Aaron Hughes has hailed the motivational qualities of manager Martin O’Neill which have left Aston Villa as the only undefeated side in the Premiership.
Northern Ireland skipper Hughes believes O’Neill’s "keep it simple" approach and conscious decision not to overburden the players with tactics has paid dividends during an eight-game run which has yielded 14 points.
Villa have the chance to cement a place in the top six on Saturday with victory over visiting Fulham - a side O’Neill would watch regularly during his 15 months out of football when caring for his sick wife Geraldine.
Defender Hughes said: "When a new manager comes in, you normally see a general lift around the place. But it is the enthusiasm Martin O’Neill brings on the training pitch and in the dressing room before games which rubs off on everyone else.
"He believes in the potential the players have here. He knows within the squad there is a lot of talent and it is getting the best out of us.
"He doesn’t have to say an awful lot to get you motivated but what he does say certainly gets the lads going, the enthusiasm, making you want to win and instilling that in you. That’s what we are taking out onto the pitch.
"Martin O’Neill is the type of guy for whom you will give your all. He has got the respect of the whole dressing room and doesn’t kill you with tactics.
"He just basically tells us to go out there and play because he believes in us as a group of players to go and get results as long as we put in the work-rate."
Hughes stressed the need for Villa not to fade after such a promising start to the campaign and they are only four games away from equalling the club’s best start to a season - 12 games unbeaten in 1998-99.
He said: "You don’t want to look back and think ’we got off to a good start but then let it go’.
"You want to look back and say ’we had a good start and we kept it going’ and hopefully by the end of the season we can be in a very good position.
"At the start of the season not many people expected us to do as well as we have. The fans have more expectations now and talking about Europe.
"For us, we will take each game as it comes, keep putting the effort in and hopefully over the season grind out more positive results.
"We’ve got off to a good start and everyone is getting excited but we’ve got to keep our feet on the ground."
Goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen could return after missing the 1-1 draw with Tottenham because of a badly bruised shoulder although his deputy Stuart Taylor performed with great credit.