Houllier expresses pride as he takes over at Villa

Gerard Houllier was last night confirmed as the new manager of Aston Villa, completing an unlikely return to the Premier League for the former Liverpool manager at the age of 63.

When Houllier stood down as manager of Lyons, citing a desire to step away from the limelight, after having won back-to-back titles in France, it was considered he would wile away the remainder of his career in the more genteel role of technical director of the French Football Federation (FFF).

However, he has come out of semi-retirement to succeed Martin O'Neill at Villa Park, taking up the post ahead of the likes of former England coach Sven Goran Eriksson and the ex-West Ham and Charlton manager Alan Curbishley, who were both interviewed for the job along with current caretaker manager, Kevin MacDonald.

Villa's owner, Randy Lerner, and his chief executive, Paul Faulkner, were charmed by Houllier during his interview, and the Frenchman last night spoke of his delight at returning to a Premier League club. "I am very happy and proud to join this great and historic club," Houllier said. "It was a very difficult decision for me to leave the FFF, but I could not turn down the opportunity to manage a club whose approach, both on and off the pitch, I have long admired.

"Aston Villa is one of England's biggest clubs and has an amazing set of fans. This is a tremendous challenge and one I am very much looking forward to taking on."

There have been question marks raised over Houllier's health after he suffered heart problems during the latter part of his time with Liverpool. He underwent an 11-hour operation on his heart in 2001 but has assured Lerner he is in fine health now.

Houllier will arrive in Birmingham this morning to meet the players at the club's training complex in Bodymoor Heath before being presented to the media. His appointment ends a prolonged period of uncertainty at Aston Villa, after O'Neill resigned five days before the start of the new season.

Lerner had wanted to recruit a British manager with Premier League experience to carry on the progress made under O'Neill, but Houllier's experience of six years with Liverpool, from 1998 to 2004, and his international standing made him the best candidate.

Chief executive Faulkner said: "[Houllier] stands out as a football man, who understands the ethos of our club and shares our core values. We look forward to working with Gérard and supporting him and we ask our supporters to get behind the new manager and the team as we look to build on the progress we have made over the past four years in all areas of the club."

MacDonald, who was the overwhelming choice of the Villa players, is likely to be offered the chance to work alongside Houllier, possibly as his assistant, which is being seen as a peace offering to the dressing room, some members of which are said to be unhappy at the Frenchman's appointment.

Houllier had wanted his former Liverpool assistant Phil Thompson to join him at Villa Park,but the Sky Sports pundit turned him down. The Frenchman is now considering two of his former players, in Middlesbrough's assistant manager Gary McAllister and the MK Dons midfielder Dietmar Hamann.

The new manager's first game in charge at Villa will be Monday night's trip to Stoke City.

peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Harry Redknapp. Mark Hughes and Ryan Shawcross
footballNews and updates as Queens Park Rangers host the Potters
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
New Articles
i100... with this review
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
New Articles
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam