Not good enough for LFC

Posted by Tarpaulin on February 27, 2004, 02:56:41 PM

You’ve probably read loads of articles and posts with a similar title to this over the last 6 to 12 months; you’ve also probably read all the opposing articles and posts to this as well – each day, wading through post after post of either positiveness or negativeness towards Houllier. I’m going to run through my thoughts on it all, going right back to the beginning.

When Houllier came to Anfield, like most people, I thought “Who the **** is he?”. This smart, well-spoken French fella, who seemed to know a fair bit about out club, and seemed to have the knack of saying the things the fans wanted to hear. The fact that he had a “Red heart” went down well with Kopites, and his links to Liverpool in his past whilst teaching here were warm and genuine.

The man seemed like he could be “The One”. As Liverpool fans we are used to success [well, those of us over 15 year old] we are always looking for “the next Shankly or Paisley” or the “Next Dalglish or Souness”. Our history is steeped with tradition, success and great players and memories. We want it to keep on rolling and rolling and for the wheels to never stop let alone come off. Houllier was “the fella who was responsible for France winning the World Cup” after all. At the time, the fact that 2 of the best French players of their era had been dropped and castigated by Houllier went un-announced, maybe this was stored in the lockers by the tabloid press for a future date, when it could be dug up and used as a whip against Houllier. 

Things went ok…Nicely, nicely with Roy Evans – although it was clear Houllier was wearing the kecks in the relationship - and the season finished with another mediocre end to another mediocre season. Then Evans was gone and Ged was left to his own devices. The chequebook was opened and players started to come and go…some high profile, some less so high profile…but we believed in what Houllier was doing. We needed this fresh approach, this ruthlessness that would rid our great club of the “Spice boys” and bring in the right men to do the job. All along the quotes came thick and fast ...

"The problem here is that players think they can drink. Drinking alcohol is as silly as putting diesel in a racing car."

"I'm very demanding in terms of work and spirit. I think I'm a very nice man but I can be a very nasty man if someone is not behaving right. If someone upsets the harmony of what we are trying to do, I am 10 times nastier than anyone else."

as Ged started to rid the club of its bigheaded stars.

"One day we will beat Manchester United. I promise you that."

"You can't build a cathedral in a day. A look at the club's history tells you these things take time."

were quotes that Kopites wanted to hear, pointing toward a successful and promising future. Houllier was starting to be compared in some quarters to the legend, Shankly. To be honest, I thought the comparisons were not only very, very quick, but also unjustified. Purely on the back of some wonderfully crafted comment, the man was starting to be lifted onto a pedestal by some fans, and it would only lead to a long fall off the top if anything was to go pear shaped.

Then the success came. The treble, the super cup, Reds leading England to a 5-1 win in Germany, the Charity Shield. Houllier was already a legend for some people. I admit, at the end of that season it was the 1st time in a decade that I have felt 100% that Liverpool were back. Houllier was the man, and the players were kings. In light of this, we gained many more adorning fans, and our existing fans made banners of praise for the manager and players of that season [myself included – with the £1600 Houllier banner!].

The treble was dedicated to the fans by Houllier, and everyone will remember the bus journey through Town, and the hundred of thousands of proud Reds who were there that day.

'I don't live in the past. I live in the present and I look to the future. But I take lessons from the past."

Things looked great, and with the above quote we all thought Houllier would push us on to that next level. The Championship.

Champions League football beckoned and the days of top-notch teams at Anfield again was something that couldn’t be missed. As fans we were star struck and in awe at times, as Houllier guided our players [some of which we didn’t have a clue who they were when we signed them] through the group stages.

Then in November 2001, as we all know, Houllier heart problems almost took his life, let alone his lively hood and he was sidelined from football for several months.

"Will football ever get out of my life? I tell you straight away. No! ...... My whole life is about football."

"There are those who say maybe I should forget about football. Maybe I should forget about breathing."

More legendary quotes from Ged, and even from his hospital bed he was able to rouse the Reds support, when we found out he was secretly listening to matches in his bed on a walkman. We were proud to have a string and spirited man, and an obviously proud Red as our manager.

During the months without Houllier we had Thommo in charge and this is where I think cracks began to show. Houllier's teams were always so regimented, so disciplined. They moved forward as a unit, and defended as a unit. It was simple stifling football, but it had worked. When Thommo came in, obviously so did some of his ideas and morals. Slightly more fluidity, and flair was seen, and in the early part of his short reign we had some superb football, and great results. I think this opened the eyes of some fans to what Houllier had been doing at the club. But most grinned and bared it, because we had been successful, and were sure we would evolve in due course. Houllier had always said that Liverpool needed to cure the defensive frailties when he arrived, and as fans we definitely agreed. But I expected him having proven to the players that they could operate a tight ship, and win games 1-0, therefore giving them better self confidence when the need to use those tactics arose, that then allow them to develop an attacking flair whilst keeping it closed at the back.

It never happened.

Houllier came back and we carried on with the tried and tested tactics and formations. Then after a short while came the point where I think the wheels started to really stick. Basel away in the Champions League. It was a horrible 1st half performance which only rightly kicked the players to produce better in the 2nd half. Gerrard was hauled off after a terrible performance, and in the after match press conference Houllier openly criticised the players heavily. Pushing blame off himself and firmly onto the 11 players in red.

A small section of fans [not just in the ground but at home watching on TV] that night were awoken to what was happening. Houllier would always gratefully accept any accolades and praise of his team with open arms, always putting himself as the reason as to why things went well. Press conferences would include “I told the boys at half time….”, “I decided to change…..”, and “I have said to my players…..”. Yet, when things were going badly he would push the criticism away from himself and his decisions and back onto the players. [Who I agree do have a large part to play in what happens, but not entirely]…He would also regularly blame 3rd parties or refereeing decisions. Sometimes when he had no real grounds to do so. It was starting to get embarrassing listening to his after match comments, and I and many reds would stand in the alehouse post match and cringe at what Ged was saying. No accountability was the key!.

To go back to where I started. This season has been nothing short of terrible. Poor performances, players looking under motivated and not bothered, tactics being alarmingly exploited and the opposition have come to understand the Liverpool style of play, players playing in all manor of positions, the blaming of anyone and anything for the poor results, the negative approach and the rubbish talk that accompanies it that we are actually playing some “great stuff” [yeah, fair enough, sometimes we do knock it round well in patches, but not consistently for a number of games like the other top sides]

Liverpool has one of the best scouting teams in the world, and they do a great job finding some real diamonds. But if I was a scout, id be mightily annoyed that the players I have found, recommended and then see bought by the club, have been played in every position bar the one I found the in. Diouf for example. He was scouted and deemed good enough for LFC as a striker. He was bought as a striker, and now Houllier has had him on the left, on the right, and sometimes behind the front player/s.

Biscan is another one, and I’ll let you into a little fact that has been flying round Liverpool for a while [I’m sure most will know]. After training one day at Melwood prior to a home game on the Saturday, Houllier had his usual team meeting and in front of the entire squad announced that Biscan could be the best centre defender in Europe. [Some stories say that he said “he was the best”…but i've been advised that’s not quite true] Some of the players had a little snigger at the comment, and two of them burst out laughing. Tells you all you need to know really. Biscan was bought and scouted as a centre midfielder, and supposedly a very good one at that. But Houllier, rather than admit a transfer blunder, and that Biscan doesn’t cut it at LFC, he has converted him into a centre back [a position many feel we are week in depth in] so that he could be given a 2nd chance to shine.

I have paid a lot of money over the years [and most of my match going years have been in the unsuccessful 90’s] to watch Liverpool, and at this moment in time I don’t feel that I or any fans are consistently getting value for that money. When I walk into Anfield I'm 110% behind all the players, regardless. I sing, I shout, I do everything expected of me as a loyal fan, but some of the people I’m paying to watch don’t do what they are paid to do. Is that right?

As you can see from my post, my previous posts and from the fact that I have made the most expensive flag in football history….I like Gerard Houllier. He brought the club up a step, and took us back close to where we belong. He installed a lot of important morals in the players and the club was once again the club I was so proud to have supported all my life. But liking him as a man doesn’t mean I have to accept what is going on now. I don’t think he should be at Liverpool Football Club.

I am happy for everything he has achieved for us, and I’m sad that when he does go, it wont be in the high esteem it would have been a couple of years ago, but stubbornness is something that will drag the club further and further. I was upset after the AGM that Moores offered himself before Houllier, and that Ged didn’t openly appreciate that. Moores, a man who is without doubt Red through and through, and has been loyal to us for many, many years, was allowed to be put up there to be shot down. I felt for the man.

After 2001, we hit a plateau, and performance and weaknesses started to show, in the past 18 months we have slowly been slipping back down, and without action we will end up were we were when Ged took over with Evans.

When you look around Anfield on a match day now, you see faces of despair, and that’s only 5 minutes into the game and its still 0-0. Fans don’t know where a goal or performances are coming from. The atmosphere is dead, fans cant be bothered….no motivation from what happening on the field is largely responsible. Banners, Boo’s and spray paint on walls is something reds aren’t used to, but are now seeing more and more, as fan after fan starts to open up to what is going on. Most fans now look forward to the pre match and after match bevvy more than the game itself. It’s the day out, rather than the game.

Sadly, Houllier was built up too much, the pedestal was high and the fall from it was long and dramatic. He has too large a percentage of the fans to be able to get back, and the players in turn have lost a little something in Houllier. It’s a vicious circle. The players will dislike playing at Anfield because of the atmosphere against them, Houllier will blame the players, and the player will in turn loose their faith in Houllier. It’s an uncorrectable position.

So it is with a heavy heart, and a look to the future that I would wave Ged away from Anfield. You took us as far as you could with your style of management, and skills, but now it is time to leave.

As you said yourself:

"We don't destroy our heroes today when we worshipped them yesterday"

I will be picking the stitching off the flag this weekend, and the name Houllier will be taken from it.

Allez, Allez ....

© Roper 2004

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