Deserved Respect for Houllier

Posted by AdamL on May 28, 2004, 06:48:03 PM

When Gerard Houllier was finally relieved of his managerial duties at Anfield, a flood of emotions washed out from all kinds of fans. It was really quite surreal watching the press conference on Sky Sports News. The defining moment for me was when they played a clip of him getting into a car after the press conference was concluded. One final handshake, and the car drove Gerard away from Anfield for the last time.

It was the end of an era, and only then did it really sink in; Gerard Houllier was no longer manager of Liverpool Football Club. Finally, after months of much frustration from Reds at his handling of the team, what I assume was a majority of Liverpool fans had what they wanted.

I remember when Everton got rid of Walter Smith. The day it was announced, my Evertonian brother and friends had grins spread from ear to ear. They were finally shot of the man who had been demoralising their club. When other clubs get rid of managers, there is rarely anything more than comments of “good riddance”. And yet when Houllier left Anfield, there was little such sentiment from the Liverpool fan base.

Instead, there was an outpouring of best wishes for Le Boss. I remember my own reaction to the story. I have been amongst Houllier’s critics for some time. Many months in fact. And yet I felt no joy at his ousting. Instead I just sat feeling really quite numb. Hanging on every word of his last press conference, snapping at my Mum who tried to interrupt it to ask how my exams were going. Houllier’s voice shook as he wished the club the best in a future without him, and a lump stuck in my throat. I could have cried for the man. And I very nearly did.

I don’t want to get into the debate about whether it was the right move to sack GH. We’ve exhausted such a debate over months of posts on the forums, at games, in pubs. Instead I want to talk about the incredible feelings we all held on that mid-May Monday. Why was it that suddenly even Houllier’s critics were feeling sorry for him? The truth is that over a number of years, Gerard Houllier has become a much respected man in Liverpool. As Liverpool fans, we have come to think of him as one of our own, a fan as well as an employee of the club. It has been interesting to note that we have all reacted harshly to criticism of him coming from outside the fan base despite misgivings from within our own fanbase.

Mindless articles in the national media have been taken to pieces in defence of our manager. We have considered him as much a part of the city as any one of us, and as such we have been keen to keep criticism constructive. He was massively abused by the media who, in his final days, acted very disrespectfully towards a man who once achived so much in English football. It's a thought that the English media will stop at nothing once they smell blood. And it is a disgrace how they acted.

Criticism has been levelled at the Liverpool board for how they have handelled the situation. Rumours have been rife that the decision to replace Houllier was made quite some time ago, and that he was only told about it at the last minute. Personally, I applaud our board for how they have handelled the events of the last few months.

It is widely seen that Rick Parry is a close personal friend of Gerard Houllier, and it seems to me inconceivable that he would have acted in anyway to make Houllier’s exit undignified. We don’t know exactly what went on behind the scenes abut nevertheless people are quick to criticise the board for mishandling of the situation. If Houllier was not told about it until the last minute, then it seems to me there must have been a perfectly good reason for doing so. For a board who have been criticised in the past for being slow to react, I somehow doubt that every step they took was not thoroughly considered.

A new era is dawning at Anfield. The Houllier era is over, and I am keen to look forward. It is an exciting time. The prospect of new investment, new players, a new manager with new ideas and a new approach. It could all very easily go tits up, don’t get me wrong; I’m far from claiming things will be ok from now on. However not for a long time has there been reason for such optimism at Anfield. But as much as I read every word written about Liverpool with such anticipation, I cannot help but feel Gerard Houllier will be missed. Perhaps not for his tactics or management, but just because he was a man with dignity, who was always honest in his words, who commanded the respect of so many players, and who for a time made Liverpool fans once again feel proud to call ourselves that.

Liverpool fans very rarely need reminding about the importance of the past. It is my fond hope that the reign of Gerard Houllier as Liverpool manager becomes highly regarded, and scarcely forgotten.

© AdamL 2004

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