Nathan Baker is "really excited to be part of this young, new squad that's being built at Aston Villa" having put pen to paper on a new three-year deal that will take the 22-year-old defender up to the end of the 2015-16 season.
"I'm really happy to have signed and for my future to be with Villa," said the Academy graduate. "It's an exciting time and, because I've come through the Academy as well, it's something that's really special to me, something that hopefully I can use as an inspiration in the future.
"We were probably one of the youngest squads in the Premier League last season and we felt that we got stronger and stronger as the season went on. The fans could see the progress we were making and they got behind us really strongly. That was felt very keenly by the players. Hopefully, next season we can keep improving and we can be even better. I think things are in place that we can really do that.
"As a team, we really grew over the course of the season. We're going to keep growing and the competition for places will ensure that. There's still ways we can improve as players and as a team and there's a lot of potential here. If we play next season the way we ended the one just gone, we believe we can push up the table and surprise some people.
"The manager has been really supportive and that's helped with my performances. The fans have been incredibly supportive of me as well and I feel everything is just coming together brilliantly for me at the moment. Obviously, being a younger player, I've made mistakes. Everyone does. But I keep learning from my mistakes and, ultimately, I'll become a better player for the experience I now have under my belt. I'm hoping to have a good pre-season, to show the manager I'm still improving and getting better and hopefully I can get a place in the starting XI next season. That's my aim, to hopefully nail down a starting place but I know that won't be easy so I have to keep working hard.
"Next season and in the seasons after that I can hopefully repay everyone for how they've been with me."
His contributions last season were hailed by manager Paul Lambert as the young centre half made 26 Premier League appearances.
"For any player here at Aston Villa, the goal is always to strive to be the best you can and to keep improving as an individual within the team," Lambert said.
"Nathan has demonstrated courage and real willing and he's contributed to the team and these qualities will underpin his efforts going into the new season."
Baker's efforts last season were recognised by supporters as he finished third in the voting for Fans' Young Player of the Year in 2012-13 and became a firm favourite for his brave defending.
"The fans were great last season, behind us every step of the way," Baker added. "It shows just how great the support is here and how big the club is. It was great to see and it really helped us when we had to produce big performances and dig out big results. That level of support will help us push on next season as well.
"I've always been the same, I don't back out of a challenge if it needs to be made or shy away from a shot if it needs to be blocked. That's just who I am and I'll never change. It's nice that people appreciate that."
Baker, originally from Worcester, has come through the Academy at Villa and was part of the side that won the Premier Academy League in 2007-08 alongside fellow first-teamers such as Ciaran Clark, Andreas Weimann, Barry Bannan, Marc Albrighton and Chris Herd.
"It's great having some of the lads I've come through with here," Baker said. "We're not just work-mates and team-mates, we're friends as well. That's good as it means we're already close and we know each other well. I think it really helps out on the pitch and obviously off the pitch it's nice to have guys like that around."
The England U21 international made his Villa debut in the 2-1 win over Wigan Athletic at the DW Stadium in January 2011. He has gone on to make 43 appearances for Villa in all competitions but is yet to record his first goal for the Club.
The versatile defender has also had loan spells at Lincoln, where manager and former Villa striker Chris Sutton handed him his league debut, and Millwall.
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