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Why Houllier is right for Aston Villa

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Phil McNulty | 11:03 UK time, Tuesday, 7 September 2010

General Charles Krulak called on all his years as a US Marine commander to defend Gerard Houllier - and this was even before the Frenchman walked through the doors at Villa Park as the club's new boss.

Krulak's colourful intervention on behalf of the man he has already christened "Mr H" was, however, a clear indicator that Houllier's announcement as Aston Villa manager has not exactly been a cause for rejoicing among the regulars.

And yet Krulak, who revels in his image as a straight shooter in his dealings with Villa supporters as owner Randy Lerner's right-hand man, hit the nail on the head when he said: "Whatever anyone thinks of him, he deserves respect from the fans of this club."

Houllier does not only deserve respect as a person, he has a record in football that also deserves respect - and this is why Lerner is in the process of making a sound choice by appointing the former Liverpool manager as successor to Martin O'Neill.

Out of those linked with the job, such as Alan Curbishley, Sven-Goran Eriksson, Ronald Koeman and Villa reserve team coach Kevin MacDonald, Houllier's record of success in England, as well as his experience and vast contacts, made him the outstanding candidate from those Lerner has targeted.

I should declare some past history here. I got to know Houllier very well during his time at Liverpool and respected his occasionally complex but always fiercely driven and totally professional approach and personality.

And it is worth setting the record straight as history is in danger of delivering a flawed judgement on Houllier's time at Liverpool.

In the desire to paint him as a failure at Anfield, it is worth recalling he rebuilt the entire culture and philosophy of the club after the excess - and in a football context pure waste - of the so-called 'Spice Boys' era. How could a team of such natural talents only have a Coca Cola Cup win against Bolton in 1995 to show for their gifts?

This was acknowledged by then chief executive Rick Parry on the day Houllier left Anfield in May 2004, when he said: "Gerard changed things off the pitch as well as on it, bringing back both our pride and self-respect and instilling discipline and professionalism throughout the club.".

Houllier knew a fresh approach was needed and, after the inevitable break-up of his arranged footballing marriage with Roy Evans, he provided it.

Houllier chats to Thierry Henry

Houllier is currently the national technical director of French football

Out went those he regarded as having outlived their usefulness, such as Paul Ince, in came a new, more pragmatic approach - and one that brought serious success back to Liverpool. He was accused of building a functional as opposed to flamboyant team but the ends justified his means.

Houllier's transfer record is often criticised and even he would struggle to make a case to defend the failures of players such as El-Hadji Diouf, Salif Diao and Bruno Cheyrou at Liverpool. Indeed, those three players are often paraded as the symbols of the beginning of the end of the Houllier era at Anfield - perhaps with some justification.

But the critics may care to remember masterstrokes, such as the signing of Sami Hyypia, a snip at £2.5m from Willem II (helped by a glowing reference from a Dutch television cameraman on a visit to Anfield), who went on to become one of the finest players and servants of the modern Liverpool era.

Stephane Henchoz was another inspirational addition to the spine of the team Houllier rebuilt. Then there was Didi Hamman, goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek and Gary McAllister.

If Houllier can recapture some of that magic in the market - and his knowledge of players has always been encyclopaedic - then the worries of the Villa faithful might just disappear.

Jamie Carragher's admiration for Houllier was evident in his presence alongside current boss Roy Hodgson on the Liverpool bench for his testimonial against Everton at Anfield on Saturday. Carragher, regarded by most as a manager of the future, revealed he would hope to model his approach on Houllier, such was his influence over his career.

And Steven Gerrard, the man Houllier appointed as Liverpool captain, also spoke glowingly about him while on England duty in Basle on Monday.

Danny Murphy was another who saw a career on the drift revitalised by Houllier to such an extent that he still flourishes for Fulham today. It is too easy to recall Houllier's failures while conveniently forgetting his successes.

Those players will also remember how Houllier fought back from the brink of death and major heart surgery in 2001 to return to Liverpool and resume his duties. How easy it would have been for him to walk away to a quiet life in France. Instead, he accepted he could not live without the game.

On another significant operational note, he also oversaw the complete overhaul of Liverpool's Melwood training base into the ulta-modern complex it is today - even helping design dressing rooms without pillars so no-one could "hide". Houllier was happy to conduct tours personally for journalists, such was his pride in the new home for his "family", as he referred to the club and his players.

And last but not least, he dealt in a currency Liverpool understands very well - success. Liverpool fans, even those who choose not to regard his reign with affection these days, will never forget 2001 and the treble capture of the Worthington Cup against Birmingham City, the FA Cup against Arsenal and the Uefa Cup against Alaves in Dortmund.

Again, Houllier's detractors pointed at "the Lucky Treble" - and admittedly the victory against Arsenal almost ranked as grand larceny when Michael Owen won an FA Cup final dominated overwhelmingly by Arsene Wenger's team - but you do not have success like that on the back of a hot streak of good fortune.

Houllier enjoys FA Cup success with Liverpool in 2001

Houllier enjoys FA Cup success with Liverpool in 2001

He added the Worthington Cup again in 2003 with Liverpool's win against Manchester United in Cardiff but there was a growing sense his tenure had lost momentum after six years in charge by the time he made an amicable departure from Anfield at the end of the following season.

Houllier had become overburdened by pressure and criticism in his final season. Too many signings, such as Harry Kewell, did not come off and Liverpool were too far adrift of the title challengers for him to survive.

Kewell's arrival from Leeds United in the face of competition from Manchester United and Arsenal was greeted with the same elation as Joe Cole's recent signing by Roy Hodgson. Instead, the Australian was a desperate failure at Anfield.

This does not mean Houllier himself should be regarded as a failure. Many of the same players won the Champions League against AC Milan the following year, although no-one can deny Rafael Benitez also brilliantly plotted a course through that campaign.

And there is even a case to be made that he left a better side for Benitez than Benitez subsequently left for Hodgson.

Villa fans might show some understandable concern that these achievements were a lifetime ago in Premier League terms but Houllier has hardly been a man with his finger away from football's pulse.

He won the French title twice at Lyon before stepping down in May 2007 and has since travelled all over the world watching the game in his role with the French Football Federation.

Houllier is in good health and his movre to Villa confirms he retains the desire to succeed in club management even though he has just celebrated his 63rd birthday. His great friends Hodgson and England coach Fabio Capello are 63 and 64 respectively and no-one can question their enduring passion for the game.

He will bring meticulous planning and an almost slavish attention to the details of tactics and preparation to Villa Park. After once asking Houllier to help with a rundown of teams for the 2002 World Cup in Japan, I arrived at his Melwood office to find him armed with pages of notes detailing his thoughts on the qualities or otherwise of each side in the tournament. Lack of preparation was not an option.

Villa's players will want for nothing in the pursuit of success, although they must buy into Houllier's team ethic and approach or there will be no future for them.

Houllier has had plenty of approaches in recent years. He has been linked with jobs at club and international level and remains a hugely respected figure within football's worldwide community. He always wanted a club that could satisfy his ambitions, which are aimed firmly at success, and he clearly believes Villa is a club that can match those aspirations.

An insight into Houllier's approach to football came when he was advised by some to retire from football after his serious illness, responding: "Football is my life and my oxygen and I don't want to live without it."

Now his next mission will be to breathe fresh life into Aston Villa.

You can follow me at twitter.com/philmcnulty and join me on Facebook.

Comments

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  • Comment number 1.

    Best candidate that I can think of. Good luck to him, hopefully Villa go from strength to strength.

  • Comment number 2.

    The heading for your column could have been shortened simply to "Why Houllier ?"

    As for "his next mission will be to breathe fresh life into Aston Villa.", Houllier couldn't breathe fresh life into Liverpool 6 yrs ago. What's changed ?

    All the Villa fans I've spoken to (I live & work in Birmingham) are totally baffled and distictly underwhelmed. Houllier & Thompson ???
    Good grief. I thought Lerner possessed a modicum of common sense. Ah well.

  • Comment number 3.

    He might have had some success but I remember his Liverpool team as being utterly boring to watch.

  • Comment number 4.

    Decent blog. Should be a good successor for the villa, a shrewd and capable manager who knows football and more importantly, the English game. Every manager has their history of questionable signings even the very finest but as mentioned the acquisitions of players like Hyypia and Hammann should ring loudest.

  • Comment number 5.

    Quelle surprise: McNulty blogs about Liverpool FC again.

  • Comment number 6.

    Good article.... I think that this has opened my mind about Houllier. He is a decent manager, Im not taking that away. But I just wonder how long will he be in charge, I don't see this as being a long-term replacement. Although Houllier is the man that can change our team around and actually add on-to the squad. Something that MON has failed with in the past 4 years with Villa. I'm excited about seeing more foreign players at Villa Park. What interests me the most is how will Houllier respond after not managing a club since 2007

  • Comment number 7.

    I believe he will be an excellent Manager at the Villa, I can't understand the negativity from some fans. Out of all the candidates I think Randy has chosen correctly, his knowledge of the European scene will give us something we've always missed compared to other big clubs.

  • Comment number 8.

    Well, it sounds promising, but then again, your glowing reference to Liverpool didn't bear much fruit last year did it? We have had our messiah in MON, and look what happened. GH's track record is good, but there are caveats to the man, his age and health. We don't want a perfect manager or messiah, only a fool would look for the impossible. We'll get fully behind GH and give him a couple of seasons to make his team and mark. Don't be too harsh on Villans if they sit on the fence on this one; it makes them intelligent, neither optomistic, nor pessimistic. We will have to wait and see because nothing has happened yet, not even the appointment of his number two is certain.

  • Comment number 9.

    No matter what you think of him, I'm fairly certain that he will leave the club in better condition than what he entered with, which is good since the club is not nearly in as bad of shape as many fellow Villa faithfuls pessimistically presume. I think he and Lerner will sync up well in their approach to the game. And as for unattractive football, it's not like MON got the boys to play attractive football week-in, week-out, nor is it like Arsenal, who according to Wenger play the most attractive football in the world, have actually won anything recently with their expansive game.

  • Comment number 10.

    To Boy_from_Brum...Houllier is in good health and age accompanied by experience can be an asset in management. This should not be any sort of handicap to his ability to do the job.

  • Comment number 11.

    considering that Martin O'Neil drove the club to the brink with his spending on wages (85% of turn over?), this could be a tough gig. Houllier is a pretty decent pick.
    on another note, Why are there no English managers up to the standard of a Houllier?

  • Comment number 12.

    AnyWembleyTickets wrote : "I think Randy has chosen correctly, his knowledge of the European scene will give us something we've always missed compared to other big clubs."

    MON had enough sense to walk away because it can't and won't get any better for Villa fans. Where on earth do you think the club lies in the pecking order ? Villa aren't going to break into the top four without MCFC type investment and Lerner made it clear to MON he could forget that sort of money. Who on earth could take the club higher on the current financial footing ?

    However, Houllier & Thompson. Hmmmmm.

    A bit like Miss World walking out on you and being replaced with Norah Batty and her mate.

  • Comment number 13.

    Just a tiny point, but Harry Kewell's transfer from Leeds wasn't a free transfer. He cost Liverpool about £5 million.

  • Comment number 14.

    Heskey on the left wing again.

  • Comment number 15.

    Phil, thi is a thought provoking article! Football in England, is being recognised by its penchant to embrace diversity.

    Houllier epitomises a passionate footballing icon. He's made a mark in England. The article points all his good attributes, Even the US General, did not mince its word to proclaim the ingenuity of Houllier.

    As an ardent Liverpool fan, maybe, I will not feel good when his success will penentrate into the fold of Villa Park.

  • Comment number 16.

    Footie fans are completely fickle

    Give the man a chance!!!

    Remember when he arrived at Liverpool it was very much a case of the tail wagging the dog the players had zero respect or tolerance for Roy Evans - even though Roy is a decent bloke as he proved by stepping aside and Houllier took over on his own and instilled a bit of discipline into the team.

    They won trophies and yes the Arsenal fans can bleat all they want about being ''robbed'' in the 2001 final but in case they forget the game is played over 90 minutes so stop whingeing and criticising - funny how Man U did exactly the same thing in the Nou Camp in 1999 and every one thought them magical

    He has a very astute football brain and is a completely different character to Martin O'Niell obviously not nearly as animated for a start but sometimes a change of style will bring a fresh impetus to a side

    Reality check for Villa fans no manager will compete with the moneybags of Man City & Chelsea so winning the premier league is not realistic but a good finish and maybe another decent shout for a cup in the next few years methinks

  • Comment number 17.

    phil is clearly a liverpool fan.

  • Comment number 18.

    The problem is that Houllier, and to a much greater extent, Thompson, are Liverpool through and through.

    Thompson has spent the last few years slagging Villa off as a Sky pundit. He hates us.

    I don't believe either of them have any passion for Aston Villa. Houllier just wants a change from what he's been doing and Thompson just wants to use us as a stepping stone to something else. I mean, come on, Phil Thompson in the Villa dugout? They have got to be having a laugh at our expense.

    Phil McNulty's blog about how "magnificent" Liverpool became under his stewardship is all very well but it was a long time ago. Houllier is not a well man and Thompson is intensely disliked by every Villa fan I've spoken to.

    Villa are 2 or 3 players away from being a very decent side capable of challenging for honours and the last thing they need is another transition period.

  • Comment number 19.

    It's an oddity of Houllier's career that the two biggest teams he's managed have gone on to great success - after he left. Houllier builds teams from the back forward, which is still the only way to long-term success. He seems to run out of steam once the defence is built, however, and fans lose patience with him, leaving his successor to profit from his hard work.

  • Comment number 20.

    As a Hammers fan...I reckon he is a brilliant candidate.

  • Comment number 21.

    Houllier together with KMac would be fine. Thompson will unquestionably not be wanted by the majority of Villa fans. If Thompson arrives with Houllier there will be problems from day one. Just a quick read of Brad Friedel's comments in his book about Thompson shows the potential for unrest. Brad is a big influence in the Villa dressing room.

  • Comment number 22.

    Another good blog, Phil (four in a row now!), and I agree with most of the points here, particularly the one about Houllier leaving behind a better side for his successor than Benitez.

  • Comment number 23.

    He is the pragmatic, hard-working and intelligent kind of man that Villa will need to replace O'Niell.

    Also I feel the Phil abuse is slightly unjustified in this case, of course he will talk about Liverpool when Houllier's previous job in the UK was at Liverpool.

  • Comment number 24.

    For Houllier to even accept the challenge knowing the window is closed and there's not a lot more money coming in suggests that the squad has something he feels he can work with. That is a breath of fresh air in itself. Houllier is an intriguing signing that I think all Villans should get firmly behind.

  • Comment number 25.

    Can't wait to see Phil Thompsons face and hear his comments if we beat his beloved Liverpool . . . Thompson with his Villa specs on, this should be fun if nothing else.

  • Comment number 26.

    Why not Houllier ? As a Villa season ticket holder I'm struggling to think of many better choices available. With exception of poaching Moyes or Hughes from opposition teams we needed to look farer afield and who knows he may just be the one. O'Neill has soon be forgotten despite the success we had with him, the squad as a whole certainly don't appear to miss Martin one bit. So give the guy a chance is my view and judge him in May after a couple more trips to Wembley ?!

  • Comment number 27.

    with the names linked with the job villa are lucky houllier's taking it.

    he's been linked with most premiership jobs since he left the premiership, newcastle and spurs a few years back, so it was only a matter of time before someone snapped him up.

    i just hope villa fans are patient with him. they aren't a top 6 side this year i'm afraid

  • Comment number 28.


    I’m surprised that Villa fans are worried about Houllier’s style being boring – it’s pretty much the same as Martin O’Neil’s, which is why he’s a decent appointment.

    Houllier likes a target man up front and a pacy forward playing off him, which Villa already has. Much of the tactics are the same for both men. Not fantastic to watch, but the O’Neil’s style bored me too.

    Villa, much like Liverpool, are going to be scrapping for UEFA Cup places this season, and for the foreseeable future and as was pointed out, will never have the money of Chelsea or Man City. So who did they expect to get as manager? Mourinho? Capello?

    Houllier is probably about right for Villa at this time.

    And why is it when Liverpool beat Arsenal in the 2001 Cup Final with two late goals after being outplayed it’s ‘lucky’ and ‘robbery’. But when Man United beat Bayern Munich in the 1999 European Cup final with two late goals after being outplayed it’s magical and revered?

  • Comment number 29.

    As an Aston Villa fan and season ticket holder, I would rather the job was given to Baldrick (Blackadder) with Trigger (Only Fools and Horses) as his Assistant Manager. Because of this hideous appointment, the blues might just get a point off us this season!!!

  • Comment number 30.

    Good blog. As a Liverpool Fan, I enjoyed reading it. However, I do have a memory towards the end of his reign of thinking that we had the french reserves whilst Arsenal had the french national team. Players like Le Tallec became too common in the squad.

    That said, I think he's a thoroughly decent man and manager and would do well for Villa.

  • Comment number 31.

    To Cleef1...I cannot comment on any supposed comments Phil Thompson has made about Aston Villa as I have not heard them, but I really have to correct you on your claim that "Houllier is not a well man". What evidence do you have for that?

    To the best of my knowledge Gerard Houllier is in perfectly good health after a heart operation nine years ago. It is wrong for some to use an illness so long ago, no matter how serious, to suggest this will impair his ability to do his job now.

    I am more inclined to agree with pentathlete who says that Houllier's proposed appointment suggests he feels he has something he can work with at Villa Park.

    I know he only wanted to join a club where he felt he could achieve success. If he does take the job, then he clearly believes he can do that with Aston Villa.

  • Comment number 32.

    To philmcnultybbcsport,

    I am not suggesting the state of his health will impair his ability to do the job but I am suggesting that some care should be taken in appointing a man who has suffered serious health problems - for his own sake if anything.

    You know as well as I that the role of a Premiership manager is extremely high pressure and if I was related to him I would be urging him not to put himself in that position again.

    You speak as if I hold his previous health problems against him which is utterly ridiculous.

  • Comment number 33.

    I can't add too much to this piece. The Lesser Treble might attract less attention than other trebles but remains part of Liverpool folklore. Owen had an FA Cup final named after him as did the legendary Fowler.

    Houllier is a lot like Roy at Anfield, finding himself attempting to calm storm in a fallen but still proud English giant (how many recall Villa lifted Ol' Big Ears in 1982?) His experience and calm nature's badly needed.

    He will make a good (but small) XI formidable, just like we were hard to beat under him (anyone remember Danny Murphy's strikes against MUFC?) One area the Villans will improve in is at the back.

    He's just the managerial choice Villa need.

  • Comment number 34.

    Houllier is a great choice. He won plenty of trophies with Liverpool and did really well for Lyon. He is also the man responsible for setting up the coaching structure in clairefontaine which is recognised as the main reason France won the world cup in 98 and the euros in 2000.

    People seem to forget that Liverpool had finished the previous season in 7th place when Houllier took over.

    For those that are saying 'how can he do any good when Lerner has put a stop to spending' this is not the case. Lerner just wanted the wage bill cut as it was 85% of turnover. O'Neill was not willing to do this, and quit.

    Houllier is a better manager than O'Neill. He puts together teams that can win trophies. O'Neill just makes the average play above themselves, perfect for smaller clubs but Houllier is a man for the top end of the league. Compare the CV's. Houllier has won trophies in 2 competetive leagues. O'Neill has won most of his trophies in a league where it'd be difficult to finish below 2nd!

    I think Villa will hail this as their best appointment in a generation.

  • Comment number 35.

    Houllier Thompson God help us for the rest of the season!

  • Comment number 36.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 37.

    I feel that this article reads like a long apology for Gerard Houllier.

    He may well be respected by many in the game but I'm far from convinced he's the best man for the job at Villa.

    The description of his time at Liverpool is rather generous, in my view. Admittedly, Hyypia was a fine signing but this was surely counterbalanced by some dire purchases. Crucially, I don't recall Liverpool ever being genuine title challengers under his leadership. For the money spent, I believe that he could have done better. In that period, Arsene Wenger certainly was offering better value for money, as a comparison.

    I'm not sure what to make of his time at Lyon; I'm certainly no expert on French football. The impression I got, however, was that Lyon began each season as Champions-elect during that period. Credit to Houllier for doing precisely the job expected of him, but I don't think anyone should go overboard in praising his achievements there.

    Of relevance to Villa fans will surely be his time out of management and his time away from England. Were I a fan of the club, I'd be uninspired by this news. And if Houllier does sign, and ends up bringing that oaf Phil Thompson with him, I'd be gutted. For a start, I'd be expecting him to cheer from the dugout if the team were losing to his beloved Liverpool.

  • Comment number 38.

    I'm baffled as to why Villa fans think they should get someone better. This is a coup by their standards. Decent coach, gets results.

    His brand of football is a little pragmatic perhaps but when you've just shipped 6 goals to Newcastle then that's probably no bad thing.

  • Comment number 39.

    Phil

    You seem to have a bit of a blind spot when it comes to Liverpool. Seems you are enjoying bigging this one up.

    Anyway, they say you don't know what you had until it's gone, and i feel this will be the case with MON. Houllier is a solid appointment however i can't see him reaching the heights he did with Liverpool. English football has changed drastically over the past decade or so. Ultimately if you dont have vast amounts of money to spend then your up against it. I suspect that's why MON left.

    Ultimately feel Villa fans will hold MON in higher esteem by the end of the season.

  • Comment number 40.

    Good choice by Villa, Houllier has got good experience in the premier league with Liverpool so will be very useful

    Houllier probably best choice manager now for Villa

  • Comment number 41.

    Oh great! Another foreign manager with no guarantee to do any better than Postman Pat.

  • Comment number 42.

    How did poor Guvnor Ince get it right to get an "honourable" mention in this article ?

  • Comment number 43.

    Harry Kewell went for £5m, £2m to him and his agent, £3m to Leeds.

  • Comment number 44.

    " of the so-called 'Spice Boys' era. How could a team of such natural talents only have a Coca Cola Cup win against Bolton in 1995 to show for their gifts?"

    this was the era dominated by Fergies first all conquering Cantona inspired Manchester United team with cameo roles for the emerging Arsenal team under Wenger and the Blackburn & Newcastle teams who were flying high back then, Liverpool in the 90s werent even close to competing with these teams and their coca cola cup is probably a fair acheivement

  • Comment number 45.

    Good luck Gerard. YNWA.

  • Comment number 46.

    The bad signings mentioned, Diouf, Diao, Cheyrou, came in the period after Houllier's return from illness. Looking back now, it's clear that he returned too soon. He wasn't the same driven man as before; a shadow of his former self. Jamie Carragher's autobigraphy offers some useful insight into the change. However, after taking a proper break from the game, he has looked more like a man truly recovered. Villa are on the verge of having the a dedicated, experienced, thoughtful, and very intelligent manager - much more than they've ever had before.

    The only real worry is a recurrence of health problems; always on the horizon after such serious issues in the past.

  • Comment number 47.

    The problems for Liverpool under Houllier began after his near fatal heart problems. My neighbour at that time was a senior nurse at the cardiothoracic centre at Broadgreen hospital. Houllier was apparently on a heart bypass machine for an incredible 10 hours while the surgeons battled to save his life. I say 'incredible' as up to that point no one had spent more than 4 hours on a bypass machine. However my neighbour, in the days following, also informed me that it was a common (and unexplained) side affect that people who had spent a long time on this type of machinery were suscpetible to mood swings and irrational behaviour for the next year or so. Remember also that this was based on 4 hours support on this apparatus, whereas poor Gerard was connected for 2 1/2 times this length of time.....could this be a contributing factor to some of Houlliers more unusual decisions in his latter days with the club? Hopefully be over it all now!!!

  • Comment number 48.

    Think this is the best choice out of a short-list that was quite frightening if you looked at some of the names, many of which have hardly set the premiership alight in their previous roles. Houllier brings a wealth of experience to help stabilise and (if Phil Thompson is not on his way according to SKY) I hope K Mac is offered a number 2 position.

    Between them we'd have excellent knowledge of what's coming through the ranks at the Villa and someone with good networks around the continent - something I feel we've missed out on in recent years.

  • Comment number 49.

    Am I missing something? Why would Villa fans think that Houllier would be a bad appointment? I have always had nothing but respect for the man.

  • Comment number 50.

    I am a fan of Houllier, and don't like to hear some of the unfair criticism thrown his way. So I liked you're well supported article until I saw this comment

    "And there is even a case to be made that he left a better side for Benitez than Benitez subsequently left for Hodgson."

    There certainly isn't a case, and if you followed many of the quality journalists(such as Paul Tomkins) that do research then you would know that in no way is this the case. It is also noticeable that you don't even try to justify the comment, unlike other statements you make it is just there.

    It's a shame good journalism can be negatively affected by unfounded throw away comments.

  • Comment number 51.

    It is no doubt correct to acclaim Houlier's successes at Liverpool and elsewhere. I was however baffled by the comment that "there is even a case to be made that [Houlier] left a better side for Benitez than Benitez subsequently left for Hodgson". Cissé vs. Torres, Dudek vs. Reina, Traore vs. Agger, even Baros vs. Ngog - I am afraid I fail to see you point Phil.

  • Comment number 52.

    Phil, some great comments from people especially the first one who claims to know you.

    Quelle surprise: McNulty blogs about Liverpool FC again. [rebrov_likes}

    phil is clearly a liverpool fan. [Infected mushroom}

    As all us Liverpool fans know, Phil is an out and out Toffee.

  • Comment number 53.

    Couple of things. Kewell wasn't a free transfer he cost £5m. He also wasn't a bad signing. On the contrary, he was a superb signing. As a Liverpool fan, I can genuinely say that no signing at any one time excited me as much as the Kewell signing. When Torres signed, that came close, but at the time he was the best left winger in the country. He started off brilliantly too. About 10 goals by December time, but he got an injury, and for the next few months he wasn't quite the same. And then his last 4 years were ravaged by injury. It was one season on, one season off. I think he missed almost the whole of the 2004-05 and 2006-07 campaigns.

    As for Houllier, he was a fantastic manager for Liverpool, for the first 4 years. This is what Liverpool fans were so disappointed about. We came second to Arsenal in 2002, having won a load of trophies, and we needed what we thought were one or two additions to make us serious contenders. At the time, we wanted Anelka on a permanent deal and Duff for the left wing, as that was the only area on the pitch where we weren't top draw. Instead he shunned Anelka, wasted money, and crucially let some really good players go.

    If Villa are looking for a long term vision, they've got the right man. He was a long termist at Anfield, and they're almost always the best managers. He can't make the same mistakes though.

    His reign mirrored Benitez's in many ways. Get to second but couldn't take it further, that was his ceiling, and it shouldn't have been. Overall though, superb manager.

  • Comment number 54.

    I Welcome Houlier after some reasonable consideration.
    First I would like to register my dissapointment in the manor MON left. I think it was with total dis-regard to Villa's faithful to walk out with 1 week to the opening match. I was allways supportive of his tenior but was also frustrated with some of his one dimensional football. Basically copy cat Brian Clough tactics but not as canny.
    Houlier starts at the back, well with James Collins and Richard Dunne he has a ready made rear guard. Ireland was good business for the Villa. Lerner had the sense to see that one through. If GH can suplant another midfield dynamo to challenge the likes of Essien and his like then this will push us right in there. also find a gem to play alongside Aggy then we are there, so respect to MON for the majority of our team but roll on GH.

  • Comment number 55.

    Here is a guide for Villains of his time at Liverpool -

    Season 1: 1998/99

    Started off with Roy Evans as joint manager and Liverpool were looking to build on a 3rd place finish the previous season. To be honest, even before Roy had left in November, Liverpool were all over the place all season. Involved in some ridiculously entertaining games but the combination of Roy and Gerard's style was mostly a disaster. Finished 7th with 57 points.

    Season 2: 1999/00

    Made lots of signings in the summer including Hyypia, Henchoz, Hamann, Westerveld and Smicer. This was the beginning of Houllier's big spending to really assert his mark on the team. A real season of transition but progression. Some good performances, the occasional bad one, but a last 5 game collapse saw them blow 3rd place and a chance of Champions League football to Leeds. A blessing in disguise. Finished 4th with 67 points.

    Season 3: 2000/01

    Made even more signings in year 2000 to improve the squad still. Heskey, Barmby, Babbel, and McAllister all arrived as Liverpool embarked on a staggering season winning their trebble. Progressed in the league (once again) and finished in the Champions League places in 3rd for the first time with 69 points, 2 points more than in the previous season. Arguably their league form was compromised by the sheer volume of cup games Liverpool had to play. By this time he had assembled a large and expensive squad, flooded with English talent with the likes of Owen, Fowler, Gerrard, Heskey, Murphy, Barmby, Carragher, Stephen Wright etc. Finished 3rd with 69 points.

    Season 4: 2001/02

    Liverpool started the season well winning the super cup and charity shield against Bayern and Man United. With the additions of Riise and Dudek to the squad Liverpool were very solid in the league until his heart attack in October. Under Phil Thompson (yes Villa fans - Thommo won manager of the month twice, as well as signing Anelka and Baros) Liverpool had a mid season blip but came storming back into the title race after being top on December 8, 2001. Houllier returned in March as Liverpool reached the Champions League quater finals and finished second in the league with 80 points to a brilliant Arsenal side. Only time Liverpool have ever finished above Manchester United in the Premier League, Houllier beat them 5 times in a row. Finished 2nd with 80 points.

    Season 5: 2002/03

    Some odd decisions in the transfer market were papered over by a phenomenal start in the league, being unbeaten and top after 12 league games. It seemed as if his signings were coming good again. Or not. From Novemeber 2nd 2002 to January 18th 2003, Liverpool didn't win a single league game. The League Cup win against United was really down to an amazing display from Dudek. Houllier, and Liverpool never recovered from this horrendous run, one of the worst in their history. They never really played well again in his entire reign, and the confidence of the squad was low and certain players' quality was being found out. Finished 5th with 64 points.

    Season 6: 2003/04

    With the positive additions of Finnan and Kewell, Liverpool fans were optimistic about the new season, despite being in the UEFA Cup. They needn't have been. Liverpool were abysmal all season somehow finishing 4th with 60 points. Compare this to the 61 points they got last season when Liverpool finished 7th and that puts it into context. If there had been any reasonable competition around that season Liverpool would not have even made 4th. He was rightly sacked at the end of the season after 2 horror years where the club fell from title contenders and trophy winners to being closer to relegation in terms of points than Champions. Finished 4th with 60 points.


    Much like Rafa Benitez's time at Liverpool, they were a good team to watch when they were doing well. They scored lots of goals and plenty of good ones. When they were playing badly they were abysmal to watch. The last 2 seasons of Houllier were just as bad the last season of Benitez. That type of football is never acceptable, let alone at Liverpool football club. Negative doesn't even come close to describing it. I hope Houllier has learnt from those mistakes.

  • Comment number 56.

    Thompson on the Villa bench? Now I quite like Houllier, lot of time for the man, but I think I'm going to have to find some non-league team to follow until Pinocchio's gone. How many of the team will be dubbed 'the next Michael Owen' by the end of his first week? No thanks

  • Comment number 57.

    Houllier? I'd much prefer a dynamic and inspirational figure like Fatih Terim who inspired a team decimated by injuries to the semi-finals of Euro 2008 subcumbing to Loew's Germany after scalping Bilic's Croatia en route. I seem to recall his Galatasaray side that triumped over Arsenal in the UEFA Cup final was collectively built for around the £10 million Arsenal spent individually on Henry.

  • Comment number 58.

    I seem to remember that Houllier was also technical director of the French team when they won the World Cup in 1998 and received a lot of praise for his role.

    And Phil Thompson (if he joins Villa) is obviously a passionate Liverpool fan, but are people really suggesting that you can't do a good job just because you support another club? I seem to remember Alan Shearer scoring goals for Southampton & Blackburn before he joined Newcastle. If you're passionate about the game as a whole and have professional pride (which Phil does) then I don't see what the problem is.

    As far as I'm concerned anyone taking the Villa job has a big task on their hands. Villa have some good players, but O'Neill got the best out of them, and the league is even more competitive now at a time when Villa are tightening the purse strings. Houllier seems like a sensible appointment to me.

  • Comment number 59.

    Mickey Mouse treble year was the most hilarious of recent times only over shadowed by the joke that was Liverpool winning the Champions League with some very drab football. Oh how Liverpool have fallen as for Houllier over rated at best. If he was that good he's be managing France to glory.

  • Comment number 60.

    "I can't add too much to this piece. The Lesser Treble might attract less attention than other trebles but remains part of Liverpool folklore. Owen had an FA Cup final named after him as did the legendary Fowler."

    IE..Forgoten in footballing circles

  • Comment number 61.

    Argh. As an Arsenal fan, I don't want more competition for French youngsters.

  • Comment number 62.

    Great blog Phil.

    Houllier turned Liverpool around, cleaned out the bad influences from the dressing room and brought about Liverpool's most successful period since Dalglish was in charge.

    Without a doubt he also left the squad in a better shape than Benitez has.

    Villa fans should be grateful they now have a manager who knows how to win a trophy.

    Martin O'Neill has been a favorite to all football fans since his Leicester days, but he doesn't exactly have a stellar record in English football for winning trophies. More sentiment than sense over his abilities...

    Villa will be in far stronger, more stable position with a chance of winning something with a man like Houllier in charge. Villa fans should rejoice.

    As a Liverpool fan I'm now concerned that Villa will be challenging us for that coverted 6th place...

  • Comment number 63.

    I remember when Salif Diao played centre back against Bolton. Enough said.

  • Comment number 64.

    Firstly, i agree with the sentiment of the article. I fully expect GH to do a great job at Villa and i wish him much success (just not too much).

    However, the snide jibe that he left a better team for Benitez than Benitez left for Hodgson is way off the mark and if you'd bothered to look up the roster for that year you'd clearly see why.

    The players from that list are:

    Dudek (better than Reina?)
    Henchoz (good - but age?)
    Finnan (only moved on because of age)
    Hyypia (only moved on because of age)
    Baros (better than Torres?)
    Babbel (illness)
    Kewell (shipped out because of injuries)
    Heskey (better than Kuyt?)
    Diouf (too easy)
    Owen (moved to Madrid of own accord)
    Smicer (too easy)
    Murphy (better than Mascherano/Lucas?)
    Diao (too easy)
    Hamann (age)
    Gerrard (still there)
    Riise (better than Insua?)
    Le Tallec (better than Babel?)
    Traore (better than Skrtel/Agger?)
    Kirkland (good, but injury prone)
    Carragher (still there)
    Sinama-Pongolle
    Biscan (too easy)
    Partridge
    Vignal
    Cheyrou (too easy)
    Luzi
    Diarra
    Welsh
    Mellor
    Potter
    Warnock (maybe i'll give you this one)
    Otsembor
    Whitbread
    Foley-Sheridan

  • Comment number 65.

    Phil you imply Houllier overhauled the youth set-up at LFC. He did to such an extent we finished bottom of the reserve and youth league in his final season. Not one player came through the ranks under his tenure. When Benitez came in he overhauled the set up leading to reserve league titles and youth cups in 2006 and 2007.

    You also failed to mention a plethora of expensive unbelievably bad flops. You can make 2 teams. Westerveld, Traore, Vignal, Smicer, Titi Camara!!! Heskey, Biscan!!!! Ziege, Pongolle, Le Tallec, Diao, Diouf, Barmby, Cheyrou, Dudek, Baros, That's a lot of cash for a lot of rubbish.

    The man is doing it for GH and he's got nothing to lose, unlike Aston Villa. Expect to see some very average Frenchmen squeezing out your young English players very soon. Marvel at the vanity and recalcitrance of the man and enjoy the downward spiral.

  • Comment number 66.

    Houllier will be an unmitigated disaster for Villa. His ideas and methods belong in the 1980 and 90s not to mention the turgid brand of fottball he plays.
    This will be Graham Taylor the second time around - way past his sell by date.
    I have never known unanimatiy amongst my own circle of Villa supporting friends on any issue ever except not wanting this bloke in charge.
    Once again Phil's Liverpool blinkers are on and the last time he wrote such a positive piece was about who would be league champions 2009-2010.
    I'll cut you a hypothetical deal, we'll take Moyes from your club and you can have the very poor man's Wenger

  • Comment number 67.

    When I first read this - http://www.okeydokefootball.com/showHate.asp?HateID=12 - I thought it was rabid, but after reading Phil's account as a Houllier apologist, I find it quite refreshing.

  • Comment number 68.

    "And there is even a case to be made that he left a better side for Benitez than Benitez subsequently left for Hodgson."

    Without doubt! What is also without doubt is that , I have read every blog of yours for what 2 or 3 years now, and this one is what I was looking for. Your attention to detail, you weighing up of both sides of the argument, and your presentation of the facts, the rumours and opinions are top. I say Well done sir , stand up and take a bow for a brillant article. More of the same please!

  • Comment number 69.

    I can only imagine Houllier will be brought in on the back of his role as the national technical director of French football not on his experience with Liverpool which was quite a while ago now and things have progressed a lot since then. I'd say Lerner will be hoping Houllier's knowledge of upcoming players particularly from France and how to run an academy such as Clairefontaine will save him money in the long run? Steve Staunton and Kevin MacDonald will do most of the day to day donkey work. Houllier's role will be a more continental one than he had at Anfield.

  • Comment number 70.

    64. At 05:56am on 08 Sep 2010, minusone wrote:
    Firstly, i agree with the sentiment of the article. I fully expect
    ................................

    Do me a favour, make a point, and make it right, yes players move on with age, don't be so pedantic. Finnan and Hypia were brilliant players, but using your logic, Pele should still be in the Brazilian 22. As for the players you say are too easy? What's too easy, to compare them to someone or do you not know all the names you want. Kuyt better than Heskey of 10 years ago? hmmm debateable really if am led to believe what I read from Liverpool fans. Basically the Spine of your first team Carragher, Gerrard and Torres are Houliers from your analysis,no? so What did Benetez bring to make the team better? The team that hasn't won anything since his first year in charge and finished 7th last year? Change the specs.

  • Comment number 71.

    Aston Villa is a Managers graveyard and has been going right back to the 50s and 60s. Houliier is cut out for far better than them. As you say, hes well respected but in my view would do himself no favours at all having his barking dog Thompson hanging about. Hes no more than a TV figure of mirth and should carry on being so. Never to be taken seriously.

  • Comment number 72.

    'And there is even a case to be made that he left a better side for Benitez than Benitez subsequently left for Hodgson'

    Is there Phil? Is there really? Who would make this case - someone who doesn't know who was in those squads? Someone who is total numpty? Someone who thinks that Baros is better than Cisse, Kewell better than Kyut, Diao better than Masch, Dudek better than Reina? A complete nutter perhaps?

    Also, Carragher might well heep praise on Houllier but remember he was very average before Benitez came in and turned him into the player he is today.



  • Comment number 73.

    It is interesting that the club fan thing always comes up eventually on this discussions.
    Why not get the facts.GH left LFC a better team from the one he inherited (+the training facilities etc).He won things and did well with Lyon.
    If he takes over at Aston Villa I do not see a reason why they should do badly.After all they are nether Lyon nor Liverpool.He is a decent manager,with a decent record .Let's wait.

  • Comment number 74.

    Quite a good article on the whole. At the time Houllier took the reigns at Liverpool, it was quite possible that we could become a mid table team if the right man was not appointed. The right man was and Gerard overhauled the club and kept us as a footballing force. Sadly, people remember his final two years after heart surgery, where he lost the plot ever so slightly.

    However, your comment : " And there is even a case to be made that he left a better side for Benitez than Benitez subsequently left for Hodgson."

    Massive issues with this...such a comment is left for people in the press who held a vendetta against Benitez. It is absolutley absurb to make such a comment and to me, belittles the good article that has gone before it. Thank you to minusone for providing a squad list. Add to that that the best players in that squad all had age against them, apart from Gerrard and Carragher, and it was Benitez who made them the players we see today.

    As Carragher admits in his autobiography, on his first meeting with Benitez, he asked Benitez if he realised the shoddiness of the squad he was taking over, and this from a self professed Houillier fan. The Benitez team may not have sufficient depth, but it is so so much better than the Houiller leaving team, that there is simply no argument to the contry.

  • Comment number 75.

    Phil - you make a good case for Houllier and to most people outside the Villa faithful it does seem a good choice for the club, in particular the experience of Europe that Gerard will bring . However if the Villa fans set their face against him, as most seem to be doing, then unless he can 'walk on water' and do it quickly the way forward will be difficult, to say the least.
    I would be interested to know why such as Houllier would want to manage a team like Villa, or to be more precise a team whose owner has (apparently) made it clear there is no more money available for transfers? What is the attraction for Houllier? Is it the existing squad of players, is it the position of the club within the midlands heirachy, just what is the attraction? I know Villa fans will tell us they are a 'big club', of course they are to their fans, but realistically they are no 'bigger' than half a dozen PL clubs, especially in the midlands.
    No doubt if Houllier does take up the mantle at Villa Park, we shall find out!.

  • Comment number 76.

    Robvilla, post 66, one of the stupider posters I have ever seen. This comment in particular, was brilliant:

    "Houllier will be an unmitigated disaster for Villa. His ideas and methods belong in the 1980 and 90s not to mention the turgid brand of fottball he plays"

    Houllier is known in France as almost the equivalent to Arsene Wenger. They both started out around similar times and they are both credited with developing the new style of coaching that so revolutionised Arsenal - and Liverpool to a lesser extent.

    The coaching style being the scientific, analytic approach with short, very focused, intense drills with the emphasis on technical and tactical excellence was as much practised and employed by Houllier as it was Wenger, and in France Houller is credited with as much - he employed this vision in his roles with FF in the lead up to their successes in 98/2000.

    The point is that he is viewed on a par with Wenger, certainly in his coaching style and methods and, most importantly, his vision of how teams should play. If anything it was modern and way beyond the times, to say he was behind the times and old school is so far from the truth, it is unreal!

    Comparison with Graham Taylor is just nonsense. The only thing I will agree with you on is that, he has turned out to be a slightly poorer man's version of Wenger, but Wenger is one of the best and influential coaches of the last 20 years, so thats not too bad a deal is it? As a Villa fan I am very happy with his impending appointment. I dont share the hatred for Thommo that others do, but I would prefer if GH came alone.

  • Comment number 77.

    As a Liverpool fan I remember Ged with nothing but warm affection.

    People forget just how atrocious our defence was before he instantly firmed it up with Henchoz, Hyypia, Babbel etc.

    And he truly understood the depth and passion of the club and his responsibility to the supporters, as Rafa did after him.

    Villa fans should be delighted if he signs in for you, and as a rival I'd be a little worried.

    Here's hoping I remember Hodgson as fondly when he moves on.

  • Comment number 78.

    Well 76 I disagree.

    Graham Taylor was brilliant the 1st time around for Villa in late 80's and he came back a dozen years later and the game had moved on and he was a disaster.

    1 thing they both had in common was they failed to qualify for the World Cup 94, though France had a better pool of players at the time than what was available to Taylor.

    GH inhertied an excellent Lyon team from LeGuen hence the League titles in the mid noughties.

    Unless Liverpool under Houllier were as successful as Arsenal under Wenger and played as good football (which I can;t recall from memory or any record books) then I think your 'stupider posts' comment is somewhat childish.

    I don't care about reputations (witness the so-called Golden Gernation for England) although Houllier's one seems to be of some extremes amongst most fans and negative amongst most Villa fans.

    Results, not reputations matter and I hope I am proved wrong belive me!


  • Comment number 79.

    On again an appropriate blog, although it is difficult to put into context his recent anti-Rafa rant. He may have been speaking the truth, but the timing and the sheer venom of the rant betrayed his (true?) character. To paraphrase Phil's words 2005 and Istanbul is a lifetime ago in footballing terms, and really GH should be parading the success (or indeed the lack thereof) he has had since leaving LFC for the world to compare with a similar record for RB. Otherwise in sheer footballing terms at LFC comparing GH to RB is like comparing Owen to Gerrard, one is respected the other is BOTH respected and LOVED, end of story.

  • Comment number 80.

    @post 76 - the comparisons of Houllier and Wenger are misleading and wide of the mark.

    They are not both equally revered. I'd like to think that Wenger deserves a little more respect than that. What he has done at Arsenal pales Houllier's achievements at Liverpool into minor significance. When Liverpool were struggling, and struggling badly between 2002 and 2004, Arsenal were the greatest team in the land, playing the type of football that we haven't seen since in this country. And it wasn't like Arsenal spent more money on players, or had come from a better past. In 2001, Liverpool and Arsenal were very close. Arsenal had finished 2nd on 70 points, Liverpool 3rd on 69 points. They had beaten each other that season (2-0 to Arsenal at Highbury, 4-0 to Liverpool at Anfield) and Liverpool beat them in the FA Cup Final. How then, did Arsenal go on to win 2 league titles and be runners up twice and win 3 FA Cups in 4 seasons, while Liverpool just went backwards? Because Wenger's coaching was evidently superior, he also made correct decisions in the transfer market i.e. knowing when NOT to spend. The development of his squad was also second to none at the time, with certain members of his squad becoming world class.

    So while I think that Houllier was a good manager, Wenger is a genius, and they're not in the same league.

  • Comment number 81.

    Out of those linked with the job, such as Alan Curbishley, Sven-Goran Eriksson, Ronald Koeman and Villa reserve team coach Kevin MacDonald, Houllier's record of success in England, as well as his experience and vast contacts, make him the outstanding candidate from those Lerner has targeted.
    ==================================
    It's one thing to have a "record of success" at a club with the resources of Liverpool but what would Houllier have done with Charlton?
    Charlton's demise when Curbs left after the fifteen years in charge, shows what an outstanding manager he was.
    It seems he is still being underrated just as Charlton's fans underrated him.

  • Comment number 82.

    How on earth can the BBC chief football writer say that Harry Kewell was on a free!! It was a controversial move and seem to remember Leeds only getting about £2m of the money the rest going to him and his agent.

  • Comment number 83.

    I simply cannot understand all this negativity from Villa fans. What on earth are they on about. I'm delighted for them that they may get Houllier...they can't honestly believe that having Sven, the reserve team manager or a yank with no idea of english football is what they need right now. Can you imagine the shambles under Sven! If this is how Villa fans feel then they don't deserve a man of such standing in World football as Gerard Houllier. Honestly. It angers me.

  • Comment number 84.

    Houllier brought Liverpool much needed success and for that i am grateful but it's worth remembering that in his last 2 seasons in charge (2002/03 and 2003/04) we went backwards and the football became increasingly unattractive, uninspiring and lacklustre. Our only attacking tactic was to lump the ball up to Heskey in the hope he could get a flick on to release Michael Owen. Although we finished 4th to claim the final CL spot at the end of the 03/04 season Bobby Robson's Newcastle probably deserved it more.
    Houllier then left 'amicably' simply because the Liverpool board (much like the situation with Rafa this summer) were going to fire him anyway but offered a more respectable way out.

    By the way, @ 64 minusone...

    Agree generally with your point but please don't suggest Insua was better than Riise!!


  • Comment number 85.

    That treble....in the league cup Birmingham weren't a PL side and we only beat them on penalties, we mugged Arsenal in the FA cup final and in the UEFA we beat Alaves, hardly European giants, via an extra time golden goal where a Gary Mac free-kick skimmed the head of a defender and went in. We could easily have finished that season trophy-less.

    Houllier will improve the structures at Villa behind the scenes but he won't inspire them on the pitch.

  • Comment number 86.

    I've tried hard to see the positives of GH at Villa Park, but I'm very sorry to say the few plus points generally come with flaws and are totally outweighed by the negative.

    At this stage in his career and age, with his tendency to over-plan in detail, his record of failure in the transfer market, a brand of unexciting football, the likliehood of Phil Thompson pushing out Kevin McDonald, his inability to oversee (again to the detriment of KM's chances of contributing successfully) and the high risk of upsetting good players like Friedel and Warnock (who he failed to use effectively in the past) all mean that this appointment could not fail to turn my stomach and fill me with fear for the future. I was only too pleased to see him at Liverpool (as Benitez) because success was never going to come their way.

    Houllier = 3 or 4 years of disappointment, financial cost, loss of good players and failure in the league.

  • Comment number 87.

    It amazes me how quick we all are to condemn managers coming in. Look at the alternatives. Koeman has never managed at Premier level so that's a huge gamble then sven and curbishley? Houllier is currently the best option out there. He has won silverware by building a team at liverpool.

    Villa have a good grounding for a squad but we need to add quality. Lets hope Houllier has learnt from the mistakes of the past and doesn't buy tripe players.

  • Comment number 88.

    As a dyed in the wool Evertonian, I have to say Houllier did one thing very well, he taught Liverpool to play calmly and sensibily against big opponents and especially derby games.

    He deserves a lot of credit, especially how he conducts himself. The one problem is despite a clear internal desire and drive, its not so obvious to people on the outside, can he really inspire Villa players after the engergy and verve supplied by O'Neill?

    I think Villa may struggle to keep Young, and Agbonglahor etc just becuase it doesn't feel like a brand new dawn. I'd feel distinctly underwhelmed

    But you can't Deny Benetiz owes him that Champions League.......

  • Comment number 89.

    Hello

    Some terrible comments here from an otherwise sensical bloggist.

    A lot of this opinion is biased on the basis that Houllier was famous for charming the local sports writers in an attempt to get them to post he and his team in the best possible light. This was outlined in Steven Gerrard's book, it looks like it worked with you, those tours of Melwood certainly didn't hurt did they?

    As for Kewell being a free transfer, just bad research and also a bad memory as you must have reported on this monetary transfer story back in 2003. He performed quite well in his 1st season...the rest of the team did not.

    I'd say Hyypia, Hammann, and Henchoz were the only class signings he made. He inherited Gerrard, Owen, Fowler, Murphy and Berger who were his better performers. McAllister was a free transfer gamble that paid off for the last 4 months of 2000/2001 season. Other than that he wasted a lot of money on a lot of bad players.

    He had a disgusting habit of describing his latest signing as "The new zidane" and considering his dossier for the 2002 world cup was so good, it didn't stop him buying Diao and Diouf from the senegalese side, when anybody will have seen immediately that he could have signed two better players in Henri Camara and Papa Bouba Diop, same positions, same side...less money.

    How good is his health. Well his close friend David O'Leary chose to mention how terrible he looked in his "Leeds on Trial" book published after Houlliers operation. He also stated how Gerard is not living his life the way he really should be for a man of his condition.

    Also, his failure to get a very talented France side qualified for the 1994 world cup was nothing short of abysmal. Add to that the disgusting way he treated, and still continues to treat David Ginola for his part in that game vs Bulgaria is sickening.

    It tells you a lot about the man that he would publically blame one mans momentary lapse for his failure to get a team qualified over a series of fixtures against average opposition.

  • Comment number 90.

    Also Phil

    You note Dudek as a success. You will know as well as I the absolute atrocious circumstances invlolved that saw Dudek and Kirkland signed on the same day.

    Hardly a successful piece of foresight was it?

  • Comment number 91.

    alot of people have forgotten what he gave back to Liverpool as a football club. Not only this in terms of experience and success but after that 2 french championships with Lyon and considerable experience of working with younger players etc in his variety of roles in the French national squads and what have you. I think in my humble opinion AV could do an awful lot worse than a man with such experience and a man who cmmands the respect from the wider football fraternity not just in England but throughout Europe.

  • Comment number 92.

    A lot of people have also forgotten that about 85% of Liverpool fans wanted Houllier out at the end of 2003/04 season because we were awful. Although we finished 4th that season and 7th last season the football under Rafa - even at our lowest ebb - was better than what we were playing under Houllier that season.

    Villa, you have been warned.

  • Comment number 93.

    For Ginola in '94 please refer to the manager that forced out Robbie Fowler, rejected Anelka and signed Diouf...his legacy still remains in mid table sides all over europe, wasted countless millions and at a time when Liverpool could have performed more consistently but didnt....considering the money being spent at the time...For Villa fans he will organise your team, say the right things but Ged unfortunatly holds personal grudges therefore any enigmatic players you may have at Villa will not be there for long, you never know he may have changed his ways!!

    As for the squad being better than when benitez left...????

    There are many 'myths' floating around the wonderful world wide web...

    as with many other 'truths' the less said about that, the better...

    Fianlly it was pretty funny seeing Alonso (captain of Spain) and Mascherano (Cptn of Argentina) battle it out last night, that rafa was was awful at signing 'decent' players!

  • Comment number 94.

    i would beg to differ !! I don't think Liverpool are better now - Benitez was considerably over-rated - i am still somewhat amazed he lasted so long. The man didn't even know what his best team was most of the time !!

  • Comment number 95.

    Hi Phil,

    Good article. I believe I'm right in saying that the general, particularly initial, reservations regarding GH's potential selection is the issue of having Phil Thompson coming in as his number 2. Thankfully it sounds like this is no longer on the cards. Firstly he is clearly Liverpool FC through and through, which is understandable considering his history with the club etc. Would he be able to redirect that passion towards a different club, especially when the two meet in the league? Also most of our general dislike of the man comes from his media work, where he frankly says or does little to impress.

    Ideally I'd like Kev Mac to stay in some capacity with the first team as the players respect him. It would take the pressure off GH running the day to day training also which, heart problems or otherwise, takes it toll for a 60+ gent. I am however excited about having a coach who (hopefully) has a greater tactical nous than MON.
    Martin did a great job in his time at Villa but frankly I feel he is overrated as a manager. We had an old fashioned (fairly successful) plan A of counter attack, get it down the wings to pacey players who then cross it in to a big man in the middle. If people sat back on us we were completely stuck, which for starters you can see from last years very ordinary home form compared with our excellent away record. MON's insistence of playing players in the wrong position e.g. I've got two right backs on the bench, but I'll play a centre back who's rubbish on the ball and has no pace in that position, and failing to rest players even if they were out on their feet were issues that I for one found truly baffling. It led to an alienation of half the squad which somewhat contradicts his image as a top motivator.

    Liverpool fans who wish they had waited a week or two and got MON in instead of Hodgson shouldn't fret too much. He was good but not great. Frankly if Strachan can win successive titles in the SPL (see Gordon's excellent work at Coventry and currently at Middlesbrough...oh wait) then pretty much anyone can (except for Mowbray but he's a clown). His transfer record was very hit and miss too. His big money outlays did the job however the "bench that never played" were all his signings. Of those that we managed to sell we sold at a loss. Selling Cahill for £4m and signing Curtis Davies for £10m still rankles too!! Made no sense at the time and looks ridiculous now.

    ps. your comment regarding GH rebuilding the culture etc at Anfield seems odd considering their youth set up is one of the least productive in the entire league. The only decent post Gerrard player they produced was Warnock and he sold him! A bit of praise for the work that Gordon Cowans and co do would be nice to hear/read once in a while. They might not produce any superstars but I could list a pretty decent XL from the players that have kicked on from Bodymoor Heath. A spine of Myhill, Cahill, Barry, Hitzlesperger and Agbonlahor compares pretty favourably.

    pss. yes I'm bored at work

  • Comment number 96.

    At 2:37pm on 08 Sep 2010, tomefccam wrote: "McAllister was a free transfer gamble that paid off for the last 4 months of 2000/2001 season"

    McAllister won Liverpool those 3 trophies virtually single-handed.

    As for Houllier, he's a decent manager, but surely Friedel & Warnock will be straight offski whether Thompson's on board or not. If I was a Villa fan I'd say "dig up Ron Saunders".

    Finally, Phil McN writes so much about LFC 'cos he's an EFC fan.
    Simples!

  • Comment number 97.

    A very timely article Phil and I hope my fellow Villans take note. We 'have' to give Gerard Houllier a fair chance. I have close friends who are life long Liverpool season ticket holders and they respect him highly. He has respect from other very well respected managers too which speaks volumes. As far as Big Brad(Friedel) and Warnock, I'm sure that he'll speak to them face to face about the past. He made a decision based on what he saw at the time and I'm sure they are all big enough to let the past go! After all, both players are still playing in the Prem so it's not done their career that much harm!

    At the end of the day O'Neill walked out for whatever the reasons - Kevin MacDonald has stepped in and done OK and should still have a part in our future however I believe he will learn a lot from both his experience as the first team manager - he did make some quite bad mistakes at times especially in the Newcastle and Rapid Vienna home tie - and from working with someone like Houllier.

    Considering the pridicament we found ourselves in when O'Neill walked out, I think Gerard Houllier is one of the best options available to us and should maintain our push towards the top 6.

    Let's not throw our rattles out of the pram like other teams fans can - lets look at this positively and rejoice that we have got a Manager who has been prepared to leave quite a cushy job at international level with the aim to take us forward - you never know it might just happen!

  • Comment number 98.

    1, Villa fans need to stop thinking that Villa is a "big" club.

    2, They should be grateful if Houllier takes over.

    3, The club doesn't have the money to ever really compete for top honours like the Premiership or the Champions league. Even with one or two good signings they'll be lucky if they can even add to their plethora of League Cups

  • Comment number 99.

    Gerard Houllier brought more than pride and self respect. For the fans he gave us back faith and hope after the abject Souness years and the frustration of the Spice Boys and for that I will forever be in his debt.

  • Comment number 100.

    I know I am not impartial but Villa are a 'big' club.

    Any team that competes and now regularly beats the leagues top sides(Chelsea, Man Utd etc etc) are a 'big' club.

    Ask Ferguson and Ancelotti if Villa are a 'big' club and they would, and have said, yes! With all due respect, I think they know what they are talking about!

 

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