Gerard Houllier has set his sights on a revival at Aston Villa after a 2-1 win over West Bromwich Albion eased the pressure following a difficult week for the French coach.
Former Liverpool manager Houllier had been subjected to fierce criticism after applauding his old fans and ignoring Villa's supporters on his return to Anfield in a 3-0 defeat on Monday. He also claimed if he had to lose to anyone it would be Liverpool. Houllier apologised for his disastrous PR gaffe but despite this vital victory there was not a single chant of recognition for the Villa boss on Saturday.
Villa remain in the bottom half of the Premier League table but their manager believes a turnaround in fortunes is possible following only his fifth win in 15 games since succeeding Martin O'Neill. "Lets be straight and honest - yes, there is nothing better than a win," Houllier said
"It gives you a feeling of relief. The defeat at Liverpool hurt us. We needed to sort out a few things. We were probably shaky at times after a bad run, but I was proud of their response. I need two hours to answer if you ask about our recent run. Arsenal were better than us, they are better than us.
"I'm not sure we deserved to lose some games. We lost 12 points when we have been in a position to win, there is a fine line between winning and losing. Hopefully now we can start to look forwards because it has been a very difficult time for us."
With the tension building after such a dreadful run, Houllier was forced to make difficult decisions ahead of visit of local rivals Albion. He dropped captain Richard Dunne to the bench, while former Manchester City midfielder Stephen Ireland failed to even make the squad. Houllier defended his decisions and added: "Our job is about making decisions. Carlos Cuellar played extremely well in place of Dunne."
It was Emile Heskey, the former England international, and one of Houllier's key buys at Liverpool, who eased the pressure with the winner against Albion, after Stewart Downing's first half goal. Heskey had only just returned from a knee operation but has now scored four goals since Houllier's arrival.
Houllier said: "Emile is a player that needs confidence and he's got it from his team-mates. He's a likeable person. I know what he's capable of, he has not played for a long time. When you come back from an operation it's not easy. He likes the club and his team-mates, he is an honourable person."
Baggies boss Roberto Di Matteo was left to reflect on his side failing to cash in after dominating the first half. "We deserved at least a point from the game. I think they scored two goals, had one more shot, and not much more in terms of chances," he said.
"We started the game very well and put them under pressure. We had a lot of possession and hit the woodwork but could not take advantage of things. The second half was more difficult because they defended well and were dangerous on the counter-attack as well."