Houllier backed in Villa struggles
Aston Villa’s under-fire French supremo Gerard Houllier this week received conflicting messages from senior off-field figures at the Birmingham club as they struggle with form and squad discipline.
Villa’s shock 1-0 home defeat to fellow strugglers Wolverhampton Wanderers last Saturday left them one point above both Wolves and the EPL drop zone as recent poor form has pulled them down into the increasingly fraught battle to stay in the division.
And Houllier has been faced with numerous disciplinary problems after defenders Richard Dunne and James Collins were involved in an incident during a clearly unsuccessful team bonding exercise a fortnight ago.
Club chief executive Paul Faulkner spoke out for the 63-year-old Frenchman.
Faulkner told the BBC that “our best chance of staying up is with Gerard,” after fans unfurled a huge banner at Villa Park last weekend saying: “Had enough – Houllier out.”
Meanwhile, club director General Charles C. Krulak, the Vietnam veteran seen as the representative of Villa’s American owner Randy Lerner, told supporters website Villatalk: “I was terribly disappointed by the (Wolves) game.
“I am certainly aware of the position. Believe me, we don’t want to suffer relegation. I am not happy about where we are and I can assure you that Randy and the board want success as much as the fans.”
Krulak also said: “All of your comments are fed to Randy. The fans are not ignored at Aston Villa.”
Houllier himself said after the match: “The fans need to support the team. We are going through a difficult period at the moment.”
But he acknowledged fans’ protests, adding that they “are not happy with me and I am not happy with what we are doing.”
Houllier was clearly not happy with the behaviour of Dunne and Collins, who reportedly rowed drunkenly with the club’s training staff after a team meal on a bonding trip in a Leicestershire hotel.
He commented tersely: “The club have dealt with the incident strongly and quickly.” Both players were fined two weeks’ wages, approximately £100,000, the maximum allowed.
The club allegedly wanted the sanction to be at least twice that amount and were forced to back down after the intervention of the players’ union, the PFA.
Both players are injured and Houllier has said they will be available for selection when fit again. Striker Darren Bent stressed the duo’s importance to the side, commenting: “The quicker they are back, the better.”
Tags: Aston Villa, Gerard Houllier, EPL, Darren Bent