In the beginning, I was very gung-ho for O’Neill. I used to come on this blog and defend him against criticism and sometimes I was very loud and passionate about it. Sadly, in the end I discovered that he was less than a man. Mea culpa.
Now we have Gérard Houllier and, from the beginning, I loved his appointment as manager. A lot of you are not convinced, I know, but I’ve held my counsel because my judgement, in the eyes of others, has been compromised by my staunch defence of O’Neill and his subsequent betrayal of the club.
But now, it’s time to nail my colours to the mast. I love this man and I love the future that this little Frenchman will fashion for us. His demeanour and his actions are everything I would expect from a leader of men.
He has the look of a man at peace with himself and this is vital in the decision making process. A man at odds with himself has clouded vision and will make mistakes. Moreover, we actually know what’s going on at the club and he tells us about the rationale for his team selection. He’s prepared to go on the record and allow the fans to judge him by the results.
Stephen Ireland thinks he’s too good for Aston Villa – he now knows that he’s not good enough for Gérard Houllier. Now we’ll see if Ireland has any backbone, because to entertain a successful career at Villa Park, he’ll have to find it.
Houllier has challenged him and we await the outcome. My view? This could go either way – I'm not holding my breath.
Jamie Carragher has written about the qualities of Houllier, and he should know him as well as anyone. The tale about Ince is very revealing. From his early, “call me the governor” days at United, it’s always been about him, not the team.
He was overrated and very lucky that the sublime Eric Cantona arrived later and partnered him in midfield. That kind of posturing stems from insecurity and is harmful to the cohesiveness of a football team. Houllier dumped him and others blossomed.
Illness cut him down in his prime, but he has returned stronger and wiser. I urge you claret and blue malcontents to give him some time and some trust. I believe he will not let us down. I believe he will return us to glory.
It’s a propitious time to be a Villan – a fine manager and a crop of youngsters that is better than anything I remember emerging from the academy.