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By ESPN Staff

Happy Heskey backing Houllier for success at Villa

Emile Heskey is backing Gerard Houllier to repeat the success he experienced at Liverpool during his reign as Aston Villa manager.

Heskey knows first hand about the qualities of Houllier who signed him for the Reds from Leicester in an £11 million deal a decade ago and the former England striker scored 22 goals in his first season at Anfield alongside Michael Owen. He also scored one and setting up two for Ashley Young in a 3-1 win over Blackburn in the Carling Cup on his debut under Houllier for Villa and has nothing but praise for his new boss.

''It's nice to be reunited with the manager. I know all about him and fingers crossed he will bring good times back to Villa,'' Heskey said. ''He did brilliantly at Liverpool and I am sure he can do the same here. He has many qualities and discipline on and off the park is one thing he definitely brings.''

Heskey has had an up and down career and the former Birmingham player has never fully won over the Villa fans although they gave him full backing after his performance against Blackburn.

''You've got to keep yourself going. Football is a funny game with loads of ups and downs in my career and I've managed to keep myself sane!'' he said. ''Has my Villa move lived up to expectations? I don't know. Every move has its up and downs. I went to a cup final and semi-final last year.

''That's the first time I've done that in four or five years. I can't say it's been a bad thing. I'll just keep plugging away. I don't need to show anyone I can play. I just go out there and perform to the best of my ability.''

Heskey has struggled to hold down a regular spot since moving from Wigan during the January 2009 transfer window. But he has been determined to make an impact whenever called upon.

Heskey said: ''I've been working hard in training to be ready for when called upon. Even when (caretaker manager) Kevin MacDonald was in charge, he said 'make sure you are ready' so I've been working on that.''

Meanwhile, Houllier believes Villa will reap the benefits of Heskey's decision to quit international football with England.

''He decided to stop his international career so now it means he can repeat games for us,'' Houllier said. ''The whole England team suffered (received criticism) for what happened in South Africa. But, if you remember the game against Germany, and I was at it, if the goal from Lampard had been allowed it would have been 2-2 at half-time.

''Sometimes things go your way, sometimes they don't, but whatever you say about Emile he is a good man and a good player. I read a few things about what he said when he retired and it's very sensible what he said, that his time has gone now, he's 32-33, there are some young players coming through. Emile will be 100% Villa and as the manager I am happy.''

Indeed, Houllier has no doubt Heskey can still be a major force.

He said: ''All strikers need confidence. They need to feel they have the backing of the manager, club and the fans. Emile probably needs that more than the others. I saw him play on September 4 in Jamie Carragher's testimonial.

''Garry McAllister (Villa assistant-manager) was also involved in that game and he said Emile has still got something about him. Trust me, I think he will do well for us.''


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