Aston Villa played out a 1-1 draw against West Ham at the London Stadium, a result which secured their place in the Premier League at the expense of Watford and Bournemouth.
Villa knew that they needed to better Watford’s scoreline in their game against Arsenal, while a defeat for both would have left the door open for Bournemouth to leapfrog the pair.
The Cherries did their part with a 3-1 win over Everton at Goodison Park, though Watford’s 3-2 loss to Arsenal meant a draw was enough for Dean Smith’s side.
Jack Grealish gave the Villains the lead in the 84th minute before Andriy Yarmolenko set the game up for a nervy ending with a quick equaliser.
However, Villa held on for a crucial point, and speaking afterwards, Dean Smith was keen to pick out Douglas Luiz’s form as key to their survival.
“I’m pleased, proud and every adjective to go with it,” Smith told BBC Sport. “A lot of people had us relegated but we have worked so hard. We used the pandemic well. We have looked strong. A lot has been made of what we spent but we had to. I would have said this if we had been relegated or stayed up. It is an achievement from the players. They have grown and become Premier League players. We need to build on that and recruit in the summer.
“We did a lot of work on how we wanted to defend. Douglas Luiz’s form has gone through the roof. It was always going to be hard for him playing catch up as he came in with days to go until the season started.”
— Aston Villa (@AVFCOfficial) July 26, 2020
“Condolences to Watford and Bournemouth. I can only imagine how they feel now. Eddie [Howe] is a fantastic manager and a great coach. It had to be two out of three. But I am proud of what we have done. We were aware of what was going on. Bournemouth did what they had to do and so did we.”
Jack Grealish has been widely expected to leave the club this summer, being linked to both Manchester clubs in recent months, and Smith claimed his future would be ‘sorted’ in the next month.
“I said to him he would come to the party and score. He has been getting better and better. He has come good when he needed to. It (his future) will all be sorted over the next month. Tonight we will enjoy a magnificent achievement. It feels better than when we went up through the play-offs.”
The lifelong Villa fan thinks he has started to ‘build a culture’ at Villa Park, the club’s survival underpinned by their ‘togetherness’ after ending the season by picking up eight points from their last four games.
“In pre-season we sat down and came up with three words that we wanted to work by – togetherness, prepared and relentless. We have grown into that. It takes a long time to build a culture and I think we have started.”