'Humorous' Houllier says sorry
Villa fans have been voicing their opinions since the 3-0 defeat at Anfield left their side two points above the Premier League relegation zone. They were unhappy Houllier, who managed the Reds between 1998 and 2004, touched the 'This is Anfield' sign above the tunnel on his way on to the pitch. At the end of the game, the Frenchman waved to the home fans and did not acknowledge the travelling Villa support. Then in his post-match press conference, Houllier said: "If I was going to lose 3-0 to anyone, it would be Liverpool as I like Liverpool." Houllier issued a midweek statement trying to explain his actions, but without actually apologising. But he adopted a difference stance at his press conference ahead of Saturday's home clash with West Brom. He said: "If the fans think (what I did) was to hurt them, then I am sorry because this was not the case. "It was just done in a humorous way and I am hurting as much they are. I was probably more hurt because it was Liverpool. "If it adds to the fans' dissatisfaction, they have to know this was not the case at all (to upset them). This was done in a sort of a humorous way. "I am sorry. That's it. That's enough. "There was also a story that I touched the tunnel. I've done it for six years because that is under the tunnel where I was sick and it meant something." Houllier was referring to the heart scare he had during a game at Anfield in October 2001. The Frenchman added: "Had we won 3-0, no one would have talked about that. No one would say anything about that. "I'm hurting as much as the fans are. If you think that the fans have been hurt by what I said, yes I am sorry." Houllier is expecting a positive reaction from his players against Roberto Di Matteo's side. He said: "The training this week was more competitive and aggressive. "It is exactly what we need and the players are aware we are on an edge at the moment. "In situations like that, you see who you can rely on. There are players that are ready to go to war and those who are not. "I think everyone is prepared to." Houllier has plenty of respect for West Brom's flying start to the campaign after gaining promotion from the Championship. He said: "They are a good team, playing good football. I saw them against Newcastle and they deserved their (3-1) win. "There is no weak area in their team, I would say, so we respect them but it is not about West Brom, it is about us." Villa striker Gabriel Agbonlahor (illness) and defender Luke Young (groin) have been ruled out against the Baggies while midfielder Ciaran Clark is suspended. Striker Emile Heskey has recovered from the knee problem which has sidelined him for seven games and winger Ashley Young is available after a one-game ban.