Villa v Fulham preview: Gaffer's unwavering belief shining through
Paul Lambert's belief in his young guns has never wavered during this rollercoaster campaign.
Even through the toughest times, including a torrid period in late December and early January, Lambert has strived to accentuate the positives.
"You are either an exceptionally good actor, Paul, or you actually did believe it," was how BBC Radio Five Live's Pat Murphy put it to the manager at Thursday's press conference.
The Villa boss definitely believed it. And in recent weeks he has started to see that steadfast belief rewarded, with his team picking up three wins from four games.
Not that this late season surge from this young Villa side has come as a surprise to the Glaswegian.
"When the lads go out there you know what you are going to get from them," he said.
"I've not been surprised. You get great satisfaction from seeing them play the way they are.
"We've won three of the last four and we're playing really well at the minute.
"But I've always maintained from the turn of the year, we've been playing well.
"If you look back we maybe should have beaten Swansea. We were a minute away from it.
"That was a game that should have been seen through. At West Brom we were two up, at Everton we were two up.
"If you take maximum points from those then you are sitting comfortably in mid-table.
"You've just got to keep going. You have the same belief and the same principles as you've always had."
Lambert accepts Villa still have a way to go before their top-flight status is guaranteed.
But the manager has always preferred to look upwards rather than back over his shoulder.
And, on listening to his thoughts on Saturday's clash against tenth-placed Fulham, you can understand why.
Another maximum haul could see the claret and blue sitting closer points-wise to mid-table than the relegation trapdoor.
"Fulham are a good side," added the manager.
"If we win on Saturday we are three behind them which shows have far we have come.
"But they are a good side. It wasn't that long ago that Fulham were in the Europa League final which shows what a good side they have been in years gone by."
Villa go into the Cottagers clash with considerable momentum after the brilliant 3-1 victory at Stoke.
Lambert was thrilled with the "terrific character" shown by his side to keep going after the Potters looked to have salvaged an unlikely point.
"I thought it would have been really harsh on us even to draw that game if we did," he said.
"When Stoke scored it gave them a little regroup for five minutes or so. But we weathered that which was terrific character.
"Then the two goals at the death were absolutely top class."
Villa v Fulham
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AVTV DON'T MISS
Ciaran Clark is back in training for Villa after a fortnight on the sidelines with a shoulder injury.
He will be assessed ahead of the Fulham clash.
Marc Albrighton has suffered a setback, while Gary Gardner, Richard Dunne and Chris Herd are still out of action.
Fulham midfielder Eyong Enoh is doubtful with an ankle injury.
Former Villa star Steve Sidwell is suspended, while Ashkan Dejagah [ankle] has also been ruled out.
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Villa to win - 5/4
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Villa will be wearing their traditional home kit of claret and blue.
Villa are unbeaten in 13 home league games against Fulham.
However, Fulham did knock Villa out of the FA Cup with a 2-0 win at Villa Park in 1999.
Paul Lambert's team have won three of their last four top-flight matches and four of the last seven.
Gabby Agbonlahor needs one goal to eclipse Dwight Yorke's club record of 60 in the Premier League.
Christian Benteke has scored 10 goals in his last 12 league games.
The Belgian forward is two away from equalling Yorke's club record Premier League tally of 17 in a single season.
Fulham's five-match unbeaten run came to an end at Newcastle last weekend.
The west London side have won only 10 of their last 72 Premier League away games.
Fulham's goalframe has been hit 18 times this season, more than any other Premier League team.
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