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Aston Villa boss Dean Smith admits confidence was "very low"


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Aston Villa boss Dean Smith is urging his players to feed off the negativity from outside the club regarding their chances of staying in the Premier League.

Before the season came to a standstill in March, the Birmingham outfit had lost five matches on the bounce which included four league matches and the EFL Cup final against Manchester City.

They are second-from-bottom in the table heading into Wednesday's home clash with Sheffield United and Smith is eager to create a siege mentality at Villa Park.

"The thing that we've got on our side, and I keep saying this to the players, is everyone has written us off already," said Smith who had given thought to the possibility of the season being called off prematurely and the club being relegated based on the average calculations.

"We were down on points-per-game, whether it was weighted or not, even though we had a game in hand and over a quarter of the season left to play," he added.

"There's no doubt in my mind that our confidence was very low when the season was brought to a halt and it's given us an unbelievable opportunity to go and reset.

"Our job now is to go and prove to ourselves that we're good enough but also prove a lot of people wrong who have written us off."

A win against the Blades in what will be the first fixture of the Premier League's return would lift the Villains up to 16th place.

Despite losing the last game before the season stopped, 4-o at home against Leicester City, the Villa boss believes the 14-week break will be of benefit to the players.

"The break certainly will help us and our chances of staying in this league," said Smith.

"Simply because we'd had a heavy beating at Leicester. We hadn't played well, certainly in that second half, and confidence was low.

"Now we've been able to rebuild that confidence, rebuild the mentality within the squad and we'll take that on to the pitch now."

Smith is hoping that he can draw on the experiences that some of his players have had playing at major international finals.

The likes of Neil Taylor (Wales), Ahmed Elmohamady, Trézéguet (both Egypt) and Pepe Reina (Spain) have all appeared at senior international tournaments.

"It's tournament football now, that's how we see it," said Smith.

"It's like going into a tournament and a lot of the players have been involved in tournaments and they know what it's going to be about because there's going to be a lot of games in a short space of time.

"The mentality of the players is spot on, they're ready for it and they're looking forward to it but we also know we're going to have to use the whole squad in this period because there's so many games in a short period of time."

Villa's chances of staying up are boosted by the return of Scotland international John McGinn.

The midfielder is  fit again after suffering an ankle injury in December and is fit to face Sheffield United on Wednesday.


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