Bent sad to see Houllier leave

Houllier has ended his ninth-month reign with immediate effect
after suffering heart problems which meant he could not take charge
of the team for the final five games of the season. He showed his
faith in Bent by splashing out an initial £18million to
Sunderland in January and he responded with nine goals in 16 games.
Bent said: “It is sad for me to see Gerard go. He signed me,
invested a lot of money in me. “He showed a lot of faith in me.
“But your health comes first and, if he’s not well enough to come
back, then he needs to take a break.” It has been common knowledge
for 24 hours that Houllier’s reign was coming to an end after he
underwent further medical tests before the weekend. Villa will now
step up their search to find a replacement with Fulham’s Mark
Hughes one of the early names to be linked with the post. Doctors
have advised that Houllier will require further time to recuperate
although the 63-year-old is not ruling out an eventual return to
the game. Villa chief executive Paul Faulkner said: “We regret the
circumstances of Gerard’s departure and, naturally, we wish him
well in his continued recovery. “I know I speak for everyone
associated with Aston Villa in expressing our hope that Gerard will
return to full health as quickly as possible and we wish him all
the best for the future.” Faulkner added: “As a board we are very
conscious of the need to ensure that the club is prepared fully to
meet the demands of the new season. “To that end, we have already
embarked upon the process which will lead to the appointment of a
new manager.” Houllier replaced Martin O’Neill in September and
found it difficult to win over the Villa fans who called for him to
be sacked after home defeats by Sunderland and Wolves. But there
were signs that Villa were turning the corner during the second
half of the campaign and they climbed to ninth in the Barclays
Premier League. Houllier said: “I am extremely disappointed that I
will not have the opportunity to manage Aston Villa next season.
“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. “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
have been extremely touched by all of the messages I have received
and by the reaction of people throughout the world of football. “It
has been an honour to manage this great club and I wish everyone
connected with Aston Villa every success for the future.” Villa
have yet to make any announcement over the future of Houllier’s
assistant, Gary McAllister, who took charge of the club in his
absence.