Gerard Houllier’s former psychology guru has revealed that Aston Villa’s new manager’s pioneering mind games could be responsible for Emile Heskey’s mini claret and blue revival.
David Elliott worked closely with Houllier during his reign at Liverpool and advised the Frenchman amidst the Anfield giants’ UEFA, FA and League Cup treble in 2000-2001.
Elliott, who helps elite sports stars with leadership, motivation and peak performance, insists Houllier is refreshingly open to ways of bringing out the best in his footballers.
He also claims to have assisted Heskey, who kick-started his and Houllier’s claret and blue careers with his match-transforming cameo contribution against Blackburn on Wednesday.
And Elliott believes that Villa’s new boss will “leave no stone unturned” when it comes to uncovering precisely what motivates the players under his management.
“He is a visionary leader, excellent man manager and consummate professional and in my opinion Aston Villa are extremely fortunate to have enlisted him,” said Elliott.
“His capacity to embrace cutting edge psychological techniques will leave no stone unturned in finding ways to improve not only his player’s performance but also his own considerable expertise to build on the existing talents and strengths at Villa.
“In fact, he is a true pioneer in many ways. He was the first foreign Premier League manager to explore and develop the important psychological and emotional aspects of peak performance.
“That took a very brave man indeed to introduce performance-enhancement techniques to the top flight, particularly in the wake of the Eileen Drewery saga, which was a major contributing factor in the demise of Glenn Hoddle.
“Anything to do with the mind back then was viewed as strictly taboo.”
Elliott, who was first recommended to Houllier by former Liverpool chairman Noel White, has warned Villa’s players that the 63-year-old expects fierce loyalty in his dressing room.
But he is convinced Villa have made the right appointment and is confident that Martin O’Neill’s successor can help the claret and blues achieve their aim of Champions League football.
“He can be a very generous benefactor to his people, but runs a tight and disciplined ship,” added Elliott, who also cites Birmingham boss Alex McLeish as one of his clients.
“However, if you break his honour code, watch out because he can be a fierce disciplinarian and awesome foe.
“His understanding of personal and organisational values and the amazing power of vision are exemplary.”