Downing hails Houllier, but Villa boss set to go

STEWART DOWNING has praised the contribution of Gerard Houllier but insists Aston Villa will not influence decisions regarding his own future.

Villa are expected to make a formal announcement on the future of manager Houllier today after he underwent medical tests before the weekend. Reports yesterday suggested the former Liverpool boss will part company with Villa because of concerns over his health after his recent heart problems.

However, Downing said: “If he (Houllier) doesn’t continue, then good luck to him and I wish him well.

“I’ll be sorry to see him go if that is the case. He was good to me. He came in at a tough time.

“He did quite well with the team. I’ve enjoyed working with him. If he stays, brilliant, if he goes, I wish him all the best.

“His illness is a shame and stopping him from doing what he wants to do.”

Villa have already been linked with David Moyes, Mark Hughes and Steve McClaren should Houllier’s reign end.

Downing continued: “I’m sure Randy Lerner (club owner) and Paul Faulkner (chief executive) will get the right man if there is a change.’’

Downing has two years remaining on his current contract and has been linked with a move to Liverpool.

When asked if Houllier’s future would influence any decision on his own future, Downing said: “Not really. I’ve enjoyed working with Martin O’Neill, Gary McAllister, Kevin MacDonald and Gerard Houllier.

“If the manager stays or goes, it doesn’t influence my decision.”

Houllier, who underwent heart surgery when Liverpool manager a decade ago, was forced to miss the final month of last season while recuperating from his latest setback. Caretaker boss McAllister has been adamant Houllier would return to his post but it is understood Villa officials are concerned whether it would be fair to Houllier or the club to risk any further health setbacks.

Houllier has struggled to win over the Villa fans despite a revival in the second half of the season which culminated in a ninth-placed finish in the Barclays Premier League.

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