Laursen: Inspirational Houllier a class act
Martin Laursen blogs on current Villa matters.
15th Sep 2010

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Let's start with the big news at Villa - Gerard Houllier as new manager. I think it's a really good appointment.

He's obviously a big name in the game. He's a former manager of Liverpool, of course, and a big-hitter in terms of reputation.

He had that experience of managing in the Premier League at Anfield which was obviously one of the things that Aston Villa wanted from their new boss.

He has won plenty of trophies at Liverpool, including that glorious season in 2001. That, in my mind, means he has a real winning mentality which is so, so important in sport.

It's the same as former manager Martin O'Neill. Gerard will want to take the club forward, just like Martin did. He is a winner like Martin. He is similar in that way. He has that big game attitude which will be important for Villa.

I followed his career at Liverpool. I can remember that one season vividly. It was big for them. It was a fantastic side with a lot of good players - but that never guarantees success. You need the right blend, a good mix and a good manager too.

Gerard proved he could create that mix at Liverpool. He inspired them to go out and perform and win those trophies. He is obviously good at that - having a big impact with the players he works with. That will be terrific for Villa.

Villa has a very talented squad, in my opinion, but they are not quite 'there' yet. They can be real world-class players - the likes of Ashley, Stewart and Gabby for example. Look at the youngsters too - Marc is playing fantastic football at the moment also. All these players will need a manager who can help them develop. I believe Gerard can be that man.

You read things about him like he's a 'football man, an intelligent thinker about the game, a calm and considered motivator' and that's tremendous to hear. I don't know him personally but I really hope he can inspire this group of young players. I hope he works with them and makes them feel good and important.


Gerard's appointment will give the players an added spark - that always happens in football when you get a new manager. It's a positive reaction.

That's a short-term thing and then obviously you hope that he will be good in the long-term as well. I am confident he will be.

But the positive short-term reaction should stand us in good stead in the coming weeks because the players will be out to impress him and look to keep their place in the team when he takes over.


It's always sad to see a manager leave but obviously there were factors behind Martin's departure. It was such a shame but football and Villa moves on.

We shouldn't forget all the really positive things Martin bought to our football club.

He drove the club forward and to finish sixth three seasons in a row, with the team challenging to break up the top four, was terrific.

He turned Ashley and Gabby into stars and bought some other really great footballers to the club too.


West Ham

Martin's departure so close to the start of the season was not the best introduction to the 2010-11 Barclays Premier League season but the reaction was good.

Everyone at Villa obviously knows Kevin because he's worked at the club for many years. He is well liked and well respected by the players and the staff too.

He got the win on the opening day against West Ham, which was great and then against Newcastle I don't know what happened? I didn't see it but the result was obviously not good.

But then there was another great reaction for the win against Everton.

The match against Stoke really surprised me - in terms of the final result. I watched the first 80 minutes and I felt Villa were really in control. They dominated the game and I couldn't see Stoke equalising, never mind winning.

I was surprised when I checked the next day and saw they scored two at the end. I was shocked. That was a real shame.

You know with Stoke they will play balls into the box - they are very physical. They play with their muscles. They have big, strong, physical strikers who can put pressure on the defenders. That's what you expect and you have to be really focused for the entire 90 minutes but saying all that I thought Villa played really well and dominated the game.

They had good possession so the final score was a shock.

Ashley's header was a big, big moment in the game and I think that would have won it for us. But that's football as we all know.


Next up is Bolton and here's to another victory on home soil.

Winning matches at home is always important. It's easier to win at home because you have the crowd - the home faithful - behind you.

I know when I played for Villa, we had a lot of great results away from home - who will ever forget the win at Everton for example - and it was great to see the travelling army cheering our victories. But a good atmosphere at a football club always starts with good results on your home turf.

To perform well in front of all the fans who love the club and love the players is always the most important thing, I believe. That's why I want another win this weekend.

We have had some tremendous victories over the Trotters in the past few seasons but let me tell you, all players are interested in are three points - however they come.

I'm not always sure when people say 'I'd take a 1-0 any day' though. It's always dangerous with just a one goal advantage because in football, anything can happen. You can be in control of the game and in stoppage time the opposition can score a scrappy goal out of nothing. Just look at Stoke the other night.

That's why scoring the second goal is so vitally important. But, as a player, the most important thing is winning.


Stephen Ireland

Gerard is obviously not the only addition to the Villa ranks. Stephen Ireland is also a new recruit, having signed for Villa as part of the deal which took James Milner to Manchester City.

Stephen was one of the best players for them in many games when I was playing in England. He was one of the standout stars in blue.

He is very good at coming from deep to see the chances and put them away too. He can score a lot of goals but let's not forget he's a hard-working player too, always willing to give his all for the side.

He seems humble also - that's come across to me.

Hopefully he can perform at the same level at Villa.

It's good to have a player in midfield who can get forward and score his fair share. Strikers are always expected to score but they are often up against big, strong, tough defenders. It's always difficult for forwards to find space and get those important chances. That's why having Stephen is great - he's one of those midfielders who can burst into the box unannounced and cause mayhem. That's often a better weapon. Just look at Paul Scholes.

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