Stewart Downing has become the first Villa player to speak publicly about the appointment of Gerard Houllier. The England international was full of praise for the new manager and looking forward to working under him in exciting times at Aston Villa. The winger was also quick to pay tribute to the work of Kevin MacDonald in recent months. The Scotsman could lead the club to the 3rd in the league with victory against tonight’s opponents, Stoke City.
Downing has praised MacDonald in his preparation of tonight’s tricky game at the Britannia Stadium. With all the talk at Villa surrounding the incoming Frenchman, MacDonald has had to ignore this, along with the disappointment of not being offered the job himself, and ensure the team are ready for one of the hardest away fixtures of the campaign. The £12m signing from Middlesbrough states that the caretaker has instilled a confidence in the team that Stoke will find hard to deter after a gutsy win against Everton.
“Kev is an ultra professional and, in difficult circumstances, he has stepped up and done a very good job for the football club. Obviously he’s got a lot of respect here. He’s brought a lot of young players through, some who are still here and some who have left. He has a good reputation and he’s done really well for us up to now.”
The 26 year old praised the efficient way in which the former, and soon to be, reserve team manager goes about his job. He revealed the work that MacDonald had done in bringing a lot of the young players now blossoming at the club, through the ranks.
“Before I came to the club I didn’t know a lot about Kev and what he’d done with the young players and the reserves, nurturing players and bringing them through. He just goes about his job and gets on with it and that’s what he’ll continue to do when the new manager comes in.”
Downing believes that Houllier can be a big success at the club and praised his record and pedigree stating that he was impressed with what he saw during the manager’s press conference on Friday.
“If you look at his past record as a manager, with what he did at Liverpool and at Lyon, he’s obviously got a good record and you don’t get jobs like that if you’re not very good. There’s no reason that I can think of why he can’t do very well at Aston Villa.”
He went on to emphasise the quality of the squad that Houllier will be inheriting and feels that the 63 year old has a terrific basis to build his legacy from.
“He’s got a good squad of players to work with. It’s a great club, great facilities so everything’s in place for him to do very well. I’m sure he’s excited to come and work with the squad because, if he looks at it, he’s got some very good players on his hands here.”
Downing believes that the changeover in managers could spell exciting times for the players and fans at the club. The winger’s position is one that will no doubt come under threat due to the emergence and return of certain players and he will be looking to impress the new man in charge. He also believes that the circumstances offer a fresh start to the so called fringe players at the club as well as the prospects hoping to force their way in to the reckoning.
“Personally I see it as a challenge because every time a new manager comes in you’ve got to impress him. But all those lads who have not played can see it as a fresh start and the young lads coming through can see it as a chance to impress the manager. The main thing is we’ve got to play our best football and stay in the team and that doesn’t change really – no matter who is in charge.”
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