Gerard Houllier wants midfielder Nigel Reo-Coker to stay at Aston Villa on a long-term basis after appointing him captain during Stiliyan Petrov's two-month absence through injury.
Reo-Coker is out of contract next summer but Houllier revealed Villa chief executive Paul Faulkner has already held talks with his agent and it is a remarkable turnaround in fortunes for the former England Under-21 captain, who had few opportunities under previous manager Martin O'Neill after a training ground bust-up.
"I don't want to talk about the past. I don't want to bother with that. Just from what I see, Nigel's attitude and his work-rate has been consistent," said Houllier.
"In terms of performance, he knows exactly his role in the team. He works for the team and he has improved a lot, even over the last few games. Exemplarity is also a very important factor to me and that's why he's the captain. I hope he will stay with us."
Asked if there will be contract negotiations in the near future, Houllier added: "It's too early to say but Paul Faulkner has started to have talks with his agent. He knows I want to keep him."
Houllier admits he is wary in general about giving lucrative contracts to players because of the negative effect it can have on their performances. But he does not believe Reo-Coker falls into that category.
He said: "You have to be careful when you give good contracts to players. You don't want a player, once he has a contract, to get back into a sort of comfort zone, put a bit of weight on sometimes and not work as much.
"You have to make sure the contract is not the end in itself. It must the start of a fighting experience to win things for the club.
"If you give a contract to a player it means you trust him for the future. I just want fighters. I want players who are very hungry for success and not players who just think 'feet up and relax'. That's all.
"I think Nigel has probably gone through good times and bad times until now. But he knows the years to come are vital for him and it's better to be in an environment he knows, he likes and in which he will enjoy his football and therefore improve."
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