Friedel feels Villa are on right track
Aston Villa goalkeeper Brad Friedel says the club are making progress towards an elusive fourth-placed finish in the Premier League. Villa had been strong contenders to break the stranglehold of the division's top sides, however their challenge faded as the season drew to a conclusion. Tottenham were the ultimate beneficiaries of Villa's demise as they also saw off competition from Manchester City and Liverpool - last season's fourth-placed team - to join Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea in the Champions League mix. It rounded off a frustrating campaign for Martin O'Neill's side, who also suffered disappointment in the form of a final-four defeat in the FA Cup and an equally disheartening loss to United in the Carling Cup final. But keeper Friedel says his team are in a strong position to re-launch their assault on European football next season - backing O'Neill and American owner Randy Lerner to mastermind a route into continental competition. He said: "We're moving in the right direction. We are all disappointed that we didn't get fourth spot because that was what we were aiming for. "We came so close but I'm sure the gaffer (O'Neill) and chairman (Lerner) will figure out ways to push us to Champions League qualification next season. "But we can still view it as having been a great season anyway. We've had two trips to Wembley and with a bit of luck we could have won the Carling Cup. Getting drawn against Chelsea in the FA Cup semi-final was tough. "I always felt that whoever scored the first goal would win it. Unfortunately it was them. But we're moving in the right direction and hopefully we won't stop until we get that fourth spot in the Premier League." Friedel will be 39 next Tuesday and the American is enjoying some of the best form of his career in an upwardly-mobile Villa side. And despite reaching his twilight days as a professional footballer, Friedel insists his age has not dampened his enthusiasm, nor affected his fitness. The former Blackburn Rovers man has over 400 appearances to his name following a lengthy 15-year spell in the game - but he says the desire to continue playing remains steadfast. He added: "Age is just a number. What matters is how I feel. I don't feel much different to what I did 10 years ago. "I need a bit more maintenance between games these days but while I'm on the pitch, I feel good and, as long as I feel good, I want to play. "The job as a professional footballer is to keep fit as possible and be available for selection. That's what my goals are. I enjoy playing as much as ever. "The older you get, the more you are aware the end is coming, so you appreciate it that much more."
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