Stephen Ireland expects Aston Villa to 'kick on' under Gerard Houllier
Aston Villa 1 Bolton Wanderers 1: Gerard Houllier and his assistant manager, Gary McAllister, will take their first Aston Villa training session at Bodymoor Heath this morning, to the apparent relief of an exhausted caretaker, Kevin MacDonald.
The Scot may have been disappointed to miss out on the job but his body language after his seven-game spell in charge ended with Saturday's draw against Bolton suggested he needed a breather and that the reinforcements were welcome.
"The biggest thing I have learnt is you have to be very, very well organised," said MacDonald. "That's why managers have a lot of staff now, to delegate. We had only myself, Tony [McAndrew] and Rafa [Gonzalez], three of us, when most managers have seven or eight. I will have a meeting with Mr Houllier and probably go through the squad. I'll give my opinion."
MacDonald said he had no immediate plans to seek another manager's job and will resume his duties with the Villa reserve team ahead of next Monday's game against Sunderland. In front of just a few thousand fans, it was suggested. "More like a few hundred," he replied.
Houllier was in the stands on Saturday and will have been impressed with Villa's lively opening and Ashley Young's stunning free-kick that put his team ahead after 13 minutes. However, they failed to build on their early advantage and Bolton grew in stature after Kevin Davies' 35th-minute equaliser.
Midfielder Stephen Ireland, a recent acquisition himself, believes Houllier will help Villa to "kick on".
The new manager spoke to the players after the game and Ireland said: "We have met Gérard Houllier now and everyone is looking forward to the future. Hopefully, it is going to be positive. To be honest, I cannot see it not being. The way the owner selects his manager in recent years has always been a good decision for the club, he has never let anyone down. When we get to training on Monday, that is when we will all start working together. Everyone in the dressing room is keen to achieve something this season and now we need to kick on."
Much of Bolton's own progress is down to Kevin Davies and their manager, Owen Coyle, was generous with his praise. "He has tremendous qualities as a footballer, and as a man," said Coyle. "Hopefully, that epitomises everything we are trying to build at this club. If you ask any of his team-mates they will say we are a better team with him in it."
Aston Villa (4-4-1-1): Friedel; L Young, Collins, Dunne (Cuellar, h-t), Warnock; Albrighton, Petrov, Ireland (Carew, 72), Downing; A Young; Agbonlahor. Substitutes not used Guzan (gk), Reo-Coker, Clark, Bannan.
Bolton Wanderers (4-4-1-1): Bogdan; Steinsson, Knight, A O'Brien (Ricketts, 18), Robinson; Lee, Muamba (M Davies, 69), Holden, Petrov (Taylor, 83); K Davies; Elmander. Substitutes not used Lainton (gk), Klasnic, Moreno, Blake.
Booked Knight, K Davies.
Man of the match K Davies.
Possession Aston Villa 56% Bolton 44%.
Shots on target Aston Villa 6 Bolton 8.
Referee M Dean (Wirral). Attendance 34,655.
Match rating 6/10.