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Gérard Houllier - Au Revoir


blandy
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Soon another name will get to have the privilege of managing Aston Villa Football Club, The new manager will, in all likelihood have the opportunity in the closed season to assess and rebuild the squad here, and will be able to set the team up in the way he wants, after a period of pre-season friendlies, training sessions and a fair bit of “getting to know you” time.

None of those things was available to Gérard Houllier when he joined Villa in early September last year. Instead he was brought in after the shock walk out of Martin O’Neill (in timing if not in eventuality) and had to take the controls of a club that was reeling and veering in the wake of MO’N’s departure.

In such circumstances things were never likely to run altogether smoothly. The club had perhaps been wrong footed, and whilst the efforts they went to to try and identify and recruit MO’N’s successor were thorough and diligent, the search took longer than ideal and left supporters and players restless in the uncertainty.

These were the cards Gérard accepted as his hand. To be frank he didn’t play them well. He spoke of the club that had finished 6th in the preceding 3 seasons as being a natural 7-12th placed club. Perhaps, given the situation, that was a realistic objective for the season ahead, but it certainly got the goat of the fans - it sounded unambitious, it sounded, to some, like a slight on their team and a pre-prepared excuse not to aim higher.

There were also some issues regarding players who had previously played under Gérard at Liverpool - Friedel, Warnock and Heskey. He certainly seemed to revitalise Emile, who along with Marc Albrighton was a dynamic force in our attack. Brad Friedel remained the true professional, kept his head down, and concentrated on keeping goal. But in Stephen Warnock we saw that things were not all sweetness and light. Warnock was exiled, seemingly never to return.

Results were up and down in the early months, and away performances were largely poor, and if the performance wasn’t poor, then we still managed to lose.

The meeting with his former club, Liverpool, at Anfield on a Monday night 3 months into his time in charge at Villa was to prove another débâcle. Not only was the team given a shoeing by Liverpool, themselves struggling, not only did the players look utterly demotivated, but then Houllier added salt to the wounds by firstly completely ignoring the Villa supporters who had been singing and cheering all night for their team, for HIS team, in favour of opting to applaud the fans of his former club on the Kop, and then compounding the error by post match comments appearing to suggest that he was happy to lose to Liverpool.

Unsurprisingly a furore errupted. Angry supporters, a media that’s always ready to jump on a story and then the damage limitation exercise. The whole escapade was revealing. It showed several things. Clearly Gérard had, in part, come back to English football to try and prove something to his former club, a club whose supporters he holds in high regard, and fair enough. But that drive led him to show, perhaps, at best, a disregard for the Club, players and supporters of his present employers. He sort of apologised, but didn’t seem to acknowledge, or maybe even realise, that he had been unwise.

Efforts to repair the damaged relationship with us Villans followed - the club tie, the thanks to the fans after games. These efforts looked stage managed, but things began to pick up, to move on. The FA cup gave us good wins over Sheffield United and Blackburn and maybe, just maybe, a good cup run could be the saviour of our season?

But like that game with moles and mallets, as soon as you pop one on the head, another appears. At a team bonding session it was alleged that Collins and Dunne had over lubricated themselves tonsorially and let rip with their views on training methods and coaches.

It was evident that perhaps too many changes had been made, too quickly. yest at the same time there was an old Houllier habit of blaming others - a defeat to Bolton in March was blamed on Martin O’Neill’s defensive zonal organisation. In truth while the defending all season was largely poor, it was bad finishing that cost us that game. Darren Bent a welcome January signing, who scored the goals to keep us up and whose finishing is normally so good, had missed 3 clear chances, Stewart Downing another and there were numerous other near things. In Downing and Bent, Heskey before he was injured, in Bannan, Albrighton, Clark and others from the youth set up we could all see there was talent at the club. The results were not matching the sum of the squads parts. For every performance like the 2-2 draw at home to Man Utd, where a injury hit and youthful Villa side tore them apart, playing an attractive brand of football, before tiring and succumbing to 2 late goals, there was an utterly woeful performance, like the defeat at Man City in late December, in which the players didn’t seem to know what to do, to care, or to be playing “for the manager”.

And it was Manchester City who played a part in the next foot/gun/ bang moment. Drawn away to them in the FA Cup, Houllier put out a depleted side. Despite some good football, the side was shown up and then dispatched by a full strength City side.

Fans were again furious - there were only 2 league games in March, why rest players? That we then lost the next game at Bolton only made things worse. And the league table wasn’t looking pretty.

Following a grim home defeat to Wolves, the fans turned on Gérard Houllier big style. I’ve never heard or seen a Villa crowd turn on a manager with such intensity. If I thought in December that his time was up, it was clear at the end of that Wolves game that there was going to be no way back. While feeling for someone subjected to that level of antipathy, in what is after all, only a game, and must be a dreadful experience to undergo...well it just wasn’t working.

After thinking that Houllier would never regain the sympathy of the supporters, and that he had brought much of the situation on himself, things took an altogether more serious turn. Houllier was taken ill with chest pains, a legacy of previous problems, and no doubt exacerbated by the reality of his working situation. Thankfully he appears to be on the mend, I truly hope so, and perhaps too it’s made a few people realise that there’s a lot more important things than games of football. Certainly the best wishes of all Villa fans, and many more from the wider world are with Gérard Houllier.

In his enforced absence, the team brightened towards the end of the season, probably co-incidentally. Though we lost another local derby, this time to Albion, we managed to win against Liverpool and Arsenal, and end up somewhere in the middle of that “7th - 12th” place bracket the Houllier mentioned back in September. Throughout most of the season, ironically, we’d have snatched anyone’s hand off, offering 9th.

If I was to summarise my feelings about the time Gérard Houllier spent at Villa it would be along the lines of “a decent man, with a philosophy about the way to play that game that I understand and like, but one who through circumstance and his own flaws, as well as his strengths managed to live up, and down to all the expectations of him” which as summaries go is pretty muddled.

It’s undoubtedly the right thing that he leaves the club, football’s not worth dying for, or getting ill for. And Aston Villa needs a change, too.

Salut et bonne santé, Monsieur Houllier.

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Sorry I think that's too subjective. There are quite a lot of things that are your opinion in there when it would be much better to just state the facts. e.g.

post match comments appearing to suggest that he was happy to lose to Liverpool.

To you maybe.

Gérard had, in part, come back to English football to try and prove something to his former club

According to who?

And you've completely missed out any of the good things he's done for the club over the season such as exiled Warnock (which you list as a bad thing) and other underperforming players, revolutionise the training methods, modernise the style of play and implement a continental style passing game on the players forcing them to improve their technique, gave us a very productive January transfer window, beat Arsenal and Liverpool in a row while they were both fighting for something.

For a front page article that should be fairly objective, you've managed to make it sound just like an anti-Houllier rant.

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Sorry I think that's too subjective. There are quite a lot of things that are your opinion in there when it would be much better to just state the facts. e.g.

post match comments appearing to suggest that he was happy to lose to Liverpool.

To you maybe.

Gérard had, in part, come back to English football to try and prove something to his former club

According to who?

And you've completely missed out any of the good things he's done for the club over the season such as exiled Warnock (which you list as a bad thing) and other underperforming players, revolutionise the training methods, modernise the style of play and implement a continental style passing game on the players forcing them to improve their technique, gave us a very productive January transfer window, beat Arsenal and Liverpool in a row while they were both fighting for something.

For a front page article that should be fairly objective, you've managed to make it sound just like an anti-Houllier rant.

This isn't the BBC, there's no expectation of objectivity. But I would suggest, objectively of course, that many more fans will remember Houllier for Liverpool and Man City than for 'revolutionising [the players] training methods' or implementing 'a continental passing game', neither of which brought any manifest rewards in the time the he was manager.

I think that piece sums up how I remember Houllier's tenure pretty well. Stumbling from one gaffe to another, with occasional optimism frequently shattered by another gross error of judgement.

Who knows what he might have done with a pre-season? It would certainly have given him a fairer crack at the whip. But in all honesty I'm quite relieved we're not going to find out. The signs were there that this particular relationship was never destined to work out.

Thank you for your efforts Gerard, you seem a thoroughly decent man, and I wish you good health now and in the future.

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Sorry I think that's too subjective. There are quite a lot of things that are your opinion in there when it would be much better to just state the facts....
Fair point, darrenm. Perhaps I should have been clearer that the article is my personal take on things, a kind of filtered perception, where the "filter" is just my outlook.

You have a point that (as with Kevin Mac in temporary charge, before him) his philosophy was to play a more easy on the eye brand of football. Again, it's just my opinion, but if he had managed to be successful more often with this type of game, then I'd have been delighted. Unfortunately, again in my view, the best results, and performances in his charge were pretty much all, but not completely, when we played as we had done under MO'N - The games at Arsenal, at Home to Man City, at home to Liverpool for example, where we defended resolutely and used pace and movement on the break. The problem was perhaps not the games where we were underdogs, but where we might have been expecting a good result.

He did well with the younger players, his experiment with Ash in the middle worked for Ash, but not the team and he got more from Heskey and Downing than MO'N had done.

The circumstances of his inheriting a squad with no opportunity to change it meant that it was the older players, by and large, that he struggled with. Had he been able to remove them in a pre-season, things might have been different, but he wasn't and they weren't. His record at Villa was mediocre at the end of the day. Nice man, sure, nice ideals, absolutely. It just didn't work out, sadly for all concerned.

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But like that game with moles and mallets, as soon as you pop one on the head, another appears. At a team bonding session it was alleged that Collins and Dunne had over lubricated themselves tonsorially and let rip with their views on training methods and coaches.

THEY LUBRICATED THEMSELVES WITH HAIR?!

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Its a decent post in fairness, a couple of things i would pick up on.

1. Houllier said if i was going to lose to anybody, Liverpool would be the most palatable or words to that extent.....No where in that kind of statement did it allude to Losing to Liverpool was ok.... that was a manufactured myth by fans who didn't fancy his stewardship.

2. we had some great results against Man city and Man utd ( under O'Neill), where the football was panicky and result orientated, the football was not believeable and lacked technique.... but we got over the line.

That football Houllier was trying to change to make us more acceptable to the masses as opposed to just B6. I thought he was too old to be coming in to a club like ours and make such radical changes.... despite me welcoming the changes ....he did'nt have enough time and too many fires to put out.

LETS HOPE THE NEW MAN CARRIES THE THEORY ON.

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I suspect the OP is expressing very well what most Villa fans felt, to a greater or lesser extent.

A smaller proportion of supporters argue strongly that GH was revolutionising our training/scouting talent from abroad/implementing a continental style passing game.

This belief seems to have survived strongly, in the face of a lot of contrary evidence out there on the pitch and behind the scenes at the club.

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Sorry I think that's too subjective. There are quite a lot of things that are your opinion in there when it would be much better to just state the facts. e.g.

post match comments appearing to suggest that he was happy to lose to Liverpool.

To you maybe.

Gérard had, in part, come back to English football to try and prove something to his former club

According to who?

And you've completely missed out any of the good things he's done for the club over the season such as exiled Warnock (which you list as a bad thing) and other underperforming players, revolutionise the training methods, modernise the style of play and implement a continental style passing game on the players forcing them to improve their technique, gave us a very productive January transfer window, beat Arsenal and Liverpool in a row while they were both fighting for something.

For a front page article that should be fairly objective, you've managed to make it sound just like an anti-Houllier rant.

You can't whinge about it being subjective and then state exiling Warnock is a good thing... that's a very subjective statement!

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But like that game with moles and mallets, as soon as you pop one on the head, another appears. At a team bonding session it was alleged that Collins and Dunne had over lubricated themselves tonsorially and let rip with their views on training methods and coaches.

THEY LUBRICATED THEMSELVES WITH HAIR?!

bah! Tonsillarily, I meant. Bloomin' auto complete. Spotters badge. :)
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Good post Blandy. It still amazes me that people stick up for Houllier and his so-called better football. It was poor. I get so fed up with those who view the last two games as the barometer for the season. Houllier was dealt some tough cards thanks to O'Neill's walkout but he also made some clangers. He's now gone and I think it's best all round.

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This is going to be my only post on this biased thread.

GH took ever from our former manager, who resigned with 5 days to go to the new season and dropped us totally in the fertiliser. That manager spent a fortune on average players. When Lerner did not want to fund him anymore unless he did something about the high wages and solvency, he didn't want to know.

GH was brought in to sort the issues out that Lerner wanted from our previous manager.

He was faced with an incredible injury period. He had to deal with player power and players that did not want to give their best for our beloved club. He maybe tried to change the style of football too quickly for players who were too thick and lacking in technical capability. However under all those issues, he managed to get players to pass the ball to each other and retain the ball, instead of pumping the ball up the middle and losing possession. He suffered very badly from not havig a good goalscorer for half a season. He got Bent in on the first opportunity to buy players. Bent made a big difference to the team. He got Walker in and he did a great job for us. Makoun is a very imtelligent player who is too good for some of the average players that are now being shipped out.

Had he not had his illness, I am convinced that Lerner would have spent the money on players for him, and I am certain, he would have got us some excellent players in. I am convinced that if he was well enough, he would have got us into the top 6 next year.

I am a Staunch villa supporter since 1956 and I feel ashamed that so many Villa supporters are so blinkered and so vicious about the man. He did a very good job under very difficult circumstances.

Enough said and I certainly do not agree with the moderator who started this thread, who I think is biased.

I genuinley wish GH good health and am so sorry that he has been forced to leave in such a difficult situation for him. I think Lerner had no choice but relieve him of his duties for health reasons and I respect that.

I support the club and all who sail in her. That includes the Directors, Manager, Players and whoever is involved in our beloved club.

Anyway. enough said and you can now say what you like, but I will not be posting back on this thread, but I feel it is only fair to put my side of the coin. I just hope whoever comes in as the new manager, you do not treat the next manager in the same disgusting way.

UTV and remember Randy is the person funding our club and you should be supporting him and the people he employs.

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Biased?! Ha! Since when were mods not allowed to have opinions. The idea that we shouldn't have concerns or worries about a manager just because Randy appointed him is ludicrous. I'd be much more concerned if people weren't upset after the season we've just had. I wish him the best of health, but Villa and Houllier were a poor match.

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This is going to be my only post on this biased thread.

GH took ever from our former manager, who resigned with 5 days to go to the new season anmd dropped us totally in the fertiliser. That manager spent a fortune on average players. When Lerner did not want to fund him anymore unless he did something about the high wages and solvency, he didn't want to know.

GH was brought in to sort the issues out that Lerner wanted from our previous manager.

He was faced with an incredible injury period. He had to deal with player power and players that did not want to give their best for our beloved club. He maybe tried to change the style of football too quickly for players who were to thick and lacking in technical capabilty. However under all those issues, he managed to get players to pass the ball to each other and retaining the ball, instead of pumping the ball up the middle and losing possession. He suffered very badly from anybody who could score goals. He got Bent in on the first opportunity to buy players. Bent made a big difference to the team. He got Walker in and he did a great job for us. Makoun is a very imtelligent player who is too good for some of the average players that are now being shipped out.

Had he not had his illness, I am convinced that Lerner would have spent the money on players for him, and I am certain, he would have got us some excellent players in. I am convinced that if he was well enough, he would have got us into the top 6 next year.

I am a Staunch villa supporter since 1956 and I feel ashamed that so many Villa supporters are so blinkered and so vicious about the man. He did a very good job under very difficult circumstances.

Enough said and I certainly do not agree with the moderator who started this thread, who I think is biased.

I genuinly wish GH health and am so sorry that he ahs been forced to leave in such a difficult situation for him. Ithink Lerner had no choice but releive him of his duties for health reasons and I respect that.

I support the club and all who sail in her. That includes the Directors, Manager, Players and whoever is involved in our beloved club.

Anyway. enough said and you can now say what you like, but I will not be posting back on this thread,

but I feel it is only fair to put my side of the coin. i just hope whoever comes in as the new manager, you do not treat the next manager in the same disgusting way.

UTV and remember Randy is the person funding our club and you should be supporting him and the people he employs.

I also 2nd this.

Ive seen post after post demanding Houllier be removed on this site, including many on the General's thread..Yet if one post goes up that was pro Houllier and showing support, it quickly gets moved away by the moderators..

This is a one sided view which I do not share..

UTV! :winkold:

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GH's legacy to Villa will be the loss of Friedel, Young and Downing. When a team loses faith that they are going to progress the players leave. No different to the DOL years. But that GH was quicker.

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Ive seen post after post demanding Houllier be removed on this site, including many on the General's thread..Yet if one post goes up that was pro Houllier and showing support, it quickly gets moved away by the moderators..

This is a one sided view which I do not share..

You are smalljob, I claim my 5 pounds.

I haven't seen any action from the mods that you prescribe is true. Utter nonsense.

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