Monday 18 December 2017

Pioneer Houllier to reap reward

John Curtis

Gerard Houllier has been backed to bring the glory days back to Aston Villa by the man who served as his personal strategic advisor for four years during his spell in charge of Liverpool.

David Elliott has coached and worked with a host of England internationals past and present including Sol Campbell, David Seaman, Michael Owen, Steven Gerrard, Matthew Upson, Ashley Cole, Jamie Carragher and Emile Heskey. He worked alongside Houllier in helping the Reds enjoy success during his six years at Anfield and has no doubts about the qualities he will bring to Villa Park. Houllier will take charge of his first Premier League as Villa boss in this afternoon's derby clash with Wolves at Molineux.

"Houllier has vast experience at the highest level and is one of the most successful managers in terms of silverware not only in Europe, but the world," said Elliott. "He is a visionary leader, excellent man manager and consummate professional and Aston Villa are extremely fortunate to have enlisted Houllier in their quest for Champions League football.

"His capacity to embrace cutting-edge psychological techniques will leave no stone unturned in finding ways to improve not only his players' performances, but also his own considerable expertise to build on the existing talents and strengths at Aston Villa. In fact, he is a true pioneer in many ways. He was the first foreign Premier League manager to explore and develop the vitally important psychological and emotional aspects of peak performance.

"It took a brave man to introduce performance enhancement techniques to the top flight in the wake of the Eileen Drewery saga with Glenn Hoddle because anything to do with the mind back then was viewed as strictly taboo. His bold vision and resolute Anglo-French philosophy proved to be very effective in achieving a secret psychological winning edge over his competitors in bringing success to Liverpool."

But Elliott warned that Houllier will not be afraid to show his tough side to the Villa players if he thinks such action is warranted.

"Houllier can be a very generous benefactor to his people, but runs a tight and disciplined ship. If you break his honour code, watch out because he can be a fierce disciplinarian and awesome foe that rebuilt the Liverpool team that Rafa Benitez inherited, that went on to win the Champions League.

"I believe it is only a matter time before Houllier does the same at Aston Villa as he did at Liverpool, guiding them to a top-four finish and Champions League success. Houllier is a passionate connoisseur of football who loves winning and is very good at it because he takes it very seriously.

"His organisational skills and technical and tactical nous are second to none and his understanding of personal and organisational values and the amazing power of vision are exemplary."

Villa striker Gabriel Agbonlahor has returned to training after being substituted during the Carling Cup win over Blackburn with tight calves and should be fit to face Wolves. But central defender Richard Dunne is again ruled out with a knee injury although Houllier is hoping he will be fit to face Tottenham next weekend.

Wolves manager Mick McCarthy made 10 changes for the win over Notts County in the Carling Cup midweek, but he is likely to recall experienced players such as Karl Henry and Jody Craddock to his starting team.

Wolves v Aston Villa,

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