Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert has thanked the club’s fans for their support following a “really tough” season.
Wigan’s midweek defeat to Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium ensured that Villa entered the final day certain of their Premier League status, despite having languished in the drop zone for much of the campaign.
And, after his side rounded off their season with an entertaining 2-2 draw against Roberto Martinez’s men, the Scot was full of praise for the Midlands outfit’s supporters.
“I think the biggest yardstick is the supporters,” he said. “They’ve been fantastic with us and I think they’ll know we’ll keep on building.
“It’s been a really hard season, really tough, especially around Christmas where we couldn’t get a win. The big thing for me was that the crowd stayed with us.”
Darren Bent had given Villa an early lead, only for an Emmerson Boyce header and a Nathan Baker own goal to see Lambert’s side go into the break 2-1 down.
But Ron Vlaar’s superb volley on the hour mark earned Villa a point and Lambert was keen to underline the importance of the central defender to his side.
“In the last four or five months he’s been great for us,” he said.
“We’ve played ever so well and we’re getting better and better. The game was a really good game for the last day.”
Lambert went on to express his desire to keep moving the club forward throughout the summer and into the new campaign.
“Every club will be busy trying to do things,” he said.
“We have set a standard that we’ve got to try and maintain and get better, and to do that you’ve got to try and keep building your squad and keep the belief in your own philosophy. That’s what I’ll try to do.
“Because we were in a transitional period we knew we had to come through it. If we hadn’t done what we’ve done I think the club would have kept on sliding. We had to strip it right back and get it going.
“I’ll sit with everybody next week. We’ll speak about everything, what’s going to happen, and we’ll try and keep moving the club forward, that’s my job.
“Some of the lads have played well over 30 games so they’ll know what to expect next year. It augers well for the future; the philosophy is set in the club and we’ll keep driving it on. I’m delighted for everybody at the football club.”
Lambert also paid tribute to Stiliyan Petrov, who last week announced his retirement from football as he continues his battle against acute leukaemia.
Petrov was invited to sit on the bench at the DW Stadium, and Lambert admitted it was an emotional afternoon.
“That was nearly a tear jerker that one,” he said.
“It was tough, it was great, and everyone gave him a great reception. It was an emotional moment, you can see how he feels about the crowd, and everyone gave him a richly deserved round of applause.
“I wanted him around; he came into the dressing room before the game, to give him the feeling of what it’s like to be in a dressing room again.”