give 100%. That's our job.
"If we are committed and go for our tackles and our passes, that will lift the fans. They will respond then. The football then comes flowing.
"First up is Newcastle. They are a massive club, like us, down there and fighting. It should be a good match and hopefully the atmosphere is the same as Tuesday and that will inspire the lads even more."
Westwood is adamant Villa must move on from the cup exits to Bradford and Millwall as they look to fire up the Barclays Premier League table.
It's a philosophy shared by Paul Lambert.
Westwood is a big admirer of Lambert's man-management skills, especially with him.
"The gaffer has been brilliant with me. He's the perfect role-model," continued Westwood.
"He's played in midfield and played the same game as me. He always has a quiet chat with me, advising me and telling me what he wants me to do.
"He's been a great help. He did work with me the other day, just showing me one or two things. He won the Champions League so if he says something, you listen. You'd be daft not to!
"He has said to us 'we've got to move on.' He made it clear we have to keep our spirits high and concentrate on each game as it comes along.
"He's very respected in the dressing room. I have noticed he never slags the players off to the press after games. If he has a problem, he tells you face to face. That's what you need as a footballer.
"I can't thank him enough."
Lambert has spoken of the need for the team to get "back to basics" and excel in all areas of the pitch.
Westwood is determined to do his bit in the middle ground and he thinks the team have the quality required elsewhere too.
"Ron is great to have around the place. He's a leader on and off the pitch," said Westwood.
"On the pitch he's a rock at the back. Off it, he is always talking to the players. He has a chat with you one-on-one about how things are going. It's great to see him taking an interest in his team-mates. That's the sign of a good person and a good captain.
"He comes in on his days off too. That shows his commitment.
"Just look at him, he's a giant - he's so strong, he wins his tackles, he wins his headers, that's what we need.
"I have been really impressed with Charles, too. You just give him the ball and even if he's got four men around him, you know he's going to do something.
"He has a special talent. He glides across the turf and bursts past people as if they're not there. It's something I wish I could do! He does it with ease.
"It's great to have him in front of me. It's easy for me. You see Charles in the hole in front of you and he demands the ball, he wants the ball. Even when he has men around him, you give it to him and you know he will keep it.
"He can be a matchwinner. He's a massive player for us. He's played over 100 games in the Premier League. He's got that ability in him. Plus, this week, he's playing against his former club so hopefully he can turn it on even more."
Make sure you pick up tickets for Newcastle.
Villa v Newcastle
Be here to cheer on the lads as they look to start a surge.
Prices are £23 to £42 [adults], £22 to £40 [concessions], £15 to £40 [U16s], £10 to £40 [U8s] and £33 to £38 [adult/junior combo ticket]
Season ticket holders can earn £1 loyalty cash for every extra ticket purchased.
Tickets are on general sale.
Buy via the hotline 0800 612 0970, in person at Villa Village or New Street or from our online box office.
Villa are likely to bring back Christian Benteke and Gabriel Agbonlahor after the pair were rested for Friday's FA Cup defeat by Millwall.
Fabian Delph is out with an ankle injury, but Richard Dunne and Nathan Baker are under consideration to play.
There could be Newcastle debuts for the French contingent of Moussa Sissoko, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, Yoan Gouffran and Massadio Haidara.
Villa will be wearing their traditional claret and blue.
LAST TIME OUT
Villa 1-1 Newcastle
Villa are unbeaten in their last five top tier clashes with the Magpies, winning four, drawing one and keeping three clean sheets in the process.
Newcastle have not won at Villa Park in their last five attempts since a 2-1 Premier League victory in February 2006.
Charles N'Zogbia, now at Villa, scored for the visitors in that game.
If Premier League games ended at half-time, Villa would be sixth in the table.
Charles N'Zogbia made 118 Premier League appearances for Newcastle between 2004 and 2009, scoring nine goals.
The Magpies have conceded a league-high 11 headers this season.
The past 10 Premier League matches between the two clubs have seen Newcastle win four and Villa win three.
The one and only time that a Paul Lambert side hosted Alan Pardew's team in the Premier League came last season, when Norwich won 4-2 at Carrow Road.
Villa will be serving the delightfully-delicious Foster's Gold pre-match.
The sampling will take place in the Holte Suite and Holte Pub between 6.30pm and KO.
Foster's Gold is a contemporary premium bottled lager and it has a refreshing, easy-drinking taste.
It's to celebrate Australia Day, which took place at the weekend.
Entry into both venues is £3 or £4, including a matchday programme.
Go to full match coverage for Aston Villa 1 - 2 Newcastle (29th January 2013) >
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