Sunday Mirror

Danny’s a Lion heart

VILLA PRAISE

- By DAVE AR­MITAGE Sports · Soccer · Aston Villa Football Club · Birmingham (England) · Southampton F.C. · Villa Park · England · Liverpool Football Club · Liverpool · Burnley F.C. · Harry Kane · Marcus Rashford · Leeds United A.F.C. · Leeds · Everton · Everton F.C. · Leicester City F.C. · England national football team · Patrick Bamford · Danny Ings

DEAN SMITH says Danny Ings is no poor re­la­tion among Eng­land’s finest strik­ers.

Smith’s high-rid­ing As­ton Villa side will try to do a job on Ings when Southampto­n visit Villa Park to­day.

The 28-year-old is in eye-catch­ing form with four goals for the Saints plus an­other for Eng­land in the 3-0 win over Wales.

There are those re­luc­tant to men­tion the for­mer Liver­pool and Burn­ley striker in the same bracket as the likes of Eng­land reg­u­lars Harry Kane and Mar­cus Rash­ford.

But Smith is no soc­cer snob and reck­ons there’s an aw­ful lot to like about a man who has over­come se­ri­ous in­jury and still keeps get­ting him­self back among the goals.

Villa won’t need warn­ing about the po­tent threat the Southampto­n man poses as they try to re­cover from the shat­ter­ing 3-0 home de­feat to Leeds last week­end.

Vic­tory would have put Villa top of the ta­ble – but in­stead they came off lick­ing their wounds as Pa­trick Bam­ford floored them with a tre­ble.

They’ll be out to en­sure Ings isn’t af­forded such a lux­ury, with Smith say­ing: “I’m not sure which club you play for comes into it when you talk about top play­ers.

“The qual­ity of Danny Ings’s goals are no less than those scored by Kane or the top strik­ers. He’s shown what he can do.

“Any player who signs for Liver­pool is a top player.

“He had a big in­jury but went to Southampto­n and es­tab­lished him­self as an in­te­gral part of what they are do­ing.

“I don’t know him but he looks like he has a ter­rific per­son­al­ity and add to that the fact that he works hard.”

Smith added: “Southampto­n are a

SMALL-CLUB GOLD Danny Ings is the equal of any Big Six star says As­ton Villa boss Dean Smith very good side. They had a great win against Ever­ton. Ings and Che Evans are goalscor­ers but they also work hard for their side.”

The Villa boss be­lieves Saints are now be­ing re­warded for re­fus­ing to press the panic but­ton when they were thumped 9- 0 at home by Leicester this time last year.

Smith adds: “It’s the same group of play­ers. There hasn’t been many changes. Ralph Hasen­huttl is a good coach who was es­teemed be­fore he came to the club.

“And you do not be­come a bad coach af­ter one re­sult. He’s shown that and I’m glad that he did.” Smith knows what it’s like when things aren’t go­ing well – and the pres­sure that brings for quick change.

He added: “Smart busi­ness­men don’t make de­ci­sions when they are emo­tional. They make ra­tio­nal calls when they have taken on all the facts – and it’s paid off for Southampto­n.”

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