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Houllier ready for 'tremendous challenge' at Villa

Gerard Houllier is relishing the "tremendous challenge" ahead of him after being confirmed as Aston Villa's new manager.

Houllier has quit his role as technical director with the French Football Federation to become Martin O'Neill's successor.

He will take charge of Villa for the first time at Monday's Premier League clash at Stoke.

Houllier returns to the Premier League after a six-year absence since parting company with Liverpool.

He suffered health problems during his latter days at Anfield but is clearly ready for the task of building on the success brought to Villa by O'Neill.

Houllier said: "I am very happy and proud to join this great and historic club.

"It was a very difficult decision for me to leave the FFF (French Football Federation). But I could not turn down the opportunity to manage a club whose approach, both on and off the pitch, I have long admired.

"Aston Villa is one of England's biggest clubs and has an amazing set of fans. This is a tremendous challenge and one I am very much looking forward to taking on."

Houllier has still to name his assistant manager after Phil Thompson, his number two at Liverpool, rejected the chance. Villa chief executive Paul Faulkner has no doubt Houllier possesses the qualities and experience needed.

He said: "We identified two key qualities as being of crucial importance in our search for the new manager.

"They were experience of managing in the Premier League and a strategy for building on the existing strengths in our current squad. Gerard Houllier comfortably satisfies these criteria.

"In fact, he stands out as a football man who understands the ethos of our club and shares our core values.

"We look forward to working with Gerard and supporting him.

"We ask our supporters to get behind the new manager and the team as we look to build on the progress we have made over the past four years in all areas of the club."

Houllier becomes Villa's 25th manager in their 126-year history and only their second foreign manager after the Czech Jozef Venglos who was in charge for one season two decades ago.

He enjoyed success at Lens, Paris St Germain and Lyon in addition to Liverpool whom he steered to a UEFA Cup, FA Cup and League Cup treble in 2001.

He had two spells as technical director of the FFF and in the first one was a key component in his country winning the 1998 World Cup.