By Dan Harrison
Alex McLeish has heaped praise on goalkeeper Brad Guzan for seizing his opportunity in the wake of regular No 1 Shay Given's injury.
Guzan has impressed since taking the goalkeeping reins from summer signing Given, who sustained a groin injury in the 1-0 defeat by Manchester United earlier this month.
The American custodian, who has started Villa's last four Barclays Premier League matches, was in commanding form on Boxing Day when he stood up to Stoke City's aerial assault.
The run of top-flight games has been Guzan's first since he joined the club from Chivas USA in 2008.
McLeish had already been won over by the 27-year-old's professionalism but he has seen the keeper's confidence soar during his stint in the starting XI.
"At training every day he's never complained, he's always been alive and alert throughout his backing up to Shay," said the Villa boss.
"I've been impressed by him. He did very well at Stoke. He came and took a couple of crucial long throws and corners. A keeper's confidence soars after that.
"I watch him closely in training and he turns up for his work every day and puts in a shift.
"He doesn't just go through the motions, he works from start to finish. I always thought he could handle it."
McLeish insists Guzan remains an important part of Villa's long-term plans despite Given's anticipated return early in the New Year.
Although the manager accepts the USA international is hungry for regular first team action, he would like him to extend his stay at Villa Park.
"I want him to stay here and I told him that," McLeish added.
"We were always right behind him. It wasn't a case of: 'Shay's out, can you play in goal now.'
"Even though he has not featured it's not like we haven't been in communication with him - the opposite of that is the case.
"We have spoken to the big man about how we want him to stay.
"We realise his ambitions and at 27 he may want to play some regular football.
"This will have given him a huge appetite for it. But we are very pleased with him."
Click here to pick up tickets for Swansea.