Houllier backs McLeish

Former Aston Villa boss Gerard Houllier is confident new manager Alex McLeish will be successful.The Frenchman was forced to leave Villa Park on June 1 with heart problems which reoccurred late in the season.

McLeish crossed from rivals Birmingham City, who were relegated to the Championship last season, to take up the role despite protests from Villa fans.

Houllier said he had respect for McLeish and believed he could bring the club success.

“I’ve known him for a long time. He’s a nice person, a nice guy, very straightforward,” he told the Birmingham Mail on Wednesday.

“He’s football through and through and I think he’s a good signing for the club. I think he came to visit me in Lyon, but I had met him before.”

“During the 2004 European Championships in Portugal, I had a couple of meals with him. We’ve got mutual friends as well so he’s a person I know quite well.”

“We were together at a charity event the day after we played each other in the Carling Cup.”

“He’s just arrived. I think he’s strong enough. He’s got the personnel to win football matches.”

Houllier agreed with striker Gabriel Agbonlahor, who said McLeish should be given time to make an impact.

The 63-year-old said he was disappointed he could not continue at Aston Villa, where he felt he had more to achieve.

“It’s just a shame that my health let me down a bit but that happens and you’ve just got to take that on your chin and get on with it,” Houllier said.

“I’ve no ill feeling I can tell you. I loved the people I worked with.”

“There is no bitterness, no resentment, nothing, just the regret that I could not carry on the task. It is a bit like unfinished business.”

“I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. It’s just a shame that after we won at West Ham and were practically safe, I had this problem with my heart.”

“But everybody I worked with was fantastic and I hope they can’t say a bad thing about me.”

Houllier was admitted to hospital on April 21 after complaining of chest pains and assistant manager Gary McAllister, who left the club when McLeish was appointed, took over for the last five games of the English Premier League season as Villa finished ninth.