From his (£18 million transfer from Sunderland, Darren Bent scored in his Aston Villa debut earlier today, the 1-0 defeat of Manchester City coming on the heels of Gerard Houllier receiving considerable flak for his pursuits of Bent and Blackpool’s Charlie Adams.  The not quite shy and retiring Villa manager hit back Friday, telling the Telegraph’s Sandy Macaskill,  “I’m a foreign manager, I’m an easy target.”

Using Blackpool’s Ian Holloway,  who accused Villa of trying to “steal Adam from Blackpool ” as an example, Houllier said: “We did the right thing, we went to the club, we didn’t go to the player and, funnily enough, it came out from their side.

“There was nothing from Villa, and Ian said we are insulting him and the player and God knows what.”

“If I call [Bruce], and say, ‘I’m interested in your centre forward”, and he says, ‘No way, no chance’, then it will go in the press that Gerard Houllier is trying to disrupt. We did things right between the owners. We did that without unsettling the team.”

“Things have changed now. I know there used to be a time when a manager would call another manager and say: ‘I will buy your player for so much money.’  Now you are not the owner any more, the club is a different entity.”  Warming to his theme, Houllier next questioned Sunderland’s version of events over Bent’s actual transfer.

“If I want to buy your house and you don’t want to sell, you just say no, whatever the price,” Houllier said.

“But if you don’t say no and accept the bid, what can you do? He was asked to do so [put in a transfer request], probably.”

In a parting shot, Houllier accused Bruce of being deliberately obtuse regarding the way modern transfers are conducted in an attempt to protect his status among supporters.

The Frenchman also suggested that Sunderland needed to improve their communication between board and manager. “When I heard it first of all, I thought it was not gracious. Our club has been more gracious in [similar] situations.”

“It is not going to prevent me from sleeping, I can tell you that. I thought: ‘Hang on a second, why is he having a go at me? Is he trying to protect himself from his fans?’  All he has got to do is say this is football now.”