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Can we go forward with Gerard Houllier?

Can we go forward with Gerard Houllier?

Things have gone a bit 'Ooh La La` down at Villa Park thanks to the arrival of Frenchman, Gerard Houllier. We all knew the name and it was quite certainly somebody with experience of managing in the Premier League…
But it still left some of us scratching our heads and thinking Randy Lerner`s finally lost it.

When the General told us fans that Randy & Paul would be searching the pool of managers by way of those with Premier League experience, it didn`t exactly throw up a huge and exicting bunch of candidates. There were the usual suspects in Jol, Moyes and Curbishley. And there was some foreigners still trying to use the press to show their interest in the job like Koeman & Bradley. And there was even Sven Goran bloody Erikkson!
But it was the Frenchman`s name that caught everyone off guard. Not the first name on everybody`s lips and it certainly divided some fans, but either way it was a brave and very interesting manoeuvre by the board.

Gerard Houiller, the former Liverpool manager. During his re-building of the Anfield he did win trophies, he won three of them in one season to exact. But it was his failure to push Liverpool up the league table and then the failure to qualify for the Champions League that saw his end. It`s been six years since 'Mr H` (as so christened by the General in his thread) had left Liverpool with the doom-mongers swirling about negative tactics, unattractive football, the abuse of the youth policy and comments about the lack of support from the fans. Six years. That wasn`t all that long ago, but in football, well that feels like a lifetime ago!

The here and now, at Aston Villa, to say things were in disarray, is no understatement.

Martin O`Neill, 'The Messiah,` had just walked out on us with five days left until the start of the season. Once the media frenzy had calmed down focus turned to how we were to go about picking up the pieces and salvaging something from the coming season. With all Martin`s back room staff going with him, it was left to youth team couch and long time servant of the club, Kevin MacDonald to step up and bear the cross while the search began for the new manager.

During Kevin`s time as caretaker manager, we have to be kind. In an atmosphere where the fans had questions and the daggers were out he really did step in to line of fire to help steady the ship. Results weren`t fantastic and although I`m sure Glensider is still wiping away a few tears after that Newcastle trip, they weren`t overly bad.

So what if lighting struck twice and Rapid Vienna knocked us out of the Europa League? Two wins a draw and two losses from his five Premier League games is what matters. If I was the new manager coming into this new environment I would want to be steadying the ship at home rather than gallivanting in some second-tier UEFA League Europa Cup or whatever guise it`s in now. Without taking all of whatever glamour is contained in this competition, yes it would be nice to have a good run and would be lovely to win it. But I really don`t care about it enough to have it a distraction from the matters at home.

Instead Houllier is coming into to a club that is in eighth place, four points from second and still very much in the running at these early hours of the season. So for this, Kevin MacDonald gets my thanks, my respect and a huge pat on the back.

But now, he`s here. Gerard Houllier is the new manager of Aston Villa and it`s time to start thinking, can he take us forward? I could just save you and myself a lot of time and give you the short answer to this: Yes he can - because he`s not Martin O`Neill, but there`s just a little more to it than that.

That statement does sound overly offensive to good old Martin, but on the contrary it`s a veiled compliment.

What is the mark of a great manager? Trophies, yes. But there is one more key ingredient to what boards of directors will look at that perhaps someone of a fan`s perceptive would not, and that being the ability to leave a club in a better condition than he what he gained it in.

When history looks back at Aston Villa it will look upon Martin O`Neill`s tenure with a smile. He will be the manager that took us from languishing in the mid-table and beyond to real contenders constantly battling in the higher echelons of the league. Three six place finishes on the trot and if not for some of what can be comfortably be described as 'bad refereeing decisions,` we could have had one, possibly two trophies in the bag by now. Is that not a fair account of his 'success?` It`s easy to just think of the end as an example of the man but it doesn`t mean he didn`t help this club forward. Granted he was one-dimensional, had no plan B and completely lost the dressing room, but on the whole his CV has improved with Aston Villa FC listed as previous employers.

Back to Gerard though, and it`s because of O`Neill`s excellent work and cataclysmic descent that Houiller will find his time here so enjoyable.

I mean look at the squad he is inheriting. We have some excellent players capable of beating anybody; we`ve beaten everybody and looked good doing it for Christ sake! All the top four have been beatable to us in recent years thanks to the talents of the team. Richard Dunne is as good as anybody in central defence and we`ve got Collins & Cuellar pushing him. Two great full backs capable of defending and attacking, even if one of them doesn`t like showing it sometimes. Petrov`s legs might be failing him but he definitely has ability. In Agbonlahor, Young & Downing we`ve three young lads all on the fringes of the England team. Then we`ve got Albrighton, Delph, Delfouneseo, Clark, Bannan and countless others showing real potential and real promise that they can cut big time. Even Stephen Ireland, if rightly used, is a fantastic asset to us.

The only reason we haven`t pushed on from this sixth place spot is that this is Martin O`Neill`s peak. Things got comfortable. We didn`t even have to guess the team, it was just a given the same XI would play. The fringe players wouldn`t get a look in. No wonder O`Neill never wanted to update to the dug out from the smoking shelter it is now, he wanted it to serve as even more of a punishment to players he`d fallen out with. No plan B and at times no plan A. Things had stagnated with Martin and it was time for him to go. He should have realised this at the end of the season and walked away with grace rather than the shambolic low blow he sent our way.

But still, for all your good and for all your bad, thank you Martin.

With Houiller, we`ve something new, something fresh! Players are only written on the team sheets in pencil nowadays. Places are up for grabs and the previously excluded ones have a chance to impress again. The players have already seen from Wednesday`s match against Blackburn that they will get a chance and things will be different. I mean we saw a change of tactics, we saw three substitutions and we saw us fight for the game.

What we saw was some fresh ideas.

That is the only, single thing that we need to start winning again. This is what happens in football, after 3-5 years people suss you out, you run out of new things to try and things just start slipping.

For those worrying about how his French contacts will affect our youth system, don`t! As long as we have Kevin MacDonald around Houllier will be forced into listening to him as his stock has risen at the club to a position of respect. Houllier is simply an experienced international manager who brings with him bags of ideas and new things to try.

Since O`Neill`s departure I`ve heard some crazy predictions from the Villa fans. We`ll be fighting relegation was about the most ridiculous of them but with a few choice additions from 'Mr H` this team is good enough to push on THIS YEAR. We have all the ability we need, we just need the support to match.

Let`s pack out Villa Park and let`s find our voice.


Date:Saturday September 25 2010
Time: 4:14PM


To be honest, i think 6th will be good this year, We have spend £0, lost our manager, everything has been chaos for us. A new manager cant do well if he has another mans team who are use to playing different tactics and style...Houllier will put his tactics and style of play into the team and it will gradually take effect which some people dont realise. He will get players he wants in the summet and with the youth coming up and a good manager who will make changes and bring something different which houllier is we will be a force and then go for fourth. So two good cup runs + a 6th finish is i think the best we can hope for, maybe 5th also.
25/09/2010 16:25:00
Could always be worse, we could be bottom instead of Everton
25/09/2010 17:06:00
Yes 6th and 5th
25/09/2010 18:37:00
i would take sixth.....and be absolutely jolly with fifth but if we managed some shrewed buys in January and we ended up fourth..bloody hell.... realistically tho, i think 6th would be a great season...... cant believe i said that....given that football used to be top 3 not too long ago....... more than Hoolies ..i think we should be looking at the type of players we have and there are a few that do not meet the standard that will take us "forward" . on the other hand..we must keep the likes of Ash and Gabby and some of the bright youngsters. January is not a good transfer period but with Hoolies global contacts and network, i would'nt be suprised if he is already thinking ahead to January... Can he take us forward? I sure hope so.....that is why we brought him in....
25/09/2010 18:43:00
We could go forward under Houllier. I sincerely hope we do. After all, I've been calling for a manager who can take us forward for almost two years. But at the same time, we might not. We may even go backwards (although I would blame a manager who was here for four years and spent profligately, more than I'd blame one who was here for a far shorter period and had nowhere near the same funds to spend). There is no doubt in my mind that any manager of Aston Villa has the raw materials at his disposal to take us forward - provided investment in the future rather than short-term 'success' is the strategy. Only time will tell if Houllier can do this job.
25/09/2010 22:30:00
Alba (no offence mate) but that is one bloody long paragraph to say absolutely **** all.
26/09/2010 01:15:00
Pleasure reading this, excellent work. At the moment we look better than Pool and Everton so 6th seems reasonable to me.
26/09/2010 07:26:00
It's just when I look at this team I see so much potential. With a couple of extra faces in certain positions we clearly have the right ingredients, but we're just missing the winners attitude to go with it. How often do we sit back after taking a 1-0 lead? We need to be going out there every week on the hunt for goals. Yes we will inevitably concede more but we'd outscore our opponents playing OUR own brand of football dropping this image of us as a counter attacking team and really bringing back some great games to Villa Park. We have the right players at Villa, but we as a whole club, everyone from Randy, the board, the manager, the players, the fans and tea ladies, need to change our mentality and get being the team to do it. Which again highlights my point last week of the need for a club anthem.
26/09/2010 11:22:00
i don't care what the final result ends up we're *****in *****e 1-1 at the mo
26/09/2010 15:25:00
2-1 ....Heskey again.........Hoolies would be very happy with the result...........right now i dont care about the performance..... We've won away....won a derby....and Heskey scored a fantastic goal!!!
26/09/2010 16:02:00
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