Aston Villa boss Dean Smith is confident there is “more to come” from Ross Barkley following the midfielder’s goalscoring performance at Southampton.
Barkley headed in what proved the winner late in the first half as Villa triumphed 1-0 at St Mary’s on Saturday evening.
It was a first goal since October for the England international, who is on loan from Chelsea for the season, in his fourth appearance since returning to action after a hamstring injury sustained in November.
Smith said of Barkley in quotes on Villa’s official website on Tuesday: “He’s a top player.
“That’s why we wanted to get him, it’s why he’s been at the top of the game all of his career playing for Everton and then Chelsea. We’re fortunate Chelsea have allowed him to come out on loan and play his football here this season.
“I still believe there’s more to come from Ross, he’s played more minutes than he’s trained over the last 12 weeks.
“He’s had a hamstring injury, and since then, because we had a 10-day period where we weren’t training and he was fit, he was training on his own.
“It’s been difficult for him but he’s certainly getting back up to speed where he was before he got inured.”
While Villa have no fresh injury concerns ahead of the West Ham game, defender Kortney Hause, not involved for the last four matches due to a foot problem, has been ruled out for “at least four to six weeks”, Smith has said.
“Kortney has had his scan and he’s got a problem with his foot, he’s going to be out for at least four to six weeks,” Smith said.
“It was a bit of a blow for everyone because he came into the team, played four games and was excellent. It’s disappointing we’ve lost him for a period of time.”
Wesley (knee) also remains unavailable. New signing Morgan Sanson could make his debut, having been an unused substitute for the Southampton contest.
Villa and West Ham finished the weekend in ninth and fifth place in the Premier League respectively, and Smith added of Wednesday’s match: “It will be a good football game. I think both teams want to play progressive football, both teams want to score goals and win football games.
“I’ve always said there’s a big difference between trying to win and trying not to lose and I think both teams will try to win, which should make for an entertaining game.”
Meanwhile, the club have announced their Villa Park home is to be used as a coronavirus vaccination centre by the NHS.
Villa chief executive Christian Purslow said: “We are a club which takes great pride in serving the local community. There is no better way to do that at this time than by providing one of the vital vaccine centres in the city.
“We offered the use of Villa Park to the NHS immediately and we are really pleased that our stadium was chosen to carry out these life-changing jabs as we hopefully progress towards a return to a more normal way of life.
“A large number of our staff will be working as volunteers in the programme and we would encourage everyone within our community who receives an offer from the NHS to have a vaccination at Villa Park to please do so.”
NHS staff and volunteers will be situated in the Holte End area of the stadium, and the new centre will be capable of administering thousands of jabs each week, with the flexibility of scaling the operation up or down depending on supplies of the vaccine as well as demand, Villa said.
The centre will be open seven days a week, including match days while fixtures are still being played behind closed doors.