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David Luiz's stunning pool volley

The Toe Poke
By ESPN Staff

Houllier wants Reo-Coker to stay

Gerard Houllier believes Aston Villa midfielder Nigel Reo-Coker can play a major part in his longer term plans.

Houllier is planning to hold talks with Reo-Coker, who is out of contract in the summer, over his future at the end of April.

His days at Villa Park looked numbered last summer under then manager Martin O'Neill with whom he reportedly had a training ground dispute 18 months ago.

But Houllier immediately drafted Reo-Coker into his starting line-up after taking charge in September and made him captain in the absence of the injured Stiliyan Petrov.

Houllier is reluctant to make any hard and fast commitments until Villa's Premier League fate is decided. But he admits he is an admirer of former England Under-21 skipper Reo-Coker who moved to Villa from West Ham four years ago.

Houllier said: "We have said regarding players at the end of their contract, that we would review the situation at the end of April. But Nigel has been involved in every game. First of all, whether he plays or is on the bench, he's a good member of the squad, a good team-mate. He's very happy, very positive. He's a fighter. We have a lot of midfielders but he has been very consistent for us.''

Houllier added: "Would I like Nigel to stay? If the opportunity comes, but everything depends on the next seven games. The future is seven games for the moment. Let's go over that hurdle and then we will see. First of all we need to be secure and then we will see.

"But I have shown him he is part of the plans. I like him, because he's a good trainer as well. I think he has improved a bit. In the dressing room, he is important. He's a committed player. He's got a desire. I think Nigel has played a great part in our season and I'm pleased with him. He's a very popular figure amongst the players.''

Houllier disputes suggestions that Reo-Coker is difficult to handle as a player.

He said: "I didn't notice that. I've never found him difficult. I've had much more difficult ones (players) than Nigel in my career I can tell you. He likes to work, train, play. Everyone can be temperamental at times. Who isn't. I know what he's good at and I ask him to do that.''

Houllier also reiterated his desire to retain the services of winger Stewart Downing this summer. Downing has been in fine form for Villa and earned an England recall against Ghana last week when he was chosen as the official man of the match. He has been linked with a move away from Villa Park.

But, when asked if he was looking to keep Downing, Houllier said: "Yes, we will keep him.''


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