Brad Friedel believes finishing fifth this season will show Aston Villa are making progress.
Villa finished sixth last term and Friedel is keen for Martin O'Neill's men to improve on that by taking fifth spot in the table.
Villa looked well placed for a top-four finish earlier in the campaign, but an eight-point lead has been surrendered to Arsenal following a disastrous run of form.
Friedel and Villa are just two points clear of sixth-placed Everton with four games remaining and the American keeper believes clinching fifth spot would still be a successful season.
"I think it is massively important that we finish in fifth this season. If we do that, it's been a step up from the previous campaign. That would be great," said Friedel.
Progression"As long as there is a progression made, everyone - the fans, chairman, manager and players - will be upbeat about the coming season.
"If we do miss out, it won't be a lost season but it is important to see one of our goals achieved and that was finishing higher than last season. That would give us a boost ahead of the coming season."
Friedel added: "Saying that, if someone had offered me fifth at the start of the season, I wouldn't have accepted it. When I was doing all my talks before I joined, the ambition of the club was impressed upon me.
"I'm not saying it's a god-given right [to finish fourth] but we had a great chance at one stage to solidify our place in fourth.
"It wasn't to be and certainly doesn't mean this season is a throw-away. But if you handed me fifth at the start, I wouldn't have taken it, I would have played the season through and seen what happened."