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Houllier absent from Stoke clash

New manager Gerard Houllier has confirmed he will not be present at Aston Villa's Premier League clash with Stoke City on Monday and is unsure when he will officially take charge of the club.

Houllier, who gave up his position at the French Football Federation to succeed Martin O'Neil at Villa Park, still has obligations to fulfil with the FFF and he hopes to be able to start his Villa tenure in their next game at home to Bolton.

Kevin MacDonald, who acted as caretaker manager after the departure of O'Neill, will remain at the club but not in the role of assistant manager. MacDonald has opted against becoming Houllier's assistant and will return to his job as reserve team coach.

"I spoke to Kevin and he prefers to go back to his role as reserve-team manager," revealed Houllier. "He has done a very good job and I trust him and I am sure our relationship will be good."

Houllier said he was proud to be returning to the Premier League at the helm of such an ambitious club during his official unveiling on Friday. The former Liverpool boss also revealed he turned down offers from a number of other clubs to join the Villans.

"I take great pride in my appointment as manager of Aston Villa. It is a great honour for me," Houllier said. "I was impressed by the dynamism and the ambition of the club. And I'm delighted to be part of that ambition.

"The Premier League is the best league in the world. It has not diminished since I left Liverpool [in 2004]. I had a good job with the FFF but I had a desire to return to English football - although it is not a case of unfinished business because I did well at Liverpool and won six trophies.''

Under MacDonald, Villa won two of their opening three Premier League fixtures and Houllier is eager to continue his good work.

"The facilities are first class, the training ground is really good, there is a vision for the future," said Houllier. "It's down now to us to work hard to bring success and joy to the fans. The fans are most important, they are passionate, vocal and fantastic."

Houllier, 63, added that he was fit and healthy after heart problems in 2001 during his reign at Liverpool.


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