Houllier targets Champions League
Gerard Houllier has set his sights on bringing UEFA Champions League football to Aston Villa within three years, after being confirmed as Martin O'Neill's successor as manager. However, the Frenchman will not be able to formally take charge for almost a fortnight until he sorts out the terms of his departure from his role as technical director with the French Football Federation (FFF).
Houllier will not attend Monday's match at Stoke City and will only oversee the home game with Bolton Wanderers next weekend, before taking complete charge for the League Cup encounter with Blackburn Rovers - if all goes to plan in terms of securing his release from the FFF. But the 63-year-old admitted he has the hunger and appetite for a return to Premier League football, six years after ending his successful spell with Liverpool.
"I take great pride in my appointment as manager of Aston Villa," Houllier said. "It is a great honour for me. I met with Randy Lerner (club owner) and Paul Faulkner (chief executive) and was impressed by their enthusiasm, dynamism and honesty. They convinced me of their ambitions for the club, what they want to bring to the fans of the club, and I am now delighted to share their ambitions.
"I had a good job with the French Football Federation, but the people here have made me feel I want to be part of this project at Aston Villa. Everybody knows my passion for English football and the Premier League, the best in the world, and that has not diminished since my time at Liverpool.
"I had other offers. The offer from Villa came very late but it proved irresistible, because it is a club with a fine history and a very good squad. They have a real pedigree and that played a part in my decision."
Houllier won six trophies at Anfield and, although refusing to promise overnight success, feels he can bring more glory to the West Midlands club, who have finished in the top six of the Premier League for the past three years.
"There is a vision for gradual improvement," he explained. "We won't achieve things overnight but we want silverware. Everyone wants Champions League football or Europe, and we are saying one step at a time.
"The owner (Lerner) has set no targets, but in three years if we can get into the top four it will be excellent. However, I am not looking upon this as unfinished business because I did win trophies in the Premier League before."
MacDonald and Bergues reject offers
Houllier also revealed that caretaker manager Kevin MacDonald has turned down the chance to be part of the first-team coaching set-up, and will instead return to his role in charge of the reserves. But the former Liverpool midfielder will continue to be in charge for the Stoke and Bolton games before hopefully handing over the reins to Houllier.
Houllier said: "I spoke to Kevin this morning. We had a good conversation but he prefers to go back to his role with the reserve team. I am disappointed for him. He would have been helpful to me, but I respect his decision and I am sure our relationship will be good."
Houllier also revealed that Patrice Bergues, who worked as part of his back room staff at Liverpool and Lens, would not be moving to Villa in the immediate future because of "personal reasons".