Flashback 1992-93: Brian Clough - I hope Villa win the title
Paper: Sunday Mercury
Aston Villa's Premier League title challenge received the ultimate seal of approval - from Nottingham Forest boss Brian Clough.
Only hours before the two clubs meet in a crucial battle at the City Ground, Clough joined the ever-growing band of Villa admirers.
"I really hope they go and take the title," he said.
Clough, who has won the league championship with Forest and Derby, added: "I don't mean any disregard to Alex Ferguson at Man Utd or Mike Walker, who has done a superb job at Norwich, but I think it would be good for the game of Villa won the league.
"I've always had a lot of time for Ron Atkinson. His teams play the game the right way. He's clearly got Villa on the right tracks."
However, the only thought on the Forest manager's mind will be survival.
Forest are facing the prospect of relegation after a disastrous season and a win against second-in-the-table Villa is imperative.
Clough added: "We had a smashing game with them at their place earlier in the season and with a little bit of luck we could have had something from the match.
"But that's been the story of our season and why we are in the mess we are in at the moment."
Clough has yet to finalise his side but he will be without England skipper Stuart Pearce and midfielder Neil Webb.
Villa will be reinforced by the return of striker Dalian Atkinson.
The thirteen-goal marksman has just recovered from a stomach operation and reclaims his place at the expense of Cyrille Regis.
Paper: Daily Telegraph
Paul McGrath's fifth goal of the season put Aston Villa back on top of the Premier League amid a growing feeling that Ron Atkinson will finally win the championship that eluded him at Old Trafford.
Manchester United visit Norwich and with Villa two points clear of the East Anglians and four points ahead of his former club, a draw at Carrow Road would no doubt leave Mr Atkinson smiling broadly.
Even a home win would not disappoint him too much.
Nottingham Forest played some delightful football in this richly entertaining game - the 100th league meeting of the clubs - and were, on the quality of their soccer, worth eight points.
But they do not possess the strength to go with the skill and their ninth home defeat - the Premier League high - makes relegation even more of a probability.
Forest have won only one of their last seven matches and fourteen goals in eighteen matches at the City Ground is a significant statistic of their troubled season.
To say victory over Blackburn on Wednesday is crucial is an understatement.
Villa have played better but for all Forest's intricate passing in midfield, where Roy Keane was outstanding, they have lacked penetration inside the visitors' penalty areas - a problem compounded by an injury to Bob Rosario.
Whenever Forest looked like unlocking the Villa defence they invariably came up against McGrath, whose performance was as near to perfection as could reasonably be expected.
He was a giant in defence and, in the 63rdminute, showed the sort of power missing from Forest.
Mark Crossley pulled of a fine save to tip Kevin Richardson's shot for a corner.
From Steve Staunton's inswinger on the right McGrath stole in at the far post to head firmly past Crossley.
It was the most significant moment of a match watched by Forest's biggest game of the season - 26,742.
Paper: Birmingham Post
Aston Villa's first victory on Brian Clough territory in ten years lifted them back to the Premier League summit and left Nottingham Forest lagging further behind in their struggle for top-flight survival.
A 64th minute header from Paul McGrath, sealing a display of championship class from the players' player of the year, carried Villa ever closer to their first league title since 1981 and collectively they always looked the part.
Forest had their chances and contributed valiantly to a game of vivid fluctuations but they had no answer to the execution of McGrath's decisive set-piece strike.
Steve Staunton delivered a teasing corner and his Republic of Ireland team-mate came thundering in at the far post to head low and powerfully past Mark Crossley.
The only blemish was that a second-half booking for Shaun Teale took him over the disciplinary points limit and he faces an automatic suspension of one game.
But it said all about Villa's character and commitment that they defended their precious goal like champions, a team invigorated by the return of Dalian Atkinson from injury.
And what a storming match he had on a day when Norwich and Manchester United must have despaired.
As manager Ron Atkinson was delighted to point out afterwards, the result made Villa the highest points scorers away from home with seven wins and six draws.
"We didn't flow quite as we have done in the first half but we tightened up in the second and our back four showed why I believe they're the best in the country," he said.
"I thought Dalian was electric in his first game back and there was some good movement all around him. But Forest never looked a side at the bottom end of the table.
"It was kind of Brian Clough to say that he hopes we win the championship but I hope just as much that they stay up."
Snap up match tickets for our clash with Fulham.
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