Houllier in pole position to take sole command of troubled Villa

Gerard Houllier would not be interested in a director of football role at Aston Villa and neither are the club intending to implement a two-tier style of management that would incorporate such a role.

After the first round of interviews, Houllier has been given indications that he is the leading contender. For his part, the Frenchman wants the traditional manager's role that was his at Liverpool after his brief job-share with Roy Evans ended in 1998 and he was left to lead the club alone until his departure six years ago.

Houllier, who turned 63 yesterday, has assured the Villa chairman, Randy Lerner, and chief executive Paul Faulkner that his health is not an issue. He suffered a dissection of the aorta – a heart condition – in 2001, from which he made a full recovery. He still returns to Liverpool every year for a check up in the hospital that treated him.

Houllier has been technical director at the French football federation (FFF) for the past three years after leaving Lyons in 2007.

The Villa hierarchy would prefer it if he did not bring with him a large coterie of staff but that has never been his way, even at Liverpool. He is regarded by Villa as a safe pair of hands who could guide the club through the difficult post-Martin O'Neill era.

It is the intention of Lerner to have a new manager in place by the end of the international break in time for the game against Stoke on 13 September. It is not thought that there is a substantial compensation deal to be done with the FFF for his services. Lerner and Faulkner went to meet Houllier after his interest in the job had been put forward to them.

Houllier won two titles with Lyons, who were already the dominant side in French football when he took over. He has never given up hope that he would get another chance in English football and was briefly considered as a possible candidate by Newcastle after they sacked Sam Allardyce in 2008.

The process by which Lerner and Faulkner have vetted candidates has been described by sources as "thorough". They have gone into the detail on the background of all the candidates, which have included Sven-Goran Eriksson and Alan Curbishley. The caretaker manager Kevin MacDonald has also been interviewed. It is Houllier who currently stands out the most.

It is thought that he would be offered the standard one-year rolling contract for managers of his age.

Before he moved to Liverpool, whom he led to a Uefa Cup, FA Cup and League Cup treble in 2001, he also enjoyed title success with Paris St Germain and spent a decade overseeing the development of French football.

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