Filed: Sunday, 17th April 2011
By: Staff Writer
Gerard Houllier reflects on an afternoon on which his Aston Villa side virtually assured themselves of a Premier League spot next season...
Gerard: What did you say at half time that changed it so much in the second half?
We did two or three things, tactically, and if we did them we'd put them more under the cosh and make it difficult. Right away, immediately we did that and created chance after chance. Today I think we created enough chances to win the game. From our point of view it's not good to wait until the ninety... was it added time?
Yes. What were the three key points then?
I told the players before the game that it was a turning point. We missed a turning point at Bolton because we were 2-1 up - and should have been 3-1 up - and we lost the game. I said 'this time we won't miss this turning point'. But in fairness I must give credit to their character because that's what we need in a fight against relegation. You need character, composure. I think at times we demonstrated as well that we could be defending ourselves, in difficulty. And I saw that the team were very together, doing well. We worked on a few things during the week and I thought they worked very well.
I heard you on the radio stressing the point that from now on it's not about individuals, it's very much about the collective?
When you're in danger you can't have egos in the team and you can't have grudges. You need to be man enough to put away, you know... to work for each other. I'm not talking about working together or working for the team but working for each other. I thought the work done especially on the side by Ashley Young and Luke Young - and on the other side by Stuart Downing and Kyle Walker - showed that. I like when they interchange and play, fill in positions and so on.
You talk about character; your two centre-halves were magnificent, weren't they?
Oh yes, yeah. I mean we were a bit disappointed at half time. I said 'we can win this game, let alone having a draw'. I know every point is valuable in the position we are in but I thought today we went for the win and we got the reward - maybe late, but we got it! But we went for the win right from the first minute of the game and even if we were stunned - it took us maybe 15, 20 minutes to get the spirit right - because of the goal we conceded too early.
Do you think he was offside?
He was not offside, no.
Do you still think you need more points?
Well we know this club [West Ham United] went down some years ago with 42 points so we know what it takes to at least be safe. But what we want is to pick up points at the moment. I said when we started this new league of eight games, the first thing is that our fate is in our hands - we don't have to wait for others, if they've won or lost. We've got the fate in our hands at the moment. So we need to keep that going, that's very important - and for that we need to pick up points - and if we manage to have maybe six points or more before the last two games maybe we can play with peace of mind.
It's important to keep momentum at this stage, isn't it?
It's very important. Even at Everton we were seven minutes away from the win. I think the Premiership is like a race and now we've come to the home straight. When you come to the home staright you need to be well placed for the final push which could be the last three games. At the moment we're well placed. But you would say that six, seven, eight maybe nine teams are concerned by that. So that's why I thought it was a turning point because it could put us in the top half of the Premier League.
You're ninth now?
Yes, that's why I told the boys. That's why it's a turning point, because with 37 [points] we were 14th and the team in ninth had 39.
Do you find it sums up how strange a season it's been, that you can go from the relegation places to ninth in a blink of an eye?
It happens sometimes. I think the players should take pride in what they're doing. Sometimes you fight for the title, we've had to fight to get out of the danger zone. Now we'll fight to keep the momentum going which is, at this moment in the season, very important.
Do you think you've answered people who said there wasn't enough fight in the Villa dressing room?
I don't want them to fight in the dressing room, I want them to fight on the pitch!
They've done that over the last two matches, haven't they?
Yeah. Even at Everton, you know; at Everton we were a bit hard done by, I think we could have won.
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