Villa boss Gerard Houllier thanked football fans for their best wishes as he continued to recover from his heart scare.

Speaking for the first time since being taken ill last week, the 63-year-old said he had been “overwhelmed” by the reaction.

And doctors said the Frenchman should be well enough to leave the coronary care unit at Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital by the end of the week.

“I am extremely touched by all the messages I have received and by the reaction of people throughout the world of football,” Houllier said.

“It has been overwhelming actually. I’m especially grateful to the Villa fans for their genuine concern and encouragement and to the fans of clubs up and down the country.

“There has been a groundswell of goodwill and I appreciate this so much.”

The cause of Houllier’s chest pain was a dissection of the descending aorta, which happens when a tear in the inner wall of the aorta causes blood to flow between the layers of the wall of the aorta and force the layers apart.

And Houllier praised the reaction of Villa’s players, who made it eight points from a possible 12 by drawing 1-1 with Stoke last Saturday.

“I’m grateful to my players for their texts and messages and, of course, for their efforts in extending our recent unbeaten run,” he said.

Club doctor Mark Waller confirmed Houllier had improved since being admitted last week and should be allowed to return home soon.

But it was not clear whether he would be allowed to return to the dugout before the end of the season with Villa having just four games left to play.

“All the tests have confirmed his heart is working perfectly,” Dr Waller said.

“We are extremely encouraged by Gerard’s improvement over the past six days and we now anticipate he will be discharged from the coronary care unit at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital within the next three to four days.”

Houllier’s assistant Gary McAllister is in temporary charge of team affairs at Villa Park and will prepare the squad for a derby against West Bromwich Albion at The Hawthorns on Saturday.