Guzan to replace Howard
Brad Guzan has modestly brushed aside the latest round of plaudits aimed at him in his extraordinary breakthrough season at Aston Villa.
The goalkeeper was the undisputed hero of an exciting victory over bottom club QPR on Sunday which raised hopes of a successful end to a difficult campaign at Villa Park.
Manager Paul Lambert has joked that he has become tired of praising his last line of defence, claiming he seems to have been doing nothing else throughout the season. And Guzan is equally happy to play down his heroics.
"As a goalkeeper, you are called upon to make saves," he said. "Fortunately, I was able to keep a few out of the back of the net and give the guys in front of me a chance to level the score and go on and win the game.
"It makes you feel good when you leave that facial expression on strikers when they try to score. It is about trying to prove myself week in week out and trying to get better. It is nice to feel you have helped play your part in getting a result."
Guzan, who has brilliantly kept Shay Given in the shadows during Lambert's first season in charge, could be in the running to be named in the PFA Team of the Year award.
His workload, with Villa struggling at the foot of the table, has given him the chance to shine and substitute Joe Bennett followed the recent costly blunders by Ciaran Clark and Nathan Baker when he helped Rangers score their first goal on Saturday.
"The guys in front of me are keeping me on my toes!" he said. "People are going to make mistakes. That is the nature of football.
"It is how you respond from those mistakes and stick together as a team and a club. If someone makes a mistake, you pick them up and dust them off.
"I thought Joe was fantastic for us in the second half and helped lead to the second goal. It is not about putting your head down, sulking and feeling bad for yourself. It is about getting on with it, dusting yourself off and going again.
"The character of individuals and our team...I think we have definitely shown that in the last two games. We are a close group. When you are down at the bottom of the table, it is about fighting and scrapping and helping the guy next to you. If he makes a mistake, you pick him up."
Wigan's victory over Newcastle yesterday was a reminder that Villa still have much to do to secure their safety and they now have to hope they maintain their impetus until after the international break.
With Everton's Tim Howard recently out injured, the next week and a half could mean a greater role for Guzan with the United States side but he is optimistic that his club can then pick up at home to Liverpool where they have left off with wins over Reading and Rangers,
"Every game is a cup final," he said. "We know that and this was no different. It was very important we got three points, especially being the home team. The fact we were able to go and do that, especially being down a goal, gives us a bit of a lift. And it takes a little out of them.
"There might have been a few fans raising questions and questioning the ability of players. They have that right. But you look at Villa Park and it was fantastic and rocking.
"When they get behind the team and they see guys closing the ball down from 40 yards away and blocking shots and scoring goals, that is what they want. That is what it is about - fans, players and staff sticking together.
"Two in a row and six points is great but there is a lot of football to be played. It is important but if you throw it out of the window with a bad performance in two weeks' time, no-one is talking about this game and all of a sudden everyone is talking about how bad we are."