Brad Guzan has attributed his fine form since replacing Shay Given to his rivalry with Aston Villa’s senior goalkeeper.
Guzan was man of the match in last weekend’s 1-1 draw with Norwich after a string of stops to preserve a point.
And the American admits the threat of Given on the bench has been a major motivating factor since he made it into the Premier League XI at Newcastle at the start of September.
Despite Villa’s league position, Guzan is convinced he made the right decision to re-sign for the club in the summer after initially leaving.
“Shay and I have a good relationship in terms of competing on and off the field and we’re great friends off the field too,” said Guzan. “We push each other to get better.
“I’ve got the utmost respect for Shay and what he’s done in the game. I don’t know where I would have been if I hadn’t come back but I’m excited I came back, especially getting a run of games and it’s up to me to seize the moment.
“This is the best league in the world with the best players in the world and you want to be playing week in, week out.
“It’s taken a bit longer than I expected but I’m happy I came back and all you can do is try to make it difficult for the manager come team selection.
“For me it’s all about going out to the training ground every day, working hard to get better and hopefully your name is called out come match days.”
He added: “It was nice to make the saves (against Norwich) but you want to help the team win. If I can help Villa get back up the table, that’s my job.”
Charles N’Zogbia is set to be sidelined for up to three weeks with a knee problem.