Despite initially positive news in the wake of Gérard Houllier's overnight hospitalization, the Telegraph is now reporting that the 63 year old manager is unlikely to resume his managerial duties this season. While a closer reading of the Telegraph article doesn't reveal much new information and the headline is the only thing giving any indication of Houllier's future this season being in doubt, there's also this from very reliable Express & Star columnist Timothy Abraham:
Unofficial word is that Gerard Houllier won't be in the dugout again this season. Gary McAllister set to fill in until end of season.
No matter what your opinion on Gerard Houllier, this is very bad news. This is a man with a history of heart problems who consulted with his surgeon before taking the position, so to develop such serious problems after receiving clearance is a very bad thing indeed. I think it's fair to say that all Aston Villa fans with even a shred of humanity are wishing him well in his recovery. He is by all accounts a good and decent man, and after seeing how happy he's been after the last two games I am absolutely crushed for the man. He deserves to enjoy this teams successes, because he was certainly forced to suffer for their failures.
From the standpoint of his future with the club, it's impossible to say for sure at this point. If I may offer pure conjecture with no basis in anything other than my own speculation however, I will say that I have a hard time seeing Gerard Houllier as Aston Villa's manager next season. I would not be surprised to see him in a front-office role, but given his age, health history and the stress he's been through this season a return to the sidelines just seems to much. I don't know what that will mean for the club; would Gary McAllister take over as manager if Houllier stayed in a technical director position? Would Houllier even be interested in such a role? Does anyone have Roberto di Matteo's phone number? It's tough to say.
As someone that has consistently defended Houllier, this is frustrating. Just as it seems things are starting to turn in the right direction the man is stricken with serious and very scary illness. After a year of upheaval and turmoil things were finally starting to settle down at Villa Park, and now we're faced with the club employing its fourth manager since the end of last season. While I think we can all agree that football is nowhere near as important as a man's well being, I don't think it's crass to say that I'm relieved that Villa were able to put themselves into safety before this happened.