Matt Lowton enjoyed an impressive first season at Villa, featuring in all but one of Villa's Barclays Premier League games. As part of media duties, various members of the squad are required to sit down for a main interview in the Villa News & Record matchday programme each season. Lowton chatted to programme editor Rob Bishop for the Boxing Day edition against Tottenham Hotspur and the subsequent feature appeared with the headline 'Premier Class'. Find the article in full below.
What a difference a Boxing Day makes.
Twelve months ago Matt Lowton was playing for Sheffield United against Notts County in League One. Today he is a member of a Villa team preparing to face Tottenham in the Barclays Premier League.
The progress made by the 23-year-old right-back from one festive season to the next is simply amazing, and has surprised even Lowton.
"It's unbelievable, really," he says. "Last season I thought I was doing well but I never expected a phone call from a Premier League team in the summer.
"If someone had told me last Boxing Day that in 12 months time I would be playing against Tottenham I would have thought they were kidding."
Paul Lambert certainly wasn't kidding when he made Lowton his second signing after being appointed Villa manager in June.
The new boss told the new boy he had every faith in him - and backed up that faith by including him in every line-up before Sunday's trip to Chelsea.
"When I got here I was determined to work my socks off but I knew I might have to be patient," says Lowton. "In that case I would have just hung in there and kept training hard.
"When I was picked for the first game I was delighted. I set my stall out to keep the shirt in every game. I didn't think about anything except playing well and helping the team as much as I could.
"It's flattering to have played in every game up to now and hopefully I can keep going.
"The way the gaffer likes to play suits me. We have players in the team who can pass and it's easy in a way because there is always someone who wants the ball. You can trust who you give it to."
To further emphasise his value to a rapidly-improving Villa outfit, the versatile Lowton has also helped out in central defence when the need has arisen and, more recently as a wing-back in a 3-5-2 formation.
He also opened his claret-and-blue goal account with a swerving left-foot volley in the 2-0 victory over Swansea City in September - and is aiming to add more.
"I love getting forward," he says, "and it was great to score against Swansea.
"When the ball came out to me I was just concentrating on my first touch but when the ball sat up like it did I decided to hit it.
"The gaffer has instilled a lot of confidence in me and I'm not frightened to make a mistake. If my shot had ended up in row Z, he wouldn't have said anything but thankfully it went in. It was pure euphoria when it hit the net, and it was all the better because a lot of my family were here that day. It was my mum's birthday weekend as well.
"Maybe I can score a few more. I can get forward more in a wing-back role, although I'm concentrating more on trying to keep clean sheets. If I can get some goals as well, that will be fantastic."
Born in Chesterfield, Matt followed his hometown club as a boy, and he and his dad David went to every game in Chesterfield's famous run to the 1997 FA Cup-semi-finals.
He also had an early affinity with Sheffield United through his uncle Richard, who took him to watch the Blades whenever the Spireites were away, although he took a Yorkshire diversion and experienced an early heartbreak before arriving at Bramall Lane as a player.
Matt was taken on by Leeds United at the age of eight, only to be released by the Elland Road club when he was 15.
"It felt like the end of the world at the time," he recalls. "But my mum and dad sat me down told me not to give up. I sent letters out to a lot of clubs and then went to Sheffield United on trial.
"Even then, I did it the hard way. I didn't get paid for the first year so I've had to work hard. I've seen a lot of players fast-tracked into the first team but I had to be patient in those early days."
It was in a strange land, though, that he was given his first taste of senior football.
Manager Kevin Blackwell felt he wasn't quite ready for the Blades' first team but felt he would benefit from a spell in Hungary with United's sister club Ferencvaros.
"I went out to Budapest for the last six months of their season. It was hard living on my own for the first time in a foreign country but I got used to it and we were promoted.
"It was a new experience to be playing in front of 15,000 passionate fans every week - it was the first time I'd played football than meant something.
"When I came back from Hungary things started to take off for me. I was on the bench for about 10 games and then I made my debut."
Eighty-nine games and 10 goals later, he became a Villa player. Now he would like nothing more than to emulate two of his former team-mates.
"When Kyle Walker signed for Tottenham I said that was what I wanted to do - play Premier League football.
"Kyle had gone on to play for England and so has Phil Jagielka. It would be nice to follow in their footsteps."
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