Olof Mellberg believes Aston Villa have banished any lingering fears of being dragged into a relegation fight.
The Swedish defender is confident Martin O’Neill’s side can start eyeing a top-half finish, starting with Saturday’s clash against Reading at the Madejski Stadium.
Villa moved 12 points clear of the bottom three thanks to last weekend’s 1-0 victory over West Ham - only their second win in the last 14 league games.
Former skipper Mellberg said: "We are now on 32 points and I think we can start looking up the table now. That is what we have been trying to do all the time.
"It is only recently that we have started to come that close to the relegation positions. I don’t think we had thought about it that much.
"But when we played West Ham, we saw that we were only nine points ahead of them and a loss would have closed the gap even further so it was really an important win last weekend.
"Hopefully we can look up now and try to finish the season strongly."
Mellberg has been impressed with the contribution made already by striker John Carew since his January move from Lyon in a swap deal with Milan Baros.
The Norwegian had a legitimate-looking goal disallowed on his debut at Newcastle but went on the net the winner against Alan Curbishley’s side.
Mellberg said: "John did well at Newcastle as well against West Ham. He is a real handful for defenders and overall did really well.
"It is always important to have a good start when you are new to a club and to show your best side straight away and John has been working hard in both games as well which I think the fans appreciate.
"It is early doors but I think everyone can see what he can brings to the team.
"He is an outlet. You can vary the style of the game. When he came off in both games, we really needed to play the ball a little bit more because we didn’t have the long ball as an option which can be good sometimes.
"When it’s tight at the end of the games, it can give you a bit of an outlet to have that big player up front to hold the ball up for us."
Meanwhile, Villa have secured a long-term deal with Nike who will become the club’s official sportswear partner from the 2007-2008 campaign.
The deal will see Nike supply Villa’s playing and replica kit in addition to a full range of branded sportswear and accessories.
Chief executive Richard Fitzgerald said: "This is a significant step forward for the club off the field. The association will help us to drive the club forward.
"The brand sits perfectly with the new board’s vision for Aston Villa and we’re looking forward to working with Nike in the future."