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Tommy Elphick: Contract situations have no effect on Aston Villa's promotion push

Aston Villa defender Tommy Elphick insists that individuals' situations at Aston Villa will play no part in the squad's focus on battling for promotion this season.

Tommy Elphick
Tommy Elphick

A number of high-profile Villa players are set to see their contracts expire this summer, with no guarantees that they'll remain at the club following the conclusion of this season.

The likes of Mile Jedinak, Glenn Whelan, Alan Hutton and Elphick are among a collection of players set to see their deals expire in June.

Dean Smith has admitted that reducing the average age of the playing squad is a big part of the club’s long-term policy - leaving many fans questioning whether those players will stay at the club.

Despite his own future being one up for debate, the former skipper has insisted that the side are still focused on going up this season.

"The focus is totally on trying to get hold of a couple of teams above us and getting into that top six as quick as possible," Elphick said, in an interview with the Guardian.

"We sat down and had a chat as a group before the Reading game, after the transfer window had closed, to say: ‘This is us now.’ Regardless of what situation you are in at the club, whether you have six months left on your contract or three years, we all realise that if we’re winning games and looking towards the top six then it is better for everyone.

"Together you can move mountains when you get a group that’s all pulling in the same direction."

Alan Hutton is one player who could see his stay at Villa come to an end this summer.

Villa remain four points from the Championship play-off places, and 14 from the top two with just a third of the season remaining.

But whilst an automatic promotion push seems a far stretch for even the most optimistic of Villa fans, the 31-year-old is certain that with a good run of results the club can climb back into promotion contention.

"Hopefully there’s a good run around the corner from us." he said.

"If you can string five, six, seven wins on the bounce, looking at a team like Hull where they have come the bottom three to putting themselves in contention after going on a run like that, that’s what we need to be doing.

"We are well placed to put a run like that together. I think we had a strong window and when we get a couple of players back, it’s only going to make us even stronger."

Villa now face a good opportunity to gain ground on those ahead of them in the table, with clashes against Sheffield United, West Brom, Derby and Middlesbrough approaching in the next six weeks, coinciding with the potential return of Jack Grealish.

The midfielder, who was forced off with a shin injury during the 2-2 draw with West Brom in December, is edging closer to a return later this month.

However, Elphick has talked down suggestion that Villa are over-reliant on their boyhood star.

"We can’t be a club that just relies on Jack Grealish," he said.

"That’s unfair on him and it’s not a way to build a team. As good as Jack is, we need to come up with different solutions when the likes of Jack and Tammy [Abraham] might not be available."

Elphick believes that the club cannot rely solely on Jack Grealish to re-ignite their promotion push.

With such a run of fixtures approaching, the pressure remains on Villa's players and owners to stay in touch with those play-off spots.

But the pressure of promotion should not be used as motivation to risk the club's future - as it was under the ownership of Dr Tony Xia, culminating in the near-catastrophic summer which could've seen the likes of Grealish depart in a desperate effort to fund the club day to day.

Elphick understands that notion completely, believing that the pressure will always exist at a club of the stature of Aston Villa in the second tier - something which should be regarded as a 'privilege'.

"Pressure and playing for Aston Villa should be a privilege,"

"But we need to turn that into doing something that is really significant and get us back where the club belongs.

"With the history of the club and what they’ve won, what we are trying to do is on a much smaller scale, but it is very significant in terms of the direction the club wants to go in the next 10 years.

“I feel the club is in a lot better hands now than what we might have been last year when we were almost gambling with the future of the club to get back up.

"This manager comes with a structure and a plan that maybe needs a little bit of time to get it where he wants it and, given that time, the club long-term will definitely be able to sustain itself as a top Premier League club again.”

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