Gerard Houllier has shown that he is not afraid to let it be known of his frustration with some of the player’s recent performances for Aston Villa. The Villa manager spoke out of his disapproval of captain Nigel Reo-Coker’s conduct in the weekend’s derby with Birmingham. The newly appointed temporary skipper was part of a fierce duel with ex-Villa midfielder Craig Gardner for much of the encounter with both parties guilty of unnecessary challenges. The two players were booked during the game Reo-Coker having to be separated from a minor brawl after consecutive tackles from Gardner. The Villa man was clearly rattled and after being booked, was withdrawn from the proceedings by Houllier and still needed to be calmed down after the game had ended.
Houllier stated that he was unhappy with his captain’s reaction and that the midfielder would need to ‘learn’ to control his temper in the future. The Frenchman also said that he had told his player’s to expect a battle and that he was disappointed with Reo-Coker’s reaction. Speaking in a post match interview with the BBC, Houllier stated.
“Sometimes when you’re tired you lose a bit of control. I warned them and wasn’t happy with the reaction. He will learn. We all know how competitive matches in the Premier League are but the Midlands derbies are maybe more so than others.”
“You’ve got to be strong enough to take it on the chin and go on. In that particular circumstance the referee had whistled and it was a free-kick so we should get on with it.”
After leaving out Stephen Ireland for Sunday’s derby, Houllier was not shy in speaking of his concern for the Irishman’s form. Ireland signed from Man City in the deal which saw James Milner go the other way but is yet to settle at Villa Park after a string of unconvincing displays. The Villa manager was highly critical of certain facets of the new signings game and said that he would need to work harder to get into the starting XI. Houllier’s comments also showed that nobody is certain of a place in his team and if he feels that a player isn’t performing he will be dropped. The 63-year-old was sympathetic of the midfielder’s situation having been out of the first team loop at Manchester City for the most part of last season but did not mince his words in his desire to see more from the 24-year-old.
“Ireland needs to work harder. He played against Chelsea and did well, he played against Sunderland and was not good enough to me – simple as that. He needs to work harder. The skill is one thing but you need to compete. It is a difficult period for him. We support him, we back him. He comes to a new club and there is a change of manager in between.”
“We know he is a good player but I don’t want to have a situation where you say ‘he is a good player, but….’ If you say ‘he is a good player but he doesn’t defend, he doesn’t run back, he loses too many balls in crucial areas’, then that is difficult. He needs to get rid of these ‘buts’ about him and be a good player. He needs to work harder in games.”
I like to see a manager who isn’t afraid to ruffle a few feathers and hope that it will have the desired effect in getting the best out of a player who has proven to be real quality.
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