Aston Villa suffered an embarrassing 6-1 defeat at Southampton on Saturday afternoon, but results later on meant they secured their top-flight status regardless.
A Saido Mane hat-trick within the space of two minutes and 56 seconds – a Premier League record – set the Saints up for a 5-1 half-time lead against the Midlands side, who were able to steady the ship somewhat in the second period but still conceded one more. This was by far the heaviest defeat of Tim Sherwood’s reign at the club, and reignited fears of relegation.
These fears, however, were relinquished later on in the afternoon, when Hull City lost 2-0 at Tottenham Hotspur meaning it is no longer possible for Steve Bruce’s side to catch Villa. And with Burnley and Queens Park Rangers both confirmed as relegated next season, this means Sherwood’s task of keeping the club in the top-flight has been achieved with one match to spare.
“The remit when I arrived was to try and keep the football club in the division and I’m really pleased we’ve managed to achieve that with a game to spare,” he said in the Birmingham Mail. “Our form over that period has been good and we’ve picked up a considerable amount of points within a short period of time which has been enough to keep us in the Premier League.”
As well as releasing the pressure from their final game of the campaign at home to Burnley next week, survival will now allow Sherwood to begin planning to end the club’s 19-year wait for silverware later this month when they take on Arsenal in the FA Cup final. He added: “We can now look forward to our final game of the season and the Cup final in the knowledge we are safe.”
What does Tim Sherwood have to do in the summer to ensure Aston Villa are not dragged into another battle against the drop next season?