Houllier should be perfect match for Villa
A tricky start to the season in which manager Martin O’Neill left before a ball was kicked, midfielder James Milner joined Manchester City and the club limped out of the Europa League, Aston Villa were in need of steady hands. Gerard Houllier should be just the man.
The 63-year-old Frenchman, who won five trophies with Liverpool and three French league titles, has swapped his job as technical director of the French Football Federation (FFF) for the Villa hot seat and brings a wealth of experience with him.
Many ardent Liverpool fans will point to Houllier’s Anfield arrival in 1998 as the dawn of an important era at the club whereby a new attitude was installed and success was soon to follow.
A five-year plan included the exit of big names such as Paul Ince, David James and Steve McManaman and the arrival of modest signings like Sami Hyypia, Dietmar Hamann and Stephane Henchoz, who were to leave a big impression on the club.
Then came a League Cup, FA Cup and UEFA Cup treble in 2001, followed by a Community Shield and UEFA Super Cup. He has also won a Ligue 1 title with Paris St Germain in 1986 and two more with Olympique Lyon in 2006 and 2007.
Aston Villa are probably not in need of such an overhaul, having enjoyed a relatively successful season last time around courtesy of some exciting football from English youngsters like Ashley Young, Gabriel Agbonlahor and Milner, but they must continue to progress.
An erratic start to the new season, in which Villa have won two Premier League matches and lost the other 6-0 to Newcastle United, while also making that early Europa League exit, will mean Houllier must get to grips quickly despite a six-year absence from English soccer.
Having travelled the world in his capacity with the FFF, Houllier will arrive with an arsenal of contacts in the game and his knowledge will not be lost on the younger members of the Villa squad.
Transfer-wise, signings such as El-Hadj Diouf and Bruno Cheyrou did not pay off at Anfield, but others like Hyypia and Henchoz, relative unknowns when they arrived at Anfield, will be encouraging to Villa fans.
His most immediate challenge will be Stoke City away on Monday.
PHOTO: Olympique Lyon’s coach Gerard Houllier smiles after securing the Ligue 1 title at the Gerland stadium in Lyon April 28, 2007. REUTERS/Robert Pratta