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.