Exclusive Feature: Happy Lowton - Villa the only team for me
Matt Lowton intends to play plenty of football in claret and blue over the course of the next four years - and hopefully beyond.
"This is the only place I want to play," said the 24-year-old right-back, who signed a contract extension with the club, taking him to the summer of 2017.
"I'll always be grateful for the way the manager repaid my work in pre-season last year by giving me a chance and then picking me throughout the season.
"My game came on no end through playing regularly against top players and learning little things here and there."
Lowton was certainly a quick learner.
Relatively unknown when he arrived from League One outfit Sheffield United, the unassuming defender was so impressive during his debut campaign that he played all but a couple of hours of Villa's Barclays Premier League campaign.
He was so close to matching the ever-present feat achieved by Everton's Leighton Baines, only to be denied the honour when was forced off with a thigh injury after 27 minutes ofthe 2-1 win at Norwich City in May, also missing the following week's home defeat by Chelsea.
"Words can really describe what happened last season," he admits.
"To come from League One football, work my way into the team and play as many games as I did was just fantastic.
"Some clubs rotate players but this manager believes that if you play well enough, you keep your place. I just try to contribute as much as I can, and keep the shirt. But my goal is always short-term. I don't look too far into the future.
"If someone had told me when I signed that I would play so many games I would have snapped their hand off, but it was still upsetting when I had to come off at Norwich.
"There was a break in play and it was clear it wasn't going to be any benefit to the team if I carried on. I wasn't 100 per cent fit and getting a result that day was massively important.
"I thought Eric Lichaj did really well when he went on, and luckily we got the three points."
As well as his 37 Premier League starts, the Chesterfield-born defender also marked his first season with two very special goals, a swerving left-foot volley in the early-season home win against Swansea City and an even more spectacular 30-yard volley at Stoke in April that was voted Villa's goal of the season.
"That was an unbelievable day," he recalls.
"The game at Stoke was huge because we knew that if we won that day we would draw level on points with them.
"To score any sort of goal would have made my very happy but to hit it from that distance was unbelievable. It was one of the best feelings I've had in my life.
"It would have been pointless if we hadn't gone on to win, but getting the result as well made it one of the best days of my life.
"But the Swansea goal was also special because it was my first in the Premier League.
"I scored six for Sheffield United in the season before joining Villa, when I regularly went forward for corners. Most of them were from inside the box, which made it all the more surprising to score a couple of spectacular goals last season.
"My game is more about supplying other people but if I can chip in with a goal, that's great."
After completing a busy schedule of three league games in eight days, Villa turn their attention to the Capital One Cup when Rotherham United are at Villa Park on Wednesday for a second round tie.
And like the rest of his team-mates who suffered semi-final anguish at the hands of Bradford City last season, Lowton has set his sights on going one step further this time around.
"It was massively disappointing to lose the semi-final," he says.
"With a draw which seemingly favoured us we had a great chance to play at Wembley in a major cup final.
"We all knew how much it meant and I still don't know how it went wrong. Sometimes these things happen and you have to learn from them.
"But now we have the chance to start another cup run and everyone is determined to do that."
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