Alan Irvine's work ethic earns big reward for West Brom as Craig Gardner praises boss following Aston Villa victory  

  • Alan Irvine spends his whole day living and breathing football
  • The West Brom manager has been under pressure in recent weeks
  • But Craig Gardner scored the only goal against local rivals Aston Villa 

How does Alan Irvine relax from the stresses that come as a Premier League boss under the microscope? Literature, cinema, walks in the country?

‘I watch football in my spare time! I do 12-13-hour days and then go back to the apartment and put the football on. It is extremely sad but I love football.’

Critics of Irvine cannot deny his work ethic or knowledge and in that context it is easy to see why Craig Gardner would run to the West Bromwich Albion head coach for a high five following his winning goal.

Alan Irvine's work ethic has been praised at West Brom following the victory over local rivals Aston Villa

Alan Irvine's work ethic has been praised at West Brom following the victory over local rivals Aston Villa

Craig Gardner ran to high-five his manager after scoring the only goal of the game at The Hawthorns

Craig Gardner ran to high-five his manager after scoring the only goal of the game at The Hawthorns

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Defeat denied Lambert the chance to win three matches in a row as Villa manager for the first time. 

‘It wasn’t pre-planned at all,’ said Gardner. ‘He gives us a game plan and works his socks off day in, day out. The whole team are behind him, he’s a great person, great manager and tactician. Hopefully the fans can see what the gaffer is doing is really paying off.’

Irvine’s position was under scrutiny for one win in nine games. A bad loss to local rivals could have seen him go the same way as Steve Clarke a year ago this weekend.

But Gardner lashed home a loose ball 18 minutes from time after Villa had been reduced to 10 men midway through the first half. Paul Lambert had few complaints over Kieran Richardson’s dismissal for a dangerous foul on Stephane Sessegnon.

Paul Lambert admits Villa may revert to playing five at the back against Manchester United next week

Paul Lambert admits Villa may revert to playing five at the back against Manchester United next week

Saido Berahino sat out his second game in succession as Silvestre Varela produced a promising performance on his first West Brom start.

Villa ended the match playing Ron Vlaar as one of three central defenders as they sought an equaliser and Lambert said he could revisit the system in future. Alan Hutton will be suspended for the match against Manchester United on Saturday.

‘I know Ron can do it for Holland,’ said Lambert. ‘It might work. If we can keep doing what we are doing with the ball it is something we would look at.’