Monday, 8 November 2010

Houllier's getting to grips at Villa

Another draw maybe, but the enforced substitution of Nigel Reo-Coker sparked something very exciting in the Villa performance, writes Villa fan and talkSPORT's Jonny Gould.

Putting aside the wretched disappointment of conceding a goal which denied Villa a deserved victory in the 1-all draw at Fulham, this was a very significant day in the Gerard Houllier regime.

Albrighton's strike should've been the winner at Fulham.
Because now the team's looking like his. The Martin O'Neill era is consigned to history. And that moment came at the exact point when we lost skipper Nigel Reo-Coker to injury.

On in his place came Ciaran Clark. Forced to push up to midfield from his customary defensive position (as he did against Blues), Clark found his feet immediately - and produced a consummate display.

But it's not just about a fine young talent producing on demand. It's what Clark represents when he plays alongside Barry Bannan, Marc Albrighton and Nathan Delfouneso.

Villa have a class of 2010 - When these young lads combined with the attacking instincts and experience of Stewart Downing and Ashley Young, Villa looked a threat on the break every time they had the ball.

Now watch Villa's poor away form on the road improve vastly. If they play like that, results and confidence will follow.

Naturally, they'll have to play a different kind of game at home. One can't rely on attacking on the break at Villa Park. And with Heskey, Carew and Agbonlahor all missing at Fulham, the focal point of a target man will change the team's dynamic anyway.

But Houllier's way is being stamped on the players. Not only that, he's giving decent youngsters a proper chance to stake their claim to a Villa career. Something O'Neill just didn't do.

Villa lost Gary Cahill to Bolton for that reason - and it's a crying shame as Villa's youth policy has always produced a conveyor belt of good talent.

I'm excited by the performance at Craven Cottage - and while this is a year of transition forced on Villa by O'Neill's shock decision to quit five days from the season's start, we have in Houllier's Class of 2010, something to make the heart beat faster.