- Premier League
Foster: Villa relegation unthinkable
West Bromwich Albion goalkeeper Ben Foster says it is unthinkable that Aston Villa could be a Championship team next season.
Foster was linked with a move across the Second City from Birmingham a season-and-a-half ago but is now part of a top-half West Bromwich Albion side who could drive another nail into Villa's coffin in Saturday's Hawthorns derby.
"They have not only been top dogs in the Midlands but a very good Premier League side," he said. "Over the years, they have beaten the top teams regularly. It's a bit of a fall from grace really but times have changed and clubs have had to tighten their belts.
"The chairman has set out the way he wants do it with a young team. I'm sure they will be fantastic players in three or four years but now is a tough time. The Villa fans I know are certainly quiet now. It's all disbelief.
"If they can avoid relegation, I'm sure they will be stronger for it. It will be incredible if they went down. Just driving down that motorway and seeing that big stadium by the road, it would be unthinkable to think of that hosting Championship football."
Albion finished as the West Midlands' top team in 2011-12 and appear certain to do so again this time. Despite their mid-winter drop, there is no sign of Steve Clarke chasing hasty transfer-market reinforcements, their sizeable squad being backed as it is to finish the season strongly.
"West Brom are a model," Foster added. "Fans moan that we should spend more but I think the chairman has it bob-on. We don't pay silly wages and I think he does it by the book, as it should be done. It's perfect.
"Everybody knows Villa are playing a lot of young lads; we're the opposite. We have a lot of settled, steady Eddies with a lot of experience to call upon. It's times like this you need experienced players dragging you up by the collar. Hopefully we can impose ourselves on them on Saturday and that will be the difference."
The 'keeper figured in the victories over Norwich and QPR either side of Christmas but the rest of his return from a substantial late-autumn absence due to groin surgery has been a tale of wasted opportunity.
Albion led in the FA Cup at Loftus Road before conceding a late equaliser before losing the replay, and they had their moments of misfortune in a home defeat by Fulham and saw a 2-0 lead at Reading overturned spectacularly in the last seven minutes as they lost 3-2.
The need for a win has now overtaken the requirement of another easy-on-the-eye performance but denies that their foot has eased off the pedal.
"It's just about grinding out a win and that's what we aim to do," he said. "Some people have written us off as pushovers, thinking they probably know they're going to be safe because they have 33 points.
"But we're doing exactly the same on the training pitch. I don't think there are any worries from us about us dropping standards. We just carry on. Even when we went third by winning at Sunderland, we weren't shouting from the rooftops, we just carried on.
"We look so solid and have been so unlucky. If just we could put these teams to bed... For 83 minutes at Reading, we were brilliant and passing it lovely. It was a pleasure to watch, then all hell broke loose and no-one could put their finger on it. Hopefully it's just one of those games - one of those freak games I won't be involved in again.
"I think we've got enough here. The depth of talent is absolutely amazing. The lads who don't play on a Saturday train on a Sunday and I've watched them a few times and think they could do a job in the Premier League."