Ron Vlaar has hailed striker Andreas Weimann as the “inspiration” which could banish Aston Villa’s relegation fears once and for all.
Villa are heading for this weekend’s international break in their best spirits for months after back-to-back wins over fellow strugglers Reading and Queens Park Rangers.
They still have plenty of work to do. Wigan’s win over Newcastle last Sunday reminded them of that.
But six points from the last two games for Villa have reeled quite a few teams above them back into the relegation equation.
And as they head into the season’s run-in, none of those teams are equipped with a strike-pairing as potent and bang-in-form as Weimann and Christian Benteke.
While big Benteke has hogged most headlines this season, it is his Austrian team-mate who has shone brightest in the recent huge games. Weimann scored one and created one in the vital 3-2 win over QPR last Saturday and is now on 11 goals for the season in league and cup.
The Villa academy product has forced his way into Austria’s senior squad as his reputations grows. And the expereinced Vlaar reckons Weimann is a player that no-one will fancy facing in the crucial weeks ahead.
“Andi was inspirational against QPR,” said Vlaar. “He keeps going and his work-rate stats are unbelievable. It’s crazy actually and again he was massive for us last week.
“He has really announced himself as a player this season. He has scored a lot of goals, and is on the right spot at the right times a lot of times. The fans see what he’s capable of and we know that as well.
“I knew about him before I came to Villa because I know the youngsters of the national teams in Holland and when they played Austria, there was only one name they said to take a look for - and that was Andi Weimann.
“He’s pushing for the Austria senior squad and working very hard and improving every day so that’s very good, for us and for him as well.”
If Vlaar, watching from the back of the team, is loving the sight of Weimann harrying the life out of opposing defenders at the other end of the field, no-one is more grateful for the Austrian’s input than Paul Lambert.
And the Scot reckons Weimann has levels of fitness and hunger for the game, as well as ability, that will take him a long way in football.
“Andi must have another lung somewhere because he has a phenomenal work-rate,” Lambert said. “That will serve him well for his whole career from now until the day he stops. If he keeps that enthusiasm and hunger and desire to play football he will have a big, big career.
“He is a phenomenal player to work with. He is a great lad and his enthusiasm for the game? If he can keep that throughout his career, he will have one big career for sure.
“He is playing exceptionally well. I know his natural position is through the middle. But whether he plays off the line or through the middle he seems to score.
“The biggest compliment I can give him if that he’s a brilliant guy and gives you everything he’s got. If he keeps that mentality he will go a long way.
“The team’s overall enthusiasm is exceptional but Andi showed that with his work for the third goal against QPR last Saturday. He never gave it up. That’s Andi all over. That’s his character. And the goal he scored himself was brilliant. It was a fantastic finish.”