Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert praises Ciaran Clark: ‘He grew up tonight’

Clark has had to shoulder added responsibility as one of only two fit and available centre backs

Ciaran Clark challenges Irish team mate Shane Long during the Barclays Premier League match at Villa Park last night. Photograph:  Nick Potts/Pa

Ciaran Clark challenges Irish team mate Shane Long during the Barclays Premier League match at Villa Park last night. Photograph: Nick Potts/Pa

 

He mightn’t have featured at all if it wasn’t for a litany of recent injuries to Aston Villa’s centre backs, but Ciaran Clark’s performance during Monday night’s draw with Southampton earned him special mention from manager Paul Lambert.

Despite 27 Premier League appearances last season, new signing Philippe Senderos and the returning duo of Nathan Baker and Ron Vlaar have reduced Clark to just five showings so far this campaign.

On top of which he’s found himself well down the pecking order in the international set-up, with Stoke City’s Marc Wilson and more recently Derby County’s Richard Keogh the preferred sections alongside John O’Shea.

The lead role

Yet as Paul Lambert praised his side, who are still without a win in their last eight matches, for a hard fought 1-1 draw with second place Southampton, he said:

“The two centre-backs, the young ones were outstanding. Jores (Okore) has been out for 14 months and I thought he was fantastic.

“But I thought Ciaran (Clark), grew up tonight and took the lead role and he was outstanding.

“I thought we played well. We had six players out , three centre-backs and (Christian) Benteke’s out, (Nathan) Baker and (Fabian) Delph’s out , big players for this club and it’s a lot to carry.”

Credit due

Lambert believes Southampton deserve credit for their equaliser after wasting a number of earlier chances to score.

He added: “You’re expected to get the opening goal, especially at home , there’s a massive expectancy level on everybody so to get the goal with Gabby’s pace , it was a well-taken goal.

“You have to give Southampton credit, the the way they played the deserved a lot of credit.”

Tough at the bottom

Villa have battled relegation for the past four seasons, two under Lambert, and they were winless in seven games in the Barclays Premier League ahead of Monday night’s draw.

But, when asked of any added pressure, he said: “I’ve dealt with pressure all my life really through being a football and being in management , it’s part and parcel of the game. It’s a great job, you have problems and the secret is to find the solution. That’s the secret.

“It’s a key period from now until May. Every weekend we play is a challenge, but it’s a challenge we have to rise to.”

Record low attendance

The game was Paul Lambert’s 100th in charge of Villa and the point has lifted them to 16th, two points above the drop zone, and the Scot was pleased with his team’s resilience.

Yet while the crowd of 25,311 was the lowest in the league at Villa Park for 15 years, Lambert backed the supporters. “People paid hard-earned money and they are still getting behind you, that’s what this team needs, he said.

“They have been great. I’ve got nothing but compliments for the supporters here. It’s a massive football club with massive expectancy levels and like you said it was cold and on Sky.”

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