Gerard Houllier - Making the most of limited resources.
After eagerly awaiting yesterday’s midweek round of Premier League fixtures, the dearly departed here in football’s Elysium felt mixed emotions. Many spectral supporters were wailing and moaning after watching the fetid corpse of the Manchester derby stink up their spiritual screens. However, I had the ghoulishly good fortune of watching Aston Villa scrape past a weakened Blackpool side 3-2 after an eighty-ninth minute header from Welsh centre-back James Collins sealed the points for the Midlands side. Although they have been scoring less than Anne Widdicombe of late, there are signs that Villa’s newly installed French boss Gerard Houllier is putting in motion the beginnings of a stylistic revolution at Villa Park.
As soon as the words “French” and “revolution” came together, one candidate predictably came forward to speak to In Off the Ghost about the game of the week. Step forward Napoleon Bonaparte!
Napoleon - "Making Villa a success again is a tall-order."
“I have been watching Houllier’s progress at Aston Villa with great interest since he arrived at the club” started Napoleon, the vertically challenged former Emperor of the French. “I can see many similarities between the Midlands club and France during the glorious revolution! Players who were in the side as favourites of Martin O’Neill are being given a short-shrift now that his traditionally British style of football has been given the chop by Houllier. It is more glorious to merit a place in the team than to possess one, and young players like Ciaran Clark, Marc Albrighton and Barry Bannan are finally earning their places in the side. Some previously established first team players like John Carew are learning that ability is nothing without opportunity, and Stephen Ireland personifies my maxim that going from the sublime to the ridiculous is but a step-over.”
As a great military leader and tactician, I asked Napoleon what advice he would give Houllier in his quest to bring the glory days back to Aston Villa.
“I like Houllier, but he still has much to learn in my opinion. In football as in battle, he who fears being conquered is certain of defeat. Houllier’s defensive tactics have stunted his progress before. Changing from the defensive to the offensive is one of the most delicate operations in war, and Houllier must learn to do this more effectively or the people of Birmingham may be calling for his head sooner rather than later. Villa fans tend to exercise their memory much more than their judgment, and their temper is short. What Houlier has done up to now is nothing and only just conquering a weakened Blackpool side on home soil is not a thing to boast of. However, the Villa faithful should give Houllier time. Impatience is a great obstacle to success and he is only at the beginning of the course he must run. Making Villa a success again is a tall-order.” Napoleon continued, floating back and forth, one ghostly hand gesturing wildy, the other tucked into his replica Villa shirt.
“I never was truly my own master but was always ruled by circumstances. Houllier however, is ruled by the Randy Lerner. I always respected the Americans, but Mr. Lerner must give Houllier funds in the transfer window to take his revolution to great heights. Everything tells me Houllier will succeed, but will Lerner prevent him from doing so for the want of £100 million?
Finally, I asked Napoleon how far he feels Houllier can take Aston Villa in the coming years.
“I think that Houllier can take Villa to the Champions League or, who knows, maybe even the title itself! Some would scoff at the idea, but remember, “Le mot impossible n’est pas français!”
(All material in this blog is entirely fictional and does not represent the views or opinions of anyone, alive or dead, other than those of the author.)
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