French revolution finally begins at Villa
New Aston Villa supremo Gerard Houllier finally took his place in the Villa Park dug-out for the Carling Cup tie against Blackburn Rovers last week.
And the Frenchman’s substitutions and use of his striking resources – i.e. former England striker Emile Heskey – have been credited with the side’s victory over Blackburn and a hard-earned win at Molineux over West Midlands rivals Wolverhampton Wanderers.
The 63-year-old finally signed a three-year contract last week. He said he had “shaken hands” with the club’s American owner Randy Lerner on September 8th and the signing of the contract was just a “formality” after that.
Houllier claimed that he had undergone a similar process when he took over the Liverpool manager’s job. He said: “I think at Liverpool, I did not sign until November or December.”
The deal will take him to the end of the 2012/13 season.
Villa had to come from behind to overcome Blackburn in a re-match of last season’s Carling Cup semi-final second leg.
The Villains won 6-4 that night. But although last week’s game couldn’t hope to replicate that drama, Heskey’s introduction from the bench was Houllier’s first significant managerial decision.
It worked within seconds, as Heskey found the net with a cross-cum-shot to draw Villa level. And a brace from Ashley Young sealed a 3-1 victory.
Houllier said of Heskey afterwards: “With Emile, it’s a matter of confidence. He knows I like him – I signed him for Liverpool.”
The new Villa boss - and the club’s fans - will have liked Heskey even more after his stunning 88th-minute header snatched a 2-1 victory over Wolves.
Villa went ahead through Stuart Downing midway through the first half but conceded a soft equaliser on the hour when Matt Jarvis’s cross from the left evaded attackers and defenders alike and found the net.
But Heskey, in his first start in a Villa shirt since March, powered home Stephen Warnock’s cross with two minutes left.
The win sees Villa up to fifth place in the EPL, ahead of Birmingham rivals West Bromwich Albion on goal difference.
Houllier has announced that he will keep Bulgarian international midfielder Stilian Petrov as club captain.
Petrov took over the armband from Gareth Barry two seasons ago and Houllier said: “The captain is not only the leader on the field. He is a leader by example.”
Villa face a tricky trip to Tottenham this coming Saturday at 3pm. And injury doubts remain over the fitness of frontman Gabriel Agbonlahoor.
Agbonlahoor missed the early part of the season with a calf injury. And he barely lasted 30 minutes of the Carling Cup win over Blackburn before succumbing to a groin problem.
Houllier said: “My main concern is Gabby. We will have to investigate a bit more. The calf problem has gone. Now its gone up his body,” said Houllier, before adding, possibly mischievously, “I hope it doesn’t get much higher.”
Other injury doubts John Carew (back) and Richard Dunne (knee) are expected to be available for the North London trip.
Tags: Aston Villa, Gerard Houllier, Villa, Ashley Young, Stuart Downing, Stephen Warnock, Stilian Petrov, Gareth Barry, John Carew, Richard Dunne