Aston Villa 2011/12 Preview: Ins, Outs, Transfer Targets and Predictions

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Last Season

Aston Villa fans endured a rollercoaster of a season last year, experiencing hope and disaster in equal measure.

Just days before the campaign got underway, Martin O’Neill resigned over James Milner being sold to Manchester City for £26million.

The news rocked Villa’s preparations but owner Randy Lerner refused to panic and placed reserve team manager Kevin MacDonald in charge, who achieved mixed results.

Gerard Houllier was announced as O’Neill’s permanent successor with Gary McAllister being appointed as his assistant.

But the Frenchman’s reign did not get off to a great start, amid rumours of training ground rows between players and backroom staff.

By January, Villa were in 18th place after picking up just 21 points from 20 games. They were flirting with relegation and the calls for Houllier to be sacked were growing.

But Houllier came out fighting and spearheaded a recruitment drive that would see Kyle Walker, Jean Makoun and Michael Bradley arrive in the Midlands.

But, arguably, the best piece of business in the winter window was made by signing Darren Bent from Sunderland for £18million.

His nine goals in 16 league games, combined with the supply from Ashley Young and Stewart Downing, helped the club climb away from relegation and into mid-table safety.

Possibly Houllier’s biggest error in charge came in the FA Cup defeat to Manchester  City, where he picked an understrength team that lost 3-0.

The calls for him to be sacked intensified after that with banners of: ‘Had enough, Houllier out’, being unfurled against rivals Wolves.

But on April 20, Houllier was admitted to hospital with chest complaints and was unable to take his seat in the dugout again. Gary McAllister took over first-team duties.

June 1 saw Houllier’s contract terminated due to ill health and sthe search began for another new manager.

Carlo Ancelotti, Steve McClaren and Mark Hughes were all linked with the job but Lerner controversially went for rivals Birmingham City boss Alex McLeish.

Fans protested outside the ground at the appointment but to no avail, and the Scot has wasted no time in going about his summer transfer activity.

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