BIRMINGHAM // Gerard Houllier has urged Aston Villa's match-winner Emile Heskey to "keep believing in himself" after he gave the Frenchman a victory in his first Premier League game in charge of the club. Heskey came off the bench to transform Villa's fortunes in lastweek's Carling Cup tie with Blackburn Rovers, scoring the equaliser within a minute as his side turned a 1-0 deficit into a 3-1 victory.
And he responded after being given his first league start for six months with a late winner in the 2-1 win at Wolverhampton Wanderers yesterday. Houllier, who signed Heskey when Liverpool manager in 2000, said: "After the Carling Cup game, I said 'Well done, this is what you are capable of, and there is no reason why you can't repeat that'. "All players need confidence. Strikers need more confidence. Everyone loves Emile at the club, he is a good teammate. What he needs is to keep believing in himself. I don't know whether he believes in me but I believe in him. That is more important.
"Because he plays up front and sometimes misses sitters, people get on his back and maybe that has hurt him in the past. His work-rate was phenomenal today." Meanwhile, Houllier dismissed reports that he had asked the French Football Federation to keep his role as technical director open. Houllier said he asked for a sabbatical to avoid having to serve three months notice so he could start work at Villa sooner rather than later.
He said: "When you resign, you need to serve three months notice. "One way of turning that around is to ask for a sabbatical and then you are free immediately." Stewart Downing, the winger, put Villa ahead in the 26th minute. Marc Albrighton drilled a dipping centre across the six-yard box and Downing deflected the ball past Marcus Hahnemann, the Wolves goalkeeper, from close range. Matt Jarvis was at the heart of Wolves' most threatening moments and the winger scored his first goal of the campaign just after the hour mark to equalise.
On the left wing, he cut back inside on to his right foot and floated a dangerous ball across the box which evaded everyone and flew across Brad Friedel, the Villa keeper, into the far corner of the net. But with three minutes remaining Heskey snatched the winner. Stephen Warnock supplied a probing cross from the left flank and Heskey rose to place a header into the corner of the net. It means Villa are unbeaten in 17 matches against Wolves stretching back 30 years.
Mick McCarthy, the Wolves manager, was unhappy that Warnock was still on the pitch. He felt the England defender should have been sent off for a challenge on Kevin Doyle after having already been booked. McCarthy said: "Listen, it is a great header by Heskey and we shouldn't take that away from him. "But I don't think Warnock should have been on the pitch. If it is a foul, it is a booking. It just rankles a bit. He shouldn't be there."
* Press Association