Houllier backing Delfouneso
Aston Villa boss Gerard Houllier has called on Nathan Delfouneso to step up and make an impact at Fulham.
Last Updated: 05/11/10 5:06pm
Aston Villa manager Gerard Houllier has called on striker Nathan Delfouneso to step up and make an impact at Fulham on Saturday.
England Under 21 international Delfouneso will make his first Premier League start at Craven Cottage in the absence of the injured John Carew, Emile Heskey and Gabriel Agbonlahor.
Carew is the latest casualty after suffering a torn calf injury in training on Thursday and is facing three to four weeks on the sidelines.
Heskey underwent an operation on his lateral knee ligament injury on Thursday and will also be out of action for a month.
Agbonlahor has returned to training following groin surgery three weeks ago but it is too early for him to be considered against the Cottagers.
"It is an ideal opportunity for young Nathan to step up. He will definitely be the main striker," said Houllier.
"Young players don't stay young all their lives. At some stage they will grow and get mature. But their career usually starts when there is an opportunity.
"I know Nathan is not a newcomer because he has already played under Martin (O'Neill) so he knows the Premier League.
"But to him maybe it is an ideal opportunity to put his footprint on things."
Houllier refuses to be fazed by the growing list of casualties at Villa Park, which also includes captain Stiliyan Petrov.
He added: "Injuries are part and parcel of the football club and that is why we need the squad. I am confident. I think we've got a good squad, a good team.
"We have to deal with things on a daily basis. I am not down. It happens. I am not devastated. In fact, I am confident."
The manager was critical of the work rate of midfielder Stephen Ireland in midweek but says he has been encouraged by his approach in training.
"He (Ireland) was better I would say this week," he said. "He showed a better commitment.
"Top level requires quality, which he has, but it also requires work rate and attitude and that probably has not been his game before.
"I will give him the time. I am patient."
Houllier admits he is a fan of Fulham captain Danny Murphy, who played under him at Liverpool.
"Danny is a player who was in every important game that we played, the finals," he said.
"He's a great passer of the ball. He can see before the others. He has an eye for the pass and can see the picture.
"He is very clever in his movement. He is a supporting player. He knows himself he is not going to run everywhere but he has skill."