Gerrard: Houllier is a top manager
Steven Gerrard is backing his former Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier to be successful at Aston Villa after revealing he was "desperate" to return to the English Premier League.
Houllier has finally been confirmed as Martin O'Neill's successor after quitting as technical director of the French Football Federation. He is expected to be formally unveiled at a press conference tomorrow before taking charge for the first time in Monday's league encounter at Stoke.
Houllier gave Gerrard his debut at Anfield more than a decade ago and the England skipper has nothing but praise for the Frenchman who spent six years on Merseyside. He told Press Association Sport: "I've still got quite a close relationship with Gerard. He gave me my chance at the top level and I certainly learnt an awful lot from him.
"Aston Villa have got themselves a very good manager and I am not surprised Gerard has come back into the Premier League. I know how much he loves football. He has been desperate to get back involved in the Premier League so it is no surprise to me."
The 30-year-old added: "It has been no surprise to me that Villa have been interested in him because he is a top manager. We had a magnificent year in 2001. He came in and had to change an awful lot of things at Liverpool and that is what he is good at. When he comes in, he knows what he wants, and he knows how to get a winning team. That showed by the five trophies we won under him."
Houllier suffered with health problems during the latter part of his time with the Reds which led to his assistant, Phil Thompson, having a spell in charge of the team. But Gerrard insisted: "I don't think health is a problem for Gerard.
"I saw him a few days ago at the Jamie Carragher testimonial at Anfield and he looked superb. He looked really healthy and fresh. I asked him then if he was interested in Aston Villa and he said he was. I really don't think the health will be a problem. I think he will be fine."
Houllier is hoping to appoint one of his former Liverpool backroom staff - Patrice Bergues - at Villa Park. Bergues also worked alongside Houllier at Lens and Lyon at club level as well as with the French Football Federation in the late 1990s.
Houllier had wanted to bring in Phil Thompson, his No2 at Anfield as assistant-manager, but he has opted to remain in his role as a pundit with Sky Sports. Houllier will take charge of Villa for the first time at Stoke on Monday after being unveiled tomorrow.
But before then he will meet the players - including skipper Stiliyan Petrov, Luke Young and James Collins, who all backed caretaker boss Kevin MacDonald to become new manager. MacDonald's role under the new regime has still to be confirmed by Villa.