Downing hails veteran Friedel

Winger praise for experienced keeper

Friedel: Another fine season

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Aston Villa winger Stewart Downing has hailed veteran keeper Brad Friedel for another sterling season with the UEFA Champions League hopefuls.

The former Blackburn and Liverpool keeper, who turns 39 next month, has again been one of Villa's stand-out performers this term.

Friedel was outstanding in Villa's crucial 1-0 win over arch-rivals Birmingham on Sunday, a victory that keeps them in the hunt for fourth spot.

Downing is surprised Friedel is consistently putting in the performances week after week at his age, but has acknowledged he is incredibly fit.

Important

"Brad made some superb saves against Birmingham but then he's been doing that all season and been important for us," explained Downing.

"He was quiet for a long time in the game but, when he was called upon, he made some terrific saves and that's the sign of a good goalkeeper.

"Sometimes you need a bit of luck and your keeper to pull off some top-class saves and he did that for us on Sunday and has done it before.

"It's hard to believe he is approaching his 39th year because he looks after himself and he's very fit.

"As long as he does that, then he'll carry on playing and you can see in his performances that age doesn't matter."

Chance

Sunday's win over Birmingham saw Villa move level with fourth-placed Tottenham and Downing believes they have a great chance of landing the coveted spot.

"We have left ourselves with a great opportunity to finish fourth and end the season on a high," he continued.

"It's been brilliant this season. I've been to a cup final and a cup semi-final and we're consistently winning games.

"It's a winning environment really. It's a big change from where I was at last April when we were struggling (at Boro). The team are playing well.

"I think we've played better than we did against Birmingham. Some games you don't play well and win and that's a sign of a top team.

"The top teams have done it for a while. We've played a lot of games in succession and that was a very good win. That's all we need to do, win the games."