Downing delighted to start afresh

Stewart Downing has welcomed a change in approach at Aston Villa, and claims Gerard Houllier’s arrival has got the whole squad on their toes.

The Frenchman has enjoyed a perfect start to life at the Villa Park helm, claiming back-to-back victories.

He has a lot to live up to at the Midlands club, as he attempts to build on the fine work of his predecessor Martin O’Neill, but he has plenty of experience on which to call and has made a positive first impression.

With a 3-1 victory over Blackburn in the Carling Cup followed up by a 2-1 derby day success over Wolves in the Premier League, Houllier could not have wished for a better opening.

The former Liverpool boss has also made an instant impact in the dressing room, with the slate having been wiped clean for those who found themselves on the fringes of the fold under the old regime.

The likes of Nigel Reo-Coker, who fell out with O’Neill, have been drafted back in, while summer arrivals such as Stephen Ireland have been forced to make way.

There is, however, a healthy competition for places now and England winger Downing feels Houllier’s arrival will help to reinvigorate the players.

"The new manager isn’t bothered about players’ names or egos," he said.

"All the squad is on their toes and competition is healthy.

"Nigel has come in and done very well. Stephen Ireland has just come to the club but he is finding it hard to get in the team at the minute.

"I am sure he is disappointed but Nigel deserves to play. That is the way it is, no matter who you are or how much you cost.

"We’re all fighting to be in the team. We all want to play so everyone is starting afresh."