Aston Villa midfielder John McGinn admits having the chance to qualify for Europe for the first time in more than a decade is something which they did not think was possible six months ago.
Manager Unai Emery took over from Steven Gerrard in late October with the club 15th in the Premier League but after a 1-1 draw at Anfield their destiny remains in their own hands in terms of securing a spot in the Europa Conference League.
McGinn, who said “every day is a school day” under the Spaniard, accepts that possibility seemed remote at the start of winter.
“It’s been the aim since day one. The owners have had a remit to get us back playing European football,” he said.
“If you’d said to us back in November ‘you’d be three points away’ then you’d have laughed. We have got three points to get to get us back.
“This club deserves to be in the top 10, we’ve managed to secure that for the first time in a long, long while.
“Now it’s about building, getting into Europe hopefully and build from there.”
McGinn said the transformation under Emery, who has won 14 and lost just six of his 24 matches in charge, had been remarkable.
And he believed their performance and experience at Anfield against a team desperately trying to attain Champions League qualification would stand them in good stead if they do indeed qualify for Europe.
“It was a test for us, it was a challenge. If we want to play in Europe, we need to come to places like this and get results,” he added.
“We’ve given ourselves a huge opportunity next week (at home to Brighton) and hopefully we take it.
“It’s in our hands now and we know three points will get us European football.
“The manager has touched on it, he has a lot of experience of European football, I’m sure everyone involved in the club will be so focused this week to make sure that’s a reality.
“He will have an obsession this week on how to beat Brighton. I think if you ask any player who has worked with him this year he has been an absolute pleasure.
“He’s made myself better, he’s made other players better. Every day is a school day, I keep saying it.
“I’m not used to his style of football, the Spanish way. I’ve always had British ex-pros who were all brilliant for me, brilliant for my career but he’s certainly showing me a different side of football and one I’m certainly enjoying.
“I feel as if I’ve got so much left to learn but, even at 28, there’s so much more learning to do. Hopefully the progress can continue and myself and others can continue to improve.”