Villa stall over appointing Houllier

Gerard Houllier remains the favourite to become manager of Aston Villa in succession to Martin O'Neill, but Villa do not expect to confirm the former France and Liverpool manager's appointment until Thursday as they attempt to finalise the fine details of his role and backroom team.

Villa's American owner-chairman, Randy Lerner, has been keen to ensure the continuing involvement of Kevin MacDonald, the reserve-team coach who took over as caretaker manager after O'Neill's resignation five days before the start of the season. Houllier, 63, who impressed Lerner and chief executive Paul Faulkner in talks last week, may wish to bring in his own staff, possibly including his one-time assistant at Anfield, Phil Thompson.

The Frenchman, who left Liverpool in 2004, three years after undergoing open-heart surgery, later coached Lyons for two seasons and is currently technical director to the French Football Federation.

The only previous foreign Villa manager, Jo Venglos, has endorsed the interest in Houllier by the club he led in 1990-91. Now aged 74 and chairman of the Slovakian Federation's development committee, Dr Venglos said: "I know him well through my work with Uefa and Fifa, and I'm sure he and Villa are right for one another. They're a very good, well-run club and he's an excellent, experienced coach."

It was always Villa's aim to have O'Neill's replacement in place in time to prepare for the game against Stoke City next Monday. It is a fixture which highlights the extent to which the landscape of English club football has changed since Houllier's last spell here. On the only previous occasion he took a team to the Britannia Stadium for a competitive match, Liverpool routed Stoke 8-0 in the League Cup in 2000, Robbie Fowler scoring a hat-trick against the then second-tier stragglers.

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