SOUTHAMPTON — Saints battered Aston Villa on Saturday and to make sure you have every angle covered for the marquee Premier League games, our new feature “In the Mixed Zone” will take you behind-the-scenes and into the tunnel areas to hear from the star players moments after their magic has decided games or drama has ensued.
[ MORE: In the Mixed Zone ]
The idea is to set the scene of being inside the tunnel area in Old Trafford, by the dugouts at Stamford Bridge and in the swanky new players area in Tottenham Hotspur’s stadium as Premier League stars walk out of the dressing room and break down the game with media members around the world. We will tell you what they are saying and the kind of antics going on amid the hubbub of the mixed zone as players from both teams have their say on the 90-plus minutes of action we’ve just witnessed.
[ MORE: 3 things we learned ]
Here’s the scene from St Mary’s Stadium as Saints were relieved that they finally sealed the win in stoppage time, while Aston Villa were downbeat after another defeat and this time their manager Dean Smith was far from happy.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Southampton midfielder Will Smallbone, who turned 20 on Friday, made his Premier League debut and excelled in midfield with plenty of composed passes and he almost scored with a deflected shot which hit the post.
“Good celebration for my 20th birthday and then to get a start and a win today in the Premier League, yeah, it was good,” Smallbone said. “It was different. To play in the Premier League, it was a lot harder. I thought I handled it okay and did alright.”
“We’ve had quite a lot of players come through the ranks and you look up to them when you’re younger. To come through myself and hopefully do the best I can, it is very special.”
Smallbone is a special player and slotted in seamlessly to Saints’ midfield on his debut and sprayed the ball around nicely.
Dean Smith, Aston Villa’s manager, was absolutely fuming..
👀 Dean Smith on Aston Villa at Southampton: "My feelings are embarrassment. It was a dreadful performance. We never competed well enough, never showed enough desire to get on the ball. The thing that hurt me the most was the lack of fight. That is the lowest of the low." #AVFC
— Joe Prince-Wright (@JPW_NBCSports) February 22, 2020
Jack Grealish was downbeat as he got onto the Aston Villa team bus and his mood reflected that of every Villa player.
What was most surprising was that Grealish got off the team bus and went away in a private taxi after the game instead of going back with the rest of the players and coaching staff. John Terry appeared to do the same.
For most away games that happens and players make their own way home or visit other places for promotional events etc.
But given Smith’s strong words about Villa’s display, it was surprising to see Grealish leave his teammates for the trip home. Grealish and Pepe Reina looked very downbeat and those two are Villa’s only hopes of staying in the Premier League.
IN AND AROUND
Southampton’s players were all very happy as this win all but secures their Premier League status for another season. Villa’s team bus was a pretty miserable place as Dean Smith got on with a look of despair. Next stop: League Cup final against Man City.