Sunday 20 May 2018

Plenty of work for Houllier



New Aston Villa manager Gerard Houllier introduced himself to the players for the first time following yesterday's draw with Bolton.

Departing caretaker-manager Kevin MacDonald confirmed Houllier met the team before watching the match from the directors' box along with assistant Gary McAllister -- who was announced in his role before the match.

Houllier inherits a talented squad, but one which has been hit and miss this season following a mixed bag of results under MacDonald -- three wins, three defeats and a draw.

"Mr Houllier went down to see the players, to introduce himself and some of his team, and I'll be seeing him tomorrow morning to have a chat about things," said MacDonald. "With Mr Houllier having watched Monday's game (a 2-1 defeat at Stoke) and today's match he knows there is something to work with."

Villa, though, failed to give MacDonald the send-off he arguably deserved, despite taking a 13th-minute lead courtesy of a superb free-kick from Ashley Young.

Bolton fought their way back into the game, with captain Kevin Davies equalising 10 minutes before the break, and but for a hat-trick of fine Brad Friedel saves in the second half would have taken all three points.

MacDonald dismissed the suggestion there was any added pressure with Houllier looking on from high above and behind him. "It was no more difficult than any other Premier League game, and the players didn't think otherwise either," said MacDonald.

"My impression is that we started the game quite brightly, took the lead, were in reasonable control until we started giving possession away too cheaply. That gave them a little bit of confidence, they got the equaliser, and then in the second half they had good chances, with Brad making some good saves."

Bolton had conceded 13 goals in their previous three visits to Villa Park, yet boss Owen Coyle was naturally disappointed not to come away with the win.

"If truth be told I feel a little bit hard done by not to leave with all three points," said Coyle. "Given how everything conspired against us last week (a 4-1 defeat at Arsenal) at the Emirates, I was looking for a response, for us to bounce back, and we did that."

Sunday Independent

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