Steven Gerrard revealed Prince William had been in touch with his beloved Aston Villa this week as the club paid tribute to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II before their 1-0 win over Southampton.
The Prince of Wales is a lifelong Villa fan and Gerrard had urged his team to make him proud. Though it was not a classic display – Villa skipper John McGinn admitted he would have switched off had he been watching on television – Jacob Ramsey’s goal shortly before half-time was enough to seal only Villa’s second league win of the season.
‘Knowing Prince William and how much he loves this club, I’m sure he’ll be proud of the clean sheet,’ said Gerrard. ‘He messaged in the week, to the club, and that shows everything about what he thinks of this club.
Aston Villa beat Southampton 1-0 in their Premier League clash at Villa Park on Friday evening
Boss Steven Gerrard couldn’t relax during the game as three points were vital for his side
Gerrard was delighted as this game marked their first clean sheet in 12 attempts
‘His message was along the lines of “I would love to be there”. He is consistently in touch. He is very supportive of the boys individually, he loves them. It’s really impressive, his knowledge, and how much he is in to it.
‘It certainly took me aback. He is very much involved in Villa. For him to message in the situation he is in is really impressive.’
Had Villa lost this one, it would have been five defeats in seven to start the season for Gerrard.
Yet though this game will not live long in the memory, Villa looked more solid than in recent weeks. This was their first clean sheet in 12 attempts, while Saints have now gone 13 matches without a shutout.
The Aston Villa manager was seen barking instruction to his team from the sidelines
Aston Villa’s only goal of the game came from Jacob Ramsey in the 41st minute (above)
Aston Villa (4-3-2-1): Martinez 6; Young 6.5, Konsa 7, Mings 7, Digne 6; Ramsey 6.5 (Dendoncker 67, 6) Kamara 6.5 (Douglas Luiz 44, 7), McGinn 6.5; Bailey 6 (Buendia 67, 6), Watkins 6.5, Coutinho 7. Subs not used: Olsen, Chambers, Augustinsson, Nakamba, Dendoncker, Douglas Luiz, Sanson, Ings.
Scorers: Ramsey 41
Booked: Coutinho, Ramsey, Young
Manager: Steven Gerrard 7
Southampton (4-2-3-1): Bazunu 7; Walker-Peters 6, Bella-Kotchap 7, Salisu 6.5, Perraud 6 (Aribo 46, 6.5); Ward-Prowse 6, Diallo 5.5 (Larios 46, 6); Djenepo 7, Elyounoussi 6, A Armstrong 5.5 (S Armstrong 71, 6); Adams 6 (Mara 71, 6). Subs not used: McCarthy, Lyanco, Caleta-Car, Edozie, Walcott.
Manager: Ralph Hasenhuttl 6
Referee: Tony Harrington 6
‘It’s a big victory,’ admitted Gerrard. ‘It wasn’t pretty or stylish but, with where we were in the league, we had to do it in a pragmatic way. It has been a tough period but I’ve wanted to protect my players.’
Before kick-off, there was a fitting tribute to the Queen. The players and managers stood around the centre circle and observed a minute’s silence, before English soprano Laura Wright led a rendition of ‘God Save The King’.
With the lights dimmed, supporters created a spectacular effect by switching on the torches of their phones.
‘It was very special, emotional,’ admitted Gerrard. ‘Singing the anthem made the hairs on your neck stand up.’
When the action began, Gerrard’s big call seemed to be paying off, with Philippe Coutinho looking bright. Skipper John McGinn also looked right up for the challenge, crunching into tackles, while goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez was passed fit after illness.
Gerrard wanted his team to build on their 1-1 draw with Manchester City a fortnight ago yet after an encouraging start, they lost their way a little. Moussa Djenepo roared past Lucas Digne on the right and Ezri Konsa produced a fine defensive header. Shortly before the half-hour mark, Konsa was again decisive when he cut out Che Adams’ cross.
Villa grew again and Ashley Young’s cross somehow reached Coutinho at the far post, only for Gavin Bazunu to turn the header behind.
When the corner was cleared back to Coutinho, Ollie Watkins met the cross and though Bazunu pushed it on the bar, the dropping ball bounced off Mohammed Salisu and fell perfectly for Ramsey. His close-range volley went in via the underside of the bar and the home side nearly made it two when Leon Bailey’s deflected effort crept wide.
Aston Villa and Southampton were involved in a scuffle around the 80 minute mark (above)
Emiliano Martinez seemed to pick up an injury in the closing minutes but was able to continue
Tyrone Mings had a fine game and was making a nuisance of himself in the Saints box
Villa were forced into a change shortly before the break when Douglas Luiz replaced Boubacar Kamara, who has a knee injury that requires a scan and has Gerrard ‘worried’.
Tyrone Mings had a fine game at the back and was making a nuisance of himself in the Saints box, too, winning a header and laying the ball off for Ramsey, whose shot clipped a defender.
In the 70th minute, the ground rose and applauded in recognition of the Queen’s 70 years’ service. Despite Saints boss Ralph Hasenhuttl using all five substitutes, his team could not find a way back into the game.
‘It was a deserved win for them, but the game was far away from Premier League level,’ said Hasenhuttl. ‘It was too easy for them to make us struggle.’
Relive the action with Sportsmail’s live blog for coverage of Aston Villa vs Southampton and Nottingham Forest vs Fulham in Friday’s Premier League games.