Writer: Jonny Gould
Date:Tuesday September 7 2010
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It's not the appointment I particularly wanted but Gérard Houllier becomes the first Aston Villa manager hired by Randy Lerner.
Our American owner wanted a man with both Premier League experience and an international profile. Houllier ticks both of those boxes - but then again so do many other inappropriate figures in the game. He looks like Inspector Clouseau too.
To make matters more difficult, he'll be joined by Liverpool firebrand, Phil Thompson. A one club man through and through, Thommo will frankly look out of place at Villa Park.
His heart won't be in the Villa job. He'll be one of those journeyman second-in-command sorts that you see at so many clubs these days. Think Ray Wilkins at Chelsea and Pat Rice at Arsenal. The big difference is: Thompson is indelibly Red and nothing but nothing will ever make him Villa.
If the partnership succeeds, Thommo will find his way back to Anfield; if they fail there'd be a resounding 'you can keep him' from the Anfield faithful.
And what does Thompson's appointment do for Kevin MacDonald? Caretaker manager in the wake of Martin O'Neill's shock resignation, MacDonald's fifteen years at Villa gives him a special relationship with so many players and staff in the club.
Thommo and Mac will have to make use of their common ground: they were once both Liverpool players during the glory years at Anfield.
Houllier is a spikey, divisive figure with a history of buying terrible players at Liverpool including Bruno Cheyrou, Titi Camara and Salif Diao.
Then again, he did produce a team which won the FA Cup, League Cup, UEFA Cup and finished fourth in the Premier League - all in one season (so technically qualifying for Europe in four different ways!)
His Anfield progress was disrupted by a heart problem. Nevertheless, he did make a full recovery and led Lyon to two French Ligue Championnats.
I don't want to be too critical - but I just have a bad feeling about this. It smells of a kneejerk appointment of the small pool of available bosses.
If O'Neill's untimely departure was designed to cause Villa damage, then the Ulsterman certainly put the club on the backfoot.
Let's get behind Houllier because we have to - but Randy should keep one eye on the soul of the club as well as our supposed constituency of the watching football world.
I mean, Houllier and Thompson have literally all the trophy winning credentials between them - it's just with Villa Park as the setting, they don't half look like mercenary chancers to me.
Date:Tuesday September 7 2010
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