Remember, remember the 5th of November?

Just like his manager David O'Leary, Aston Villa captain Olof Mellberg certainly does.

Eight points from four matches over the Christmas period have steered relegation-threatened Villa into safer waters in the Premiership.

Now up to 12th, comfortably eight points clear of trouble, and just a point from the top half of the table, Villa's season suddenly has a more pleasing ring to it. That has inevitably led to many sages attempting to discover precisely when Villa's season started to turn around.

Was it, as was the case before their remarkable turn-of the-year run two seasons ago, the after-taste of suffering an embarrassingly onesided reverse against Manchester United? Or was it the humiliating Carling Cup defeat to Doncaster Rovers?

No, Villa regard both of those, in their different sort of ways, as one-offs.

The dressing-room inclination is more to look back at the Liverpool game on Bonfire Night as the afternoon that lit the blue touchpaper on their season.

"Our form since then has been excellent," said O'Leary. "We've only been beaten once in the league since."

It took a controversial late penalty, followed by a second goal in injury time to earn Liverpool their 2-0 win that day. And, while it was a launchpad for the European Cup holders (it was only the second in their amazing run of ten straight Premiership wins), it has not had too bad an effect on Villa.

"I felt we started to turn it around a bit against Liverpool," said Mellberg. "That was a really good performance. We worked really hard and, although we lost 2-0, we didn't deserve to.

"People say the Doncaster defeat kicked everyone into gear but I don't know about that.

"We had good performances in the league before the Doncaster game. We beat Charlton and Sunderland and, before that, we played well against Liverpool.

"Before that game we were very inconsistent. It was frustrating early in the season as, even when we felt we played well, we conceded strange goals.

"It happened in a few games, against Middlesbrough and Wigan, when we dominated, but just conceded stupid goals.

"There were also a couple of poor away performances at West Ham and at Manchester City on the Monday night before the Liverpool game.

"But, since then, taking away the Manchester United defeat, we have been more consistent. And we need to keep that consistency, be solid, organised, work hard, and not concede too many goals."

It was after the Manchester City defeat that Mellberg and his young defensive partner Liam Ridgewell came in for particular personal criticism from O'Leary. And, although Ridgewell went on to suffer a personal nightmare, conceding four penalties in five matches, Mellberg, stung by that rare tongue-lashing, has once again become a rock at the back.

He was at his peak for a month before injuring his hamstring at Bolton on December 10. And it says everything about his importance to the team that O'Leary rushed him back into the fray against West Bromwich Albion on Monday when common sense had told the Villa manager to remain more cautious, allow him a week of training and ease him back in at Hull on Saturday.

Mellberg's continued excellence is why there have been reports this week of interest from elsewhere in the solid Swede, Villa's £5 million replacement for Gareth Southgate four and half years ago. Even a cheeky cross-town swoop from Birmingham City has been mentioned. But, given all the things that he has said about Blues in the past, it is no surprise that Mellberg denies any move.

"I can't imagine Birmingham have shown interest in me and neither have I in them," he said.

"The reason why any club might have shown interest is because it has been going well for me.

"Especially now I am fit again. I felt good last week.

"And although I haven't been involved in training that much, I told the manager that I felt good and was ready to play and that it was up to him if maybe he wanted to train me for a week."

As it was O'Leary went for the compromise option of not using him at Anfield on Saturday, but saving him instead for Monday at The Hawthorns when he returned to allow Ridgewell a breather. And now Mellberg is back in, he is intent only on climbing the table.

"It has been a very good Christmas points wise," he agreed.

"And, although there is still a long way to go, we hope it could be a repeat of what we did two years ago.

"We have not so far been looking too much at the league table.

"But, if we keep working hard, we can then hopefully look at the top half and, once we are there, who knows what can happen?"