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Friday 24 March 2017

Houllier must work out France 'notice' before taking over the reins at Villa Park

Phil Shaw

Aston Villa at last unveiled Gerard Houllier as successor to Martin O'Neill yesterday -- only for the new manager to reveal his commitments as technical director to the French Football Federation will prevent him taking charge of a Premier League game until September 26 at the earliest, when Wolverhampton Wanderers visit Villa Park.

Kevin MacDonald, who took over as caretaker manager following Martin O'Neill's untimely resignation on August 9, will continue to hold the reins when Villa travel to Stoke City on Monday night. However, MacDonald told Houllier that he wants to revert to being reserve-team coach once the former Liverpool manager arrives.

Houllier, who will be in France overseeing a meeting of club managers while his new charges head for the Potteries, hopes to pick the side for the first time when Villa face Blackburn Rovers in the Carling Cup on September 22.

This halfway-house situation is unlikely to appease those Villa supporters who have greeted the 63-year-old's Houllier's appointment with a degree of scepticism. O'Neill left on August 9, which means nearly seven weeks will have elapsed between the Derryman's exit and his replacement finally taking a league fixture. The 49-year-old MacDonald, a reluctant stop-gap who appeared happier in the development of young talent than in the media spotlight, has delivered six points from three games but also presided over Villa's elimination from Europe.

Houllier, who has agreed a three-year contract, clearly did his homework on Villa before meeting the press. "It's a club with great pedigree," he said, "and you know at some time it will come back."

It is on his contribution to the club's future, though, that Villa fans will ultimately judge Houllier. O'Neill led them to three consecutive sixth-placed finishes.

Houllier, looking relaxed, saying: "Everyone's mentioning Champions League and Europe, but I'd say let's take it one step at a time. Let's have the progress. Let's make the most of the squad we have."

"I had a good job at French FA and a safe one too. But I'm grateful to both of them for the trust they've placed in me. Their aspirations for this club made me feel I wanted to be part of it. My passion for English football has not diminished since my time at Liverpool." (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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