Houllier thrilled with Pires impact

Aston Villa manager Gerard Houllier was delighted with the performance of Robert Pires in his side’s 3-1 FA Cup victory over Blackburn.

Pires, 37, has struggled since his arrival on a free transfer in November but showed a glimpse of his best as he scored a goal as he played a starring role in Villa’s fourth round victory on Saturday.

The French midfielder left the pitch to a standing ovation from the Villa Park faithful and joining in the crowd clapping was Houllier.

“He (Pires) is fitter first of all. He played against Sheffield United in the last round and I think he is getting better and better,” Houllier said.

“He has still got the touch and the eye for the pass and he brings some fluency to the game with his technique. I was pleased by the reaction of the bench when he scored.”

“That is something very telling. The whole bench went up and were very happy and proud for him. He is a popular fellow. They like him. He is a nice man.”

“We’ve got to understand he has not got the legs of when he was 30 but he still can run and have an impact.”

Houllier also said he wouldn’t appeal the red card handed to youngster Nathan Baker for his challenge on Blackburn’s Junior Hoilett for a poor, late challenge.

“We won’t be appealing. It looked harsh from where I was but I can understand the referee has a totally different angle and he was thinking ‘feet off the ground’,” Houllier said.

“The boy will learn he doesn’t need to do that, particularly in the midfield area.”

Blackburn manager Steve Kean was disappointed with his side’s profligacy in front of goal, insisting his side should have scored more than once.

“We looked at the chances we had and we need to be a bit more ruthless. We had eight good chances and did not work Brad Friedel enough,” Kean said.

“We are disappointed with that part of our game and the goals we conceded in the first half were poor goals.”

Kean also admitted there was no intent in Baker’s challenge, saying a chat with Aston Villa assistant Gary McAllister assured him the youngster would not deliberately try to hurt Hoilett.

“It was just mistimed. It was high and late but I spoke with Gary McAllister (Villa assistant-manager) and he told me Nathan is not that type of lad,” he said.

“He is a bit upset so we will take that it was mistimed. I thought it was red. It was late and high but fortunately caught Junior on the chest.”