By Brian Doogan
Ashley Westwood is determined to be part of "something special" in the coming Barclays Premier League season having agreed a new four-year deal to 2017.
The 23-year-old midfield player played a pivotal role in his first season at Villa, making his debut when he came on as a second half substitute during the 2-0 win at home to Swansea last September before securing his first league start in the 1-0 win at Sunderland in November.
Villa manager Paul Lambert has hailed Westwood's passing ability, workrate and attitude and the former Crewe captain is delighted to commit his future to the Club.
"This time last year I was still on pre-season with Crewe and now I'm signing another contract at Villa, it's a fantastic feeling for me," he said.
"I love being here and I'm delighted to be part of a great football club. You look at the players the manager has brought to the Club and they're all young and hungry. I just want to be part of that and hopefully we're building something special here.
"The fans stood with us last season, Villa Park was rocking and over the second half of the season we were able to make it into something of a fortress. The Sunderland game at Villa Park topped it off, an unbelievable night and we'll look to recreate some of that hopefully again this coming season.
"From a personal standpoint it's been great for me here. When I first came I set a target of making a few appearances. I was able to get myself in the team and I stayed there. This year's going to be a challenge again. The manager has brought some more young and hungry players to the Club and the lads who have been here will have to push on and work our socks off to make sure the manager keeps selecting us. Competition for places is good. You need that as a player and you need it as a team. It's healthy for the squad.
"For me personally the gaffer's been brilliant. He played the same game as me, he's always talking to me and that helped me settle in straight away. I can't thank him enough really.
"We've just come back having had a tough week at training camp in Germany. We have a really good group and we've gelled together with the new lads too. We're all really close and that's what it's about, the fitness and gelling as a team and we can push on into the season.
"For any young English player to play in the Premier League is what you want to do. To be a part of it with Villa is something special. From day one, everyone at the Club from the kit man to the fans and players have helped me settle in and made me feel at home straight away. I'm surprised in a way that supporters have taken to me so quickly because I'm plain and simple really. But they've taken to me and they're very knowledgable fans, so that's helped me a great deal and it's motivation every time I step on the pitch."
For Villa manager Lambert, Westwood's influence has been a defining characteristic of his team.
"I think a lot gets overlooked with Ashley but he has just come in here and has taken to it no problem whatsoever," Lambert said.
"He was captain at Crewe and played a lot of games in men's football before he came here so he knew what it was about.
"If you look at the stats regarding his passing, they are terrific, something like a 91% success rate. He never seems to give the ball away. He's been exceptional."
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