New Villa boss Houllier not allowed to start work
Published 23:00 10/09/10 By James Nursey
Gerard Houllier was forced to apologise at his unveiling as Aston Villa manager - as he is unsure when he can start work.
Former Liverpool boss Houllier, 63, has still not finalised a leaving date from the French Football Federation after handing in his notice.
And Houllier, technical director at the FFF, also admitted he is yet to sign his three-year contract at Villa Park.
Caretaker boss Kevin MacDonald will now definitely remain in charge of the team for their next two Premier League matches - starting at Stoke on Monday.
Houllier will be in his native France then where he has scheduled meetings next week as part of his job with the FFF.
Houllier plans to attend the visit of Bolton a week on Saturday and go in the dug-out with MacDonald for the the Carling Cup home game with Blackburn on Wednesday September 22.
But he won’t be in sole charge until Villa’s trip to Wolves on September 26 at the earliest. And even then Houllier admitted: “that I can’t promise” as his notice period is in theory three months.
So his reign as Villa boss is already problematic with Phil Thompson rejecting the chance to be his No.2 and pal Patrice Bergues likely to stay in France.
It is another bizarre twist in developments at Villa Park since Martin O’Neill plunged the club into crisis by quitting five days before the start of the season.
And even once Houllier has secured his release from his FFF contract he may have to return to France occasionally to work.
He confessed: “Unfortunately I won’t be at the Stoke game because I’m employed by the French FA.
“Even if I wanted on a private jet I wouldn’t be able to go to the Stoke game. I apologise for that but at some stage I will be here.
“They could have said you have to work three months but I’m hoping the chairman will allow me to leave earlier.
“If everything goes our way, at least I should attend the Bolton game and then start.
“I have a good relationship with the FFF so my league start should be the derby with Wolves.
“To me the earliest will probably be the Bolton game, not in charge but here.
“I have a very important meeting Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday - I have to go back.
“I have several important things to do including meeting with French Championship managers on Monday.
“I am the head of all the national coaches and regional coaches.
“If I don’t do the three months maybe I will have to go in to explain things and sort things out.
“Maybe I will have to spend one day every two weeks in France but it would be when the players have a day off.”
Asked whether he had even signed his proposed three-year contract at Villa Park, Houllier admitted: “Not yet, but to me the word is more important than whether it is signed.”
It is a bizarre scenario as caretaker MacDonald, who himself unsuccessfully applied for the Villa managerial job, could have won four of his five Premier League games by the time Houllier is supposed to take over.
But MacDonald has also rejected the chance to be Houllier’s assistant in the long-term and will return to running the reserve team.
Houllier now hopes to bring more staff with him from the FFF to help him at Villa.
The Midlands club have not been asked to pay any compensation for Houllier’s services but that could change if Houllier hires several members of the FFF.
Houllier added: “Kevin will keep the preparation of the team. We spoke this morning and had a very amicable conversation.
“He is a great bloke but he prefers to go back to his job as reserve-team manager and I’m sure he will continue to do a very good job there.”
Houllier initially hardly put a foot wrong at his press conference as he talked about Villa’s history since being founded in 1874 and being a original member of the Football League in 1888.
Houllier also has fond memories of Villa Park after never losing there as Liverpool manager from 1998-2004.
When he eventually arrives in the Midlands permanently Houllier hopes to ensure Villa, who have finished sixth the last three seasons, are able to compete for a Champions League spot.
But he must do so against a back-drop of cut-backs at Villa with owner Randy Lerner keen to reduce the club’s £70million wage bill.
And he has already previously sold Villa players like Brad Friedel and Stephen Warnock when at Liverpool and John Carew at Lyon.
He said: “I think the club will be extremely happy if they get into the top four, into a Champions League position at some stage and we will do everything we to achieve that.”