Houllier's Villa Park departure confirmed

Gérard Houllier stepped down as Aston Villa manager last night. The move was expected as an agreement on a settlement package had already been reached.

Houllier has decided that returning to the dugout would be too great a health risk after suffering further heart trouble in April.

Villa's chief executive Paul Faulkner said in a club statement: "We regret the circumstances of Gérard's departure and, naturally, we wish him well in his continued recovery."

Fulham's Mark Hughes, whose contract at Craven Cottage expired yesterday, is still a favourite to replace Houllier but the club are confident they will be able to hold on to the Welshman.