The 27-year-old skipper bagged his first Villa goal in Saturday's 3-2 home defeat to Watford.
Richards originally joined Villa on a four-year deal in July after his contract at Manchester City expired and was appointed the Midlands outfit’s new team captain just a few weeks later after Fabian Delph moved in the opposite direction.
The 27-year-old defender has since been arguably the club’s most consistent player amid their miserable run of form, while he also opened his claret and blue account in last weekend’s 3-2 home defeat to Watford with a thumping first-half header.
His passionate celebration following his 41st-minute equaliser showed that there is still fight in the dressing room – even though results are eluding the team, and Garde is hoping that the rest of the squad can take inspiration from the Birmingham-born stopper’s committed approach to their survival bid.
“Of course, Micah has experience,” said the Frenchman. “He’s very important for this group because we have a lot of players who haven’t played so many games in the Premier League.
“When your leader is scoring, it’s something very strong. I hope it will give us – and Micah as well – a stronger feeling of being able to win games and score goals.
“Unfortunately, [against Watford] we conceded three, and in a home game you shouldn’t concede so many. That's something we need to work on all together.”
|2015-16 Premier League||Total Tackles GAME||Tackle Accuracy||Total Clearances GAME||Headers Won GAME||Header Success||Interceptions GAME||Passing Accuracy||Ball Recoveries GAME||Appearances||Mins Played|
Despite Richards’ performances, Villa still sit bottom of the table ahead of the start of the hectic festive period, having taken just five points from 14 games and gone without a top-flight win since beating Bournemouth 1-0 in their season opener.
Currently languishing seven points from safety going into Saturday’s game at Southampton, few are giving Garde’s men much of a chance of ending their 13-game winless run against a team that smashed them 6-1 in the same fixture last season, but the ex-Arsenal midfielder fancies his side's chances of springing a surprise on the afternoon.
“I know that Southampton has improved a lot in recent seasons,” he added to AVTV. “They work very well with their manager. They are like Everton or Tottenham – they are near the top four and trying to close the gap to the big, big teams in this country.
“I know that it will be a tough game but we will go there to try to get points, of course.”
Southampton were thrashed 6-1 by Liverpool in Wednesday night's Capital Cup quarter-final tie at St Mary's, but the result likely means that they will be extra motivated to bounce back on Saturday with a resounding win over Villa.
Richards and his teammates will certainly not have an easy time keeping the likes of Sadio Mane, Dusan Tadic and Graziano Pelle in check, and they will have to cut out the defensive mistakes that cost them a result against Watford if they want avoid falling to their 12th league defeat of the season.