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Sunday, 05 September 2010

Aston Villa: Houllier or MacDonald? You decide

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It appears that Aston Villa owner Randy Lerner has narrowed his search for the next manager at Villa Park down to two options. One is former Liverpool and Lyon boss Gerard Houllier, the other is the club’s current caretaker Kevin MacDonald. But who do you think will be the best man to charge with filling Martin O’Neill’s shoes?

Reports in the Sunday papers claim that former Liverpool players under Houllier goalkeeper Brad Friedel and defender Stephen Warnock are furious that the club is being linked with the former French national coach and are set to seek urgent talks with Villa officials. Both Friedel and Warnock have their grievances with Houliier but let’s just look at his credentials.

At Liverpool he won the treble, well not THE treble but a treble of the UEFA Cup, the League Cup and the FA Cup in 2001. He also led them to a UEFA Super Cup victory, retained the League Cup the following season and took them to their highest Premier League finish of second. However, his style of play, dodgy signings and his refusal to replace the creativity of his outgoing stars infuriated many fans of the Reds.

He was at Anfield for six years but only managed two seasons of success before the board called time on his reign. He was responsible for bringing the likes of El Hadji Diouf, Djimi Traore, Salif Diao and Bruno Cheyrou to the Premier League. No wonder some Villa fans are worried about the prospect of Houllier becoming manager.

After a year on the sidelines though he took over from Paul Le Guen at Lyon and continued their dominance of the French league with back-to-back league titles. Unfortunately he was unable to work under the Lyon chairman and resigned in 2007. Since then Houllier has been away from the training ground but it looks as though the lure of the Villa could tempt him back.

Standing in his way though is Villa’s caretaker manager Kevin MacDonald. The former Liverpool midfielder did his chances of landing the top job no harm at all by thrashing West Ham United on the opening day of the season. Unfortunately a nightmare trip to St James’ Park and an early European exit looked to have ended any hope the Scot may have had of becoming the manager on a full-time basis, but last weekend’s win over Everton has thrown him back into contention.

MacDonald is well-liked and respected by the Villa players and his work with the reserve team has not gone unnoticed. He may not have the experience of bringing top names into the club, or indeed be the name that will attract players to Villa Park, but he is people person and players will do their best for him.

Over the past three seasons MacDonald has guided the reserve team to a hat-trick of Reserve League South titles and has already shown his faith in the youngsters by giving many of them first-team action already.

Houllier himself has experience of bringing through youngsters in his capacity as technical director of the French FA but you have to wonder whether he would continue to give the youngsters the chance to prove themselves at the highest level or would he stop their development by bringing in players from overseas.

Kevin MacDonald may not be the big name manager that many fans have been craving for but he has the club’s best interests at heart. Meanwhile Houllier has experience of Europe and the Premier League and is a big enough name to attract top stars to the club. He wants to win more trophies before his career is over but that may be to the detriment of MacDonald’s hard work with the reserves.

Sky Sports are now reporting that Houllier will be appointed within the next 48 hours but, Villa fans, if you were Randy Lerner, who would you want to see as your new manager – Kevin MacDonald or Gerard Houllier? I’d love to hear from you.

·   Calling all Aston Villa fans. What do you make of Randy Lerner’s reported decision? Who would you place your faith in, MacDonald or Houllier? What do you think Houllier would do at Villa Park? How far could MacDonald take you? Whatever your view I’d love to hear from you.

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Colin Illingworth



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