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Gerard Houllier - Still got it?


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New member JTC writes:

Aston Villa have appointed Gerard Houllier as their new manager - does he still have what it takes to succeed in the Premier League?

There will be a new yet familiar face occupying a Premier League dug out in the imminent future.

Gerard Houllier was unveiled as Aston Villa’s second ever foreign manager on Friday and hopes to be free to take up his match day duties by the time Villa visit Midlands rivals Wolves at the end of the month.

The Frenchman arrives with an impressive managerial CV and a history of success wherever he has been. League titles in France with PSG and Lyon either side of his spell at Liverpool combine impressively with the 6 European and domestic cup medals won during his time with the Merseyside Reds.

He has also spent a considerable period of time involved with the French national side during which he presided over the 1998 World Cup triumph, albeit as technical director.

Despite his undoubted pedigree, past achievements are no guarantee of future success and a Premiership managerial exile since 2004 has left many Villa fans pondering whether the man still has what it takes to compete in the rough and tumble of England’s top level.

Football is an ever evolving entity while football managers are often a stubborn breed. The game has a history of leaving established and competent bosses behind in a rather swift and unscrupulous fashion. Villa themselves need only look as far as Graham Taylor for an example of this brutality.

Taylor re-established the Claret & Blues as a top flight force in the late 80’s and lead them to a second place finish in 1990 before leaving to take the England job. He subsequently returned to Villa Park to succeed John Gregory 12 years later and set about trying to emulate his previous glory.

Unfortunately for Taylor and Villa, the dynamic environment of the Premier League to which he returned was a very different prospect to the romantic world of the old First Division where the two had previously worked in such harmony.

Taylor’s brand of football and attempts to operate in what had become a ferocious transfer market did not yield success and he stepped down in 2003 following a 16th place league finish.

Other clubs have also fallen foul of appointing managers with a record of past achievement only to find them unable to rekindle the magic they produced years before.

Most recently, Kevin Keegan’s mega-hyped return to Newcastle in January 2008 was expected to revitalise the subdued North East club and deliver a return to the mid-nineties flowing football that entertained and enthralled the demanding Geordie public.

The Newcastle Messiah had elected to take time out of the game following his departure from Manchester City in 2005 and on his return to football he met with a similar fate to Taylor. His gung-ho approach that had worked so well to steer Newcastle to a second place finish in 1996 was no match for the tactical minefield that encapsulated the Premier League a decade later.

Houllier has not been employed in a head honcho capacity since he left Olympique Lyonnais in 2007, although in this time he has once again been operating as the French FA’s technical director.

Advocates of the man responsible for Liverpool’s resurgence in the early part of the century would suggest maintaining a close relationship with football in this capacity qualifies him as a suitable candidate for the Villa Park hot seat, but there is a precedent to suggest this kind of upstairs role is not necessarily conducive to keeping the managerial skills current and up to date.

Howard Wilkinson operated as the English FA’s technical director from 1997-2002. He was then appointed as the man to replace Peter Reid and save Sunderland’s Premiership status. The last English manager to lift the League title (with Leeds in 1992) could only muster two wins from twenty games and the Black Cats finished the 2002-2003 season with a then record low points tally of 19.

However, there is a valid argument to the contrary. Houllier has not been without a management job for quite as long as Wilkinson had been when he returned to club football. In fact, the Thérouanne native picked up the French Ligue 1 title in his last season in charge of Lyon in 2007, his second successive triumph.

Villa owner Randy Lerner and chief executive Paul Faulkner embarked upon their search for Martin O’Neill’s replacement with an incontestable and single-minded vision regarding what they believe is required to keep the club moving on an upward curve.

Premiership experience and a strategy to build on the existing strengths of the club were deemed vital by the hierarchy. Following a stringent interview process they surmised that Gerard’s philosophy and vision is more suited to taking the club forward than some of the more obvious names that were mentioned at the time of O’Neill’s departure.

Current Liverpool heroes Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher, as well as former player and Sky pundit Jamie Redknapp, know how the 63 year old Frenchman operates and all have suggested their former Liverpool chief has the right attributes to fit Villa’s current situation.

The appointment of Houllier does represent a gamble for Aston Villa given the amount of time he has been away from the Premier League. No-one can be sure whether his style remains suitable to the latest iteration of the game or how he will acquit himself to the challenge of 2010 Premier League football.

However, sometimes gambles can payoff and the reassuring aspect from a Villa fan’s perspective should be that this is a systematically thought out, calculated gamble. Houllier has convinced the Villa board that he is the best available option and that he has the capabilities to lead Aston Villa to glory. It is now his job to convince the Villa fans that he still has what it takes to succeed in the Premiership.

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.. Every appointment is a gamble, there are simply no guarantee's.

quite a lot of criteria has to come together and that is the tricky bit.

I would suggest with his wealth of experience he has as good a chance as any.

Probably the Villa manager with the best cv to date, so i don't know what more we can do.

He just has to get on with it.

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Totally agree with TRO - every appointment is a gamble. Houllier is probably one of the most experienced and successful managers that were available to us. Let's see how he goes....I'm looking forward to it :)

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I certainly wouldn't disagree that he was the most suitable choice of all the available candidates. I would hope, and I am confident, that he was awarded the role based on his vision for moving the club forward rather than his CV - his intention for the future is more likely to yield success than past achievements. I have a lot of faith in Randy Lerner and Paul Faulkner and if Gerard is considered to satisfy their criteria then I am in full support of the appointment.

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.. Every appointment is a gamble, there are simply no guarantee's.

quite a lot of criteria has to come together and that is the tricky bit.

I would suggest with his wealth of experience he has as good a chance as any.

Probably the Villa manager with the best cv to date, so i don't know what more we can do.

He just has to get on with it.

Totally agree TRO. Personally I'm also very pleased that we did not simply appoint one of the obvious candidates in a matter of days.

Although many fans, including myself, were initially critical of what seemed to be a drawn out process I think we have made a clever and considered choice.

I see the point JLT is trying to make but I think that Houllier was and hopefully is a far better manager than those he mentioned and crucially I don't think any of them actually won anything. Houllier's CV speaks for itself.

Added to that what he has done in the last three years could be considered to have enhanced his skills and knowledge so we actually have a more complete manager.

Houllier brings two things to the table which sadly MON, good manager though he is, simply does not have:

1) A deep knowledge of European and probably world football together with the necessary contacts.

2) The name. People have heard of Houllier so he has the gravitas and respect to attract the right players and staff. Put simply he is a draw in his own right. MON's draw is strictly UK only.

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