The media is filled with buzz that Gerrard Houllier is set to take over the reigns of Aston Villa from the caretaker manager Kevin McDonald. Houllier may "satisfy" the conditions that Aston Villa owner Randy Lerner is looking for in the new manager, but appointing Houllier will be a mistake that Aston Villa will regret.
Too Old, Too Weak
Houllier is 63 years old. The role of a manager of a top flight premiership club is one that is filled with pressure and tension. And when one is on the wrong side of 50, the body only debilitates with age. Top it off with the fact that Houllier is a heart patient, famously having had a heart attack during a game while in charge of Liverpool. If managing Liverpool was difficult, just wait till he takes charge of Aston Villa where the pressures of staying competitive is a huge task to achieve. Besides, Houllier with his age and health will not want to be a long term manager, and it will only be a matter of time
before he would want to retire forcing Villa to start searching for a manager again.
Different times, Different stakes
When Houllier was in charge of Liverpool, Liverpool was a celebrated team in England with the glamour and money to attract top talent. They were always competing for top honors. His time with Lyon was nothing different. Lyon was a team that was winning the French league before he took over and won with him as the manager too. Aston Villa is a different ball game. Aston Villa does not have the money to compete with the top clubs. Aston Villa is not glamorous enough to attract the best players. Aston Villa needs a manager who can make sure that they stay on course to finish on the top half of the table with the limited resource that they have. It needs a manager who realizes that he needs to overachieve to succeed and has little or no room for error. If the club were to go in the wrong direction, the stars in Aston Villa like Ashley Young and Ablonghalor would prefer to move away, sending the club closer towards relegation.
Tight Transfer Budget
Martin O'Neall did not have a huge transfer kitty to work with. While he may not have a 100% success rate with the players he has purchased, he more often than not purchased players who did well for Aston Villa. He also did not have much room to make mistakes and took the club as far as he could with what he had. Aston Villa has a paper for this squad, yet to get quality players Martin O'Neall had to sell to buy.
In Aston Villa, Gerrrard Houllier will not have the same transfer kitty he did with Liverpool. He cannot afford to be wrong or profligate. This means a big no-no to deals like $10 million for El Hadji Diouf. He might not be able to put his own touches on Aston Villa as he has to make do with what he's got and improvise. Does Houllier have experience in tackling such problems?
In Liverpool he was expected to lead the team to victory. Liverpool was good enough to take on any team throughout the season. His tenure in Lyon was no different. If he were to take over Aston Villa, rest assured he will be facing a totally different challenge. Although on paper they are challenging for the league, realistically Aston Villa is limited by a glass ceiling.
Staying in the top 6 should be the focus; any trophies they can win is a bonus. Only an exorbitant transfer budget or an unrealistic stroke of luck can change the fortunes of Aston Villa. A good season might simply mean staying competitive with the big sharks, keeping the good players on the squad, and adding quality players through transfers. At Aston Villa, Houllier needs to be a motivator, a smart manager, an astute transfer master, and a realistic visionary. And all the hard work he has done might not necessarily translate into trophies. Can Houllier mold himself into such a manager?
Sure, Gerrard Houllier may fit the bill for what Randy Lerner expects in his new manager, but Houllier is no better than the other men considered for the job. Houllier is well-known for being the manager of two illustrious clubs—Liverpool and Lyon—and has won the treble at Liverpool (League Cup, FA Cup and UEFA Cup) and the French League with Lyon. However, given the resources at his disposal, it is still not a great resume. He could not lead Liverpool to qualify for the Champions League during 2002-03. He never won the league with Liverpool, and his football style was not attractive either. Rafael Benitez won the Champions League with the same squad.
When considering all these reasons and that there are other managers available who seem more suited for this job, one wonders if it makes any sense to consider giving the job to Gerrard Houllier. Aston Villa fans can only hope for the best.