Hard times: Gerard Houllier insists he has the back of Villa owner Randy Lerner despite a strong of poor results
Villa's beleaguered boss insists the American billionaire remains firmly behind him after five defeats in six and a miserable showing at Manchester City four days ago left the visiting supporters in uproar.
Another limp display at Stamford Bridge tomorrow a ground where Villa shipped seven goals last season will only heap further pressure on their boss who, ironically, is preparing to hold out an olive branch to some of those players he has alienated.
Lerner and chief executive Paul Faulkner were shocked at the capitulation at Eastlands which led to calls from fans for Houllier's head but it seems Villa's top brass are unwilling as yet to show the Frenchman the door.
Houllier is convinced that Lerner still backs his plans to turn around the club's fortunes. However, it is feasible that by the time Villa kick off in west London they will be in the bottom three.
'We know we are going through a difficult period,' said Houllier, 'but any club is a unit. This includes the chairman, the staff and the medical people. Everyone is together. And the chairman trusts me. This trust extends to the players.
'In life, when you have adversity there is either fight or flight. We will fight. I knew there would be pressure and there is more pressure when you don't win games. But I knew that anyway.
Back in the squad: Richard Dunne has had his ups and downs with Houllier
'And when you don't get results, the supporters will always look at you. Players win games and managers lose them. But I was watching Mark Hughes at Fulham. He said that one week ago, everyone was on at him. One away win changed things.'
Whispers are circulating that Lerner was considering asking former caretaker manager Kevin MacDonald to bridge the gap between the dressing room and the manager's office to restore morale among the players.
But were that to happen even though the Scot was snubbed as Martin O'Neill's successor at the club it would leave Houllier in an almost untenable position. It would amount to an admission by the decision-makers that he cannot repair relations with several senior players.
One of those Richard Dunne has been called into the squad for tomorrow's trip.
But there is still no sign of Stephen Ireland and John Carew is still three games from starting. 'There will be a way back for them,' added Villa's boss.
When asked to pinpoint why Villa have struggled when, 12 months ago, they were fighting for a Champions League place, Houllier suggested the senior players weren't pulling their weight.
He added: 'The younger ones have done their job but they need a rest sometimes. I'm glad to see some of the experienced ones coming back. I think some of these have been very affected, mentally, by what's been going on.'
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