Emile Heskey has denied that there is a melancholy mood among Aston Villa’s players following the demise of their season-long aspirations.
Villa’s chances of Champions League qualification by finishing fourth have all but evaporated following eight league games without a victory.
Martin O’Neill’s fifth-placed team are now focusing their efforts on fending off Everton rather than closing the considerable gap behind Arsenal.
However, Heskey takes issue with the popular misconception that the atmosphere is gloomy in the claret and blue dressing room. “We’ve tried to keep upbeat about everything,” he said.
“That is the way we’ve got to go about everything and hopefully put ourselves back on track.
“We went out there and put on a performance against West Ham so that was the main thing.”
“The lads played very well and had a few more chances to score more goals but it wasn’t to be.
“The number of chances created, especially on Saturday, was very, very good but we’ve got to put those away now.”
Following a frustrating start to his Villa career, plagued by injuries and a struggle to make his mark, Heskey’s own mood has remained positive.
The England striker’s second Villa goal, and first in front of the home supporters, has provided a fillip ahead of the final five games of the season.
“It was very nice to get the first goal at Villa Park and hopefully I’ll get many more,” said Heskey.
“The lads have taken to me really well so hopefully we can carry on in that same vein. It’s been really good.”
“It was just nice getting the goal and going 1-0 up. In recent weeks we’ve been going behind and having to come back, but it was nice to go ahead.”
Meanwhile, former Villa striker Stan Collymore has praised the contribution of wingers Ashley Young and James Milner.
Collymore feels the quality of both of the England hopefuls’ service from the flanks has been a major plus this season.
“The forward play has been fantastic this season,” he said.
“The difference between the really good teams like Villa and mid-table sides is the width, that ability to get crosses in, like Ashley and James do.
“Villa get forward into the final third and constantly deliver terrific crosses.
“Your strikers are then always being kept in the game. As a consequence, they will get the chances they need. That’s why Villa have been entertaining home and away this season.”