Villa confident of Houllier appointment with new role for MacDonald

Aston Villa hope to appoint Gerard Houllier as successor to Martin O'Neill in the next 48 hours. Houllier is spending the weekend deciding whether to return to Premier League management after a six-year absence.

He has emerged as the preferred option for Villa owner Randy Lerner, who is keen to make an appointment sooner rather than later. Houllier was interviewed for the post last week – along with the likes of caretaker manager Kevin MacDonald and former West Ham manager Alan Curbishley.

The indications are that former Liverpool manager Houllier would not be against joining Villa in a traditional managerial type of role, but MacDonald's coaching skills are highly rated by Lerner and the Villa players and he could still have a role with the first team.

Houllier gave little away on his future when questioned after attending Jamie Carragher's testimonial at Anfield yesterday. He is currently France's technical director but has come under fire after their disappointing World Cup campaign and may welcome a change.

Houllier, who was 63 last week, left Anfield six years ago and has been employed as his country's technical director since parting company with Lyons in 2007. He led the Reds to a Uefa Cup, FA Cup and League Cup treble in 2001. Houllier also enjoyed title success with Paris St Germain and spent a decade overseeing the development of French football before moving to Liverpool.

There have been question marks raised over Houllier's health after he suffered heart problems during the latter part of his time with Liverpool. But he has apparently assured Villa they would have no cause for concern.

Lerner wants to make an appointment soon, to ensure the new manager has time with the players before the match at Stoke on 13 September and Villa believe Houllier has the resume to build on their three successive top-six finishes in the Premier League.

Meanwhile, Birmingham City have re-opened talks with midfielder Sebastian Larsson over a new contract. The Swedish international could not make his mind up on his future even after City returned to the top flight. As a result, Blues took up a 12-month option on his current contract which will run out next summer. If the two parties cannot reach an agreement, then Larsson will be free to talk to interested parties in January and possibly sign a pre-contract agreement.

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