Downing delighted to start afresh

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.”