Villa hand Houllier £2.5m pay-off and hunt Hughes
Published 23:02 01/06/11 By John Percy
Gerard Houllier has waved goodbye to Aston Villa with a huge pay-off after just nine months in charge.
But Villa now face a major battle to persuade Fulham to allow Mark Hughes to take over.
The Frenchman finalised the details of his £2.5million severance following the heart problems that left him in hospital at the end of the season.
Houllier will pocket a cool £5m for less than 12 months work, following his appointment as Martin O’Neill’s replacement last September.
“I am extremely disappointed that I will not have the opportunity to manage Aston Villa next season," he said.
“My health has improved considerably since I was taken ill on April 20. I now intend to take the next few months to concentrate on recuperating fully before I may return to football.”
But Villa’s plans to have Hughes in place hit trouble on Wednesday night when it emerged they have been asked by Fulham to pull out of their chase for Hughes.
The 47-year-old Hughes has a release clause in his contract which if triggered would allow Villa to appoint him as a free agent without any compensation.
But that had to be activated by midnight on Wednesday and it remains unclear whether Hughes’ representatives took that step.
He remains Villa owner Randy Lerner’s first choice - but Fulham are now ready to offer Hughes improved terms on the two-year deal which remains on the table at Craven Cottage.
They believe they are due some loyalty from the former Manchester City boss, after sticking by him when fans wanted him out during the turbulent early months of his reign.
Villa are desperate to avoid another circus like the one created by former boss O’Neill’s walk-out five days before the Premier League kick-off last season.
And the tension is showing as Lerner’s right-hand man, General Charles Krulak has attacked fans on message boards for their criticisms of the club this season.
Supporters are angry at the mess the club has been left in, following the loss of O’Neill and the controversial decision to appoint Houllier.
Krulak responded to one critic who asked whether the board had learned lessons from the last nine-months saying: “Oh yes, we sure have.
"Let’s see, we learned that it is not good to have a manager leave the club five days before the season starts.
“We learned that it is not good to have a raft of injuries to some of our best players during the season.
“We learned that it is not good when your manager has a heart problem in the final weeks of the season.
“Are those the lessons we were supposed to have learned? If so, we learned them. I don’t suppose you would like to offer a suggestion as to how to avoid these in the future?”
Krulak went on: “Thank you for all the suggestions re: a new manager.
"It seems like just yesterday that I was getting suggestions on what to do with Gerard Houllier. Now it is choosing a new manager.
"Can I have one day of rest?
"Think about it, even God took one day of rest. Don’t I deserve at least a day since I am certainly NOT in any way or shape even a glimmer of God’s greatness.”