Saturday media watch [21.12.13]: Stoke paper reports
Birmingham Mail: Paul Lambert has challenged his Villa players to provide some Christmas cheer by recapturing their exciting form after admitting recent performances have been unacceptable. Villa's style of play has been dull to watch at times this season, particularly during the 2-0 and 3-0 Premier League defeats to Fulham and Manchester United in the past fortnight. Ahead of today's trip to Stoke and home matches against Crystal Palace and Swansea on Thursday and next Saturday, Lambert acknowledges that the claret and blues need to "click again".
Daily Star: Paul Lambert has insisted there will be no Christmas nightmare at Villa Park. The Scot's festive period in 2012 was ruined by an 8-0 thrashing at Chelsea before two home defeats - 4-0 to Tottenham and 3-0 to Wigan. But the Villa boss is certain there will be no repeat this time around.
Daily Express: Randy Lerner has the thanks of Paul Lambert for backing him through Aston Villa's horrendous seven days of Christmas last year. A club-record 8-0 thrashing at Chelsea was followed by a 4-0 loss to Spurs and 3-0 defeat by Wigan, both at home, as the club plunged towards relegation. The crisis did not end there, with Villa embarrassed by their League Cup exit at Bradford and an FA Cup loss at Millwall, and it is doubtful if Lambert would have kept his job at any other club. Five managers have been sacked this season in the volatile Premier League and Lambert is a wiser and grateful man as he takes Villa to Stoke today, who he could off-load Stephen Ireland to, with the Potters keen to make his loan permanent.
Daily Mirror: Aston Villa boss Paul Lambert insists his Christmas will not be ruined this year. At this time last term, Villa were thrashed 8-0 at Chelsea prior to losing 4-0 at home to Tottenham and 3-0 at home to Wigan. But Lambert believes his Villans are a vastly different one 12 months down the line. Before Saturday's trip to Stoke, he said: "The players didn't get the credit they deserved for what they did. It kept on sliding. We had to stop the rot. Last Christmas wasn't great. "Eventually you've got to move on. You take the brunt of it, you're in the forefront. You either go by the wayside and think 'I can't do it' or stick to what you think. "But I never had any self doubt. Even after the 8-0. You certainly hope the 8-0s and fours won't happen again, I definitely don't sense anything like that."
Birmingham Mail: Forget repeats on the box - Paul Lambert's Christmas wish is that Aston Villa avoid repeats in the box after the festive season from hell a year ago. Villa conceded 15 goals in three matches during Yuletide in 2012 with an 8-0 stuffing at Chelsea followed by 4-0 and 3-0 home defeats to Tottenham and Wigan. 'Twas the season to be sorry. It was more naivety than nativity. After the heavy beatings Villa became embroiled in a relegation battle. But Lambert is convinced his young team are growing into wise men and are much more stable now. Asked if he feared a repeat of last Christmas, Lambert replied: "Like 8-0s and 4-0s and that sort of thing? Well you certainly hope not."
Goal.com: Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert is eager for his side to continue their impressive away form at Stoke City on Saturday. Lambert's men have performed strongly on the road this season, accruing 12 of their 19 Premier League points away from Villa Park. The Scot feels his side play with more freedom on their travels, but is eager for improvements to be made at home. "Away from home, we seem to be a lot freer for some reason," said Lambert. "We don't ever set our stall out to do anything other than going to try to win a game, and on Saturday we'll do that. "The results suggest that it seems to be that we play better away. But it's up to us to rectify our home form."
Stoke Sentinel: Stoke boss Mark Hughes could try to sign Stephen Ireland long-term in the January transfer window to free up space for another loan signing. Stoke have currently used up their quota of two British-based loan signings by acquiring Ireland and Liverpool's Oussama Assaidi. But turning the Ireland deal into a long-term switch would allow Stoke to make a loan move for the likes of Manchester United winger Wilfried Zaha in January. Hughes says all options are on the table as he seeks to strengthen his hand during next month's transfer window. Ireland, who is ineligible for today's game against parent club Aston Villa (3pm), is on loan at Stoke until the end of the season when his Villa Park contract also expires.
Birmingham Mail: Paul Lambert insists Villa will not be spending "an absolute arm and a leg" on new recruits during the January transfer window. Asked about his plans for next month, Lambert replied: "It's the same old story. I speak to chairman Randy Lerner every single week, after every game. "We won't go out and spend an absolute arm and a leg on somebody but I have great dialogue with Randy and I understand where he's coming from. "I know exactly what's happening. If we can do something and we think it's affordable to do I'm pretty sure he would look at it."
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BBC Sport: Luis Suarez has signed a new four-and-a-half-year contract with Liverpool. The striker, 26, joined the Reds in January 2011 and has scored 17 goals in 11 Premier League starts this season.
Sky Sports: Tim Sherwood says he wants the Tottenham manager's job on a permanent basis. The 44-year-old, who had been working as the club's technical co-ordinator, took over as first-team boss on a temporary basis following the sacking of Andre Villas-Boas.
BBC Sport: Forward Clint Dempsey is having a medical at Fulham ahead of a return to the Premier League side on loan from Seattle Sounders. Dempsey, 30, left Craven Cottage to join Tottenham for £6m in 2012 and moved back to the US in August.
*The extracts on this page are taken from various newspapers and media outlets. They do not necessarily reflect the views of Aston Villa.