Houllier: Villa needs more ambition

Houllier makes his return to English football after a six-year absence as Villa take on Blackburn Rovers in the Carling Cup, and the Frenchman has called on the club to clamber out of it’s 'comfort zone' and step up to the next level.

Villa made it to Wembley twice last season, losing the League Cup final to Manchester United and an FA Cup semi final to Chelsea.

Those failures, along with a slump in league form and behind-the-scenes troubles, eventually led to the departure of then manager Martin O’Neill.

Aston Villa chairman Randy Lerner took his time over a new appointment, leaving caretaker boss Kevin McDonald in charge at the start of this season.

But a bad beginning to the campaign saw the Midlands outfit win just two of their opening seven games, and an early exit from Europe prompted Lerner to appoint Houllier.

Ahead of his first game in charge, Houllier has now issued a rallying cry to his new players, calling on them to add more 'bite' as a new era begins under the former Liverpool boss.

"Villa is liked in Europe," said Houllier. "It has an identity. This club is known to be a good club, but what it needs is more ambition, more biting teeth. When you are a good club everything is fine, the comfort is there. What we need to do is get out of this comfort zone a bit more and get the results."

Houllier is set to use the Blackburn game as an opportunity to rotate his squad, with several first-team regulars expected to miss out.

Asked how many players he will rotate, the Frenchman replied: "There will be half of the team. I’m not the only one to do that. All teams probably rotate for the first round. It’s not a lesser side – it’s a good side.

"The League Cup, normally, in the early stages – you use it to give a kick to everybody.

"Some, with obviously a lack of games, want to play. To me, it is also a possibility to see other players because I don’t know them. It’s usual in the early rounds and when it comes to the crunch, then you try and play your best team."

Aston Villa and Blackburn met in the semi-finals of last season’s Carling Cup. Villa emerged victorious in a thrilling tie, winning 7-4 on aggregate.

By Jonathan Fadugba

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