Belfast Telegraph

Gerard Houllier leaves Aston Villa

By David McNeill

Gerard Houllier's insistence that he was returning to the best of health failed to prevent Aston Villa making him the latest Premier League managerial casualty.

The Frenchman left Villa Park last night 'by mutual consent' having been sidelined by heart trouble since April.

Fulham boss Mark Hughes has been installed as odds-on favourite to replace Houllier, who failed to win over the Villa fans after joining the club last September.

"I am extremely disappointed that I will not have the opportunity to manage Aston Villa next season," said the 63-year-old last night.

"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."

He added: "I was very much looking forward to the prospect of my first full season as Villa manager and returning for pre-season training to prepare for the campaign ahead, a luxury that I did not have last season.

"I am very grateful to the Villa fans for their genuine concern and encouragement and to the fans of clubs up and down the country for their kind sentiments."

Villa chief executive Paul Faulkner paid tribute to Houllier's work - but said the club needed to end the uncertainty over his position while the transfer window was in its infancy in order to give the new manager as much time as possible to prepare for the upcoming season.

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