Aston Villa manager Gerard Houllier believes midfielder Stewart Downing has improved beyond recognition while he has been in charge.
The England international was lacking confidence when Houllier took over at Villa Park, but the French manager has seen Downing flourish since moving from the left of midfield to the right.
And the manager expects Downing to shine on the flank when Villa host Newcastle United on Sunday.
“I think he has stepped up. I think he?s made one step, but there are several steps,” Houllier said.
“He seems to have become a more regular international and is in the squad all the time.”
“My aim is to see him playing practically two games out of three for England very soon and to take part in the 2012 European Championships.”
Houllier had favoured a 4-4-1-1 formation until last weekend when he switched to a more straight-forward 4-4-2 for the 2-2 draw at Everton.
But he said he could revert to playing Darren Bent upfront on his own against Newcastle.
“I’ll see the games how they come,” Houllier said. “I knew that we would pose more problems to Everton with Darren Bent and Gabriel Agbonlahor upfront together.”
“We will see game after game, but it?s not set in stone.”
“I prefer to deal privately with how Darren and Gabby played together – all I know is that we scored two goals.”
“But it would be hard for you to quote me teams that play with two strikers – there are not many.”
Houllier has a welcome headache at the selection table with Villa reporting no injury problems.
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