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Aston Villa's ambition attracted Gerard Houllier

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Houllier enticed by Villa ambition

Gerard Houllier says Aston Villa's ambition was key to him agreeing to succeed Martin O'Neill as manager.

Houllier, 63, who has signed a three-year deal, added that he was fit and healthy after heart problems in 2001.

But it will be up to a fortnight before he can take charge of the team as he has yet to agree a departure date with the French Football Federation.

"I had a good and safe job but Villa's ambition made me feel I wanted to be part of the team," he stated.

As Houllier negotiates his exit from the role as the FFF's technical director, he will not be present for Monday's trip to Stoke in the Premier League, with caretaker manager Kevin MacDonald running the team in his stead.

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He will, though, be at Villa Park for Bolton's visit in the league on 18 September and could take charge of the team for the midweek Carling Cup clash against Blackburn, or, failing that, the league trip to Wolves on 26 September.

After that, MacDonald will return to his job as reserve team boss.

However, Houllier added that he was disappointed MacDonald, who took over the reins following O'Neill's shock departure in August, had rejected the chance to work as his assistant.

"I am working on naming an assistant manager," the Frenchman continued.

"Joint management doesn't work, but in some capacity as assistant manager he would have been helpful. He could also have maybe learnt the trade and, who knows, taken over from me.

"But I understand his decision, he's a nice bloke so I won't hurt him - I told him I'd like him to stay at the club."

Under MacDonald, Villa won two of their opening three Premier League fixtures, a foundation on which Houllier is keen to build.

"I'm here to meet anyone who says it's not a good club, so let's try to make it better," enthused Houllier.

"The facilities are first class, the training ground is really good, there is a vision for the future.

"It's down now to us to work hard to bring success and joy to the fans. The fans are most important, they are passionate, vocal and fantastic."

Liverpool have not lost at Villa Park since Feb 1998, I want to put this right. This is one of my priorities

Gerard Houllier

Houllier, who underwent an 11-hour heart operation in 2001, also dismissed suggestions that he was being employed in a director of football capacity, insisting he was prepared for a hands-on role.

"I am not a director of football. I will be on the pitch, I will be hands on and responsible," he confirmed.

"I was missing the day to day involvement, that's one of the reasons [I took the job]."

Having helped Liverpool to a cup Treble in 2001, he is hoping that hands-on approach can deliver Villa's first major honours since their League Cup triumph in 1996.

"The club is steady and has a record of gradual improvement," reasoned Houllier.

"Our goal for the future is honours, but that will not happen overnight. People mention the Champions League and Europe, but let's take it one step at a time.

"Let's make progress, let's make best of squad we have and go forward with an appetite to win and progress together. But the way to success is not an easy one."

Houllier, though, did reveal one immediate target - to improve on a dismal record against his former employers.

"Every time I came here we drew or won," he recalled.

"Liverpool have not lost at Villa Park since February 1998, I want to put this right. This is one of my priorities and one of my targets for the season."

The failure to beat Liverpool at home was a minor blemish on O'Neill's tenure, but his successor believes he left the club in good shape.

"Martin is a great manager, he brought up a good squad and that's one of the reasons we have a good base to work on," continued Houllier.

"It's difficult to succeed him, but it's always difficult to succeed anybody. It's difficult, but it's exciting.

"I trust the squad, there is potential here to do something well.

"Martin was nearly there, so we will do our best to achieve what we want. It will take time, but that's my philosophy - progress, performance and pleasure."



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see also
Gerrard tips Houllier for success
09 Sep 10 |  Aston Villa
Houllier named Aston Villa boss
08 Sep 10 |  Aston Villa
Villa to seek experienced manager
29 Aug 10 |  Aston Villa
MacDonald job chances suffer blow
26 Aug 10 |  Europe
Villa loss my fault - MacDonald
22 Aug 10 |  Premier League
O'Neill quits as Aston Villa boss
09 Aug 10 |  Aston Villa
Houllier's scare explained
15 Oct 01 |  Liverpool


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