Houllier saddened by Villa exit

The 63-year-old, who stepped down as Villa boss this week due to

health reasons, made a much anticipated return to the Premier

League last September after illness ensured a lengthy spell out of

England’s top-flight. But Houllier endured a disappointing season

with the Midlands side, who found themselves in a relegation battle

by mid-March and, following a shock 1-0 home defeat to rivals

Wolves, picked up only six points from a possible 18. With ever

growing doubts over the health of the former Liverpool manager, who

suffered a suspected heart attack during half-time of a game

against Leeds United in 2001, Houllier knows the dangers of

returning to the high-pressured role. Aston Villa officials, who

face an uphill battle to get the club back on track following a

season of setbacks, cannot risk similar chaos following the shock

exit of former boss Martin O’Neill just days before the start of

the season. Houllier told France Football: “I almost died. The

doctors advised me to not resume before late in August or early in

September. So it was a problem. “The officials were also scared my

comeback could be postponed again at that time. I can understand

that. The risk exists. “They are still traumatised with what

happened last year, when Martin O’Neill left five days before the

start of the season. So they didn’t want such a possibility to

happen again. “I am on form again and I have recovered well. Last

week, I went back to the training ground for the first time, and on

a human level it is a real pain to have to make such a decision.”

But, despite Houllier’s undisputed love of coaching, the former

Lyon manager knows his football career has perhaps reached the end

of the road. And while Villa begin to rectify a troubled season,

the highly-acclaimed manager – who was awarded an honorary OBE for

outstanding services to British football in 2003 – has accepted

where he feels he should be. Houllier added: “Coaching is my job,

my life, my passion. “Maybe I will go on living in Birmingham for

six months or one year, to have a good rest. I am in the

countryside and very close to hospital and that is the perfect

place.”