Houllier targets 'new era'
Frenchman turned down other jobs and targets top-four finish
By James Riach. Last Updated: 11/09/10 1:52pm
Houllier: New era
New Aston Villa manager Gerard Houllier claims his arrival at the club marks the start of a new era.
The experienced French coach was unveiled by the Midlands club on Friday afternoon, as owner Randy Lerner has handed him a three-year deal following the departure of Martin O'Neill just days before the start of the season.
Houllier, 63, has not yet formally taken charge at Villa Park as he is still negotiating his end of contract with current employers the French Football Federation, and will not be in the dugout for Monday's clash with Stoke City.
The former Liverpool and Lyon boss hopes to be at the ground for Villa's clash with Bolton on 18th September, but may not be in full control until the Blackburn tie on 22nd September.
Houllier, who was last involved in English football back in 2004, was convinced the move was right because of the club's ambition, and says the chemistry at Villa persuaded him.
"I'm pleased, I'm proud, I'm hungry, I'm healthy and I can't wait to come," he said.
"I had several offers but it looked as if Aston Villa like to do things as a team. I like to work as a team and I can feel that we are going to be in this together.
"That was the click - the chemistry, the vision, the value, the quality of the club, the fanbase - everything is here.
"It's a new era, in terms of training, in terms of habits, in terms of everything.
"I'm fully aware that the competition is harsher between 2004 and now, but this is exciting."
Houllier quashed talk that he had been out of the Premier League for too long, and when asked on his ambitions at Villa, he indicated that the club needs time to challenge the biggest teams in the top-flight.
"Of course the mentality has evolved and changed, I can cope with that," he added.
"The top four or five have taken a stride and we are below. What we need is to improve that position. To improve that position sometimes needs time. We'll do our best to finish in the best position we can."
On a top-four berth, he remarked: "The team will probably improve in the long run and if we are spared by injuries and also manage to get one or two players at the right time, then why not?
"But the aim of course is Europe, places of honours and silverware.
"We know where we want to go, we know it will take time, that's why I was passionate about getting back into management.
"I had offers from other countries but here I feel it is going to be something gradual and interesting."
The Frenchman revealed that Kevin MacDonald will continue to take charge of first-team affairs before he officially starts, but says MacDonald has not taken him up on his offer of an assistant manager's role, preferring to take charge of the reserves.
Asked if he was disappointed MacDonald did not accept the offer as assistant, Houllier said: "Yes for him because in some capacity as an assistant manager he would have been helpful for me and probably would have learned a bit more of the trade.
"I understand and I share his disappointment. I've told him I'd like him to stay at the club."
Phil Thompson opted not to join him at Villa Park as assistant boss, but Houllier understands the reason behind his decision.
"I understand why Phil Thompson said no from a family point of view. Phil would have been fantastic because I've known him for quite a long time, we work well together, but he decided (not to take the job) for various reasons which I respect," he said.
"We need to improve the team gradually. I don't think January is always a good period because you don't get the best, but obviously we will prepare for the future.
"I am happy with the squad. They must have good players because they finished in a Europa League position."