Houllier hails Academy produce
Villa are currently without 10 senior players ahead of Sunday's Premier League clash at Blackburn. But the likes of Marc Albrighton and Barry Bannan, who signed a new three-and-a-half-year contract on Friday, have helped to cushion the blow. Albrighton has impressed on the right flank while Bannan's passing ability in central midfield earned him his first Scotland cap against the Faroe Islands in midweek. Houllier knows the duo have much to learn still but is excited about their potential. He said: "I think we have got a good academy, with good people working behind the scenes, they produce good players, and maybe some of them started (to break through) before I came. "But some players, because of injuries, have shown their face at the window and have taken their opportunities. "That's fine and, when you are good enough, you are old enough. "You need to take the tension of the young players and must not put pressure on them. "But I can quite happy to see some young players coming through. We are in a learning process and is good opportunity for them to show what they are capable of." Houllier added: "With Marc Albrighton, he needs to improve his tactical knowledge and influence to the team. "But I like his work-rate, his attitude and also his bravery. He doesn't bottle out. "He's got the level of the Premier League but he needs to step up. Maybe that means playing a bit more with his head and seeing the picture. "A couple of times when we have counter attacked he didn't see the other players and, when there is a cross coming from the left, he needs to be in the box but he is a good prospect." Houllier received a glowing reference about Bannan from Ian Holloway after the player had a spell on loan at Blackpool last season. He said: "I believe in the young Bannan because he's a player. I was talking with Ian Holloway and he said 'trust him.' I think he'll make a player. "He's tough and he can compete. He has skill and vision. He can see very quickly and deliver the pass. "He is only 20 and the Scotland national team have given him his chance. His work-rate and attitude is phenomenal. When he can do more, he does. "I like him because I like players who can pass the ball and dribble and create things." At the other end of the scale 37-year-old newcomer Robert Pires could make his Villa debut at Ewood Park after signing a six month deal. Houllier will carefully manage the work-load of the former Arsenal player who has been training with the Gunners for the past six months. He said: "Robert is hungry to win. He has practically won everything in football. He is a champion. He has won a lot of things. "I won't make him play him three games a week, I will manage him."