Houllier says hello to Villa squad
Kevin MacDonald revealed Gerard Houllier introduced himself to the Aston Villa players for the first time following the 1-1 draw with Bolton. Houllier held a brief chat with the squad in the dressing room before watching the match from the directors' box along with assistant Gary McAllister - who was announced in his role before the match. Houllier will officially take up his post on Monday, with just 48 hours to prepare for his first game in charge, a Carling Cup tie at home to Blackburn. The Frenchman inherits a talented squad, but one which has been hit and miss this season following a mixed bag of results under MacDonald - three wins, three defeats and a draw. "Mr Houllier went down to see the players, to introduce himself and some of his team, and I'll be seeing him tomorrow morning to have a chat about things," said MacDonald. "With Mr Houllier having watched Monday's game (a 2-1 defeat at Stoke) and today's match he knows there is something to work with. "His backroom staff looks good, and with the players we've got, let's hope we push on further and further." Former Villa star Gordon Cowans steps up from his role as youth coach to become first-team coach. Houllier has also announced Rafa Gonzalez as goalkeeping coach after previously working with the reserves, whilst Robert Duverne, who worked with the Frenchman at Lyon where they won back-to-back titles, has been appointed as coach/fitness coach. MacDonald will now revert back to his old role as reserve manager after being in the spotlight for the last six weeks in the wake of Martin O'Neill's shock exit on the eve of the season. "We've worked very hard, conducted ourselves fairly well, and not just myself," added MacDonald, referring to his 'backroom' staff. "Six weeks ago nobody knew me, but six weeks later I can say I was interviewed for one of the major jobs in the Premier League along with Gerard Houllier, Sven-Goran Eriksson and Alan Curbishley. So I think I've come a long way in that six weeks." Villa, though, failed to give MacDonald the send-off he arguably deserved, despite taking a 13th-minute lead courtesy of a superb free-kick from Ashley Young. Bolton fought their way back into the game, with captain Kevin Davies equalising 10 minutes before the break, and but for a hat-trick of fine Brad Friedel saves in the second half would have taken all three points. MacDonald dismissed the suggestion there was any added pressure with Houllier looking on from high above and behind him. "It was no more difficult than any other Premier League game, and the players didn't think otherwise either," said MacDonald. "My impression is that we started the game quite brightly, took the lead, were in reasonable control until we started giving possession away too cheaply. "That gave them a little bit of confidence, they got the equaliser, and then in the second half they had good chances, with Brad making some good saves." Bolton had conceded 13 goals in their previous three visits to Villa Park, yet boss Owen Coyle was naturally disappointed not to come away with the win. "There's no doubt that I feel Aston Villa were fired up for the game today," said Coyle. "For five minutes after they scored they had a couple of half chances to get a second goal, but from then on in I thought we really came back into the game. "If truth be told I feel a little bit hard done by not to leave with all three points. "Given how everything conspired against us last week (a 4-1 defeat at Arsenal) at the Emirates, I was looking for a response, for us to bounce back, and we did that."
Related Aston Villa News