Houllier deserves to have the good times remembered

Posted by Rushian on May 30, 2004, 04:34:58 AM

It saddens me that even now, after Gerard Houllier has left, the press are still hell bent on blackening his name. The way some papers announced his departure, the continuing rubbish spouted about his transfer record, none of it has seemingly stopped for a moment, just to reflect on the good times this dignified man brought to the club.

The way GH departed this club, was like the way he ran this club, with good grace and humility. And we should remember and appreciate that. In a time where Liverpool are still considering selling out to the Thai prime minister who would have been happy to buy into our bitter neighbours, it's good to know that at least our former manager behaved with the class associated with this club.

This isn't about whether it was right or wrong to allow GH to go. I was ready to see a change, but that didn't stop the sadness at his leaving. And if there are fans out there who didn't feel sadness both for his departure, and also for him, so obviously devastated by this, then we really must be a heartless bunch.

So time to put aside the ridiculously cruel press he had to suffer through the year, and remember what he did do for this club, and focus on what a lucky man the new manager will be, taking over a solid club both on and off the field.

The cups speak for themselves. And at the end of the day, whatever people say, those go down in history, it's them that are on the official records, and won't be forgotten. And GH won more in his time here than the rest of the Premiership managers, bar the obvious two, put together. With the cups came many happy memories for the fans, especially those who went to the games. We had 5 trips to Cardiff, as well as some wonderful nights in Europe home and away.

Then there are some memorable games to recall in the league. Just to mention a few - Four wins in a row at Goodison, a great feat that made Reds everywhere happy, still for me, the derby games are the ones that mean the most, they are the ones closest to my heart. Then remember those words 'we will beat Manchester United one day, I promise you that'. We beat them 7 times of the last 10 games under Houllier's reign, including the incredible 3 away wins, 2 in Cardiff including a wonderful League Cup Final victory, as well as the memorable 3-1 'Riise Rocket' game with the GH mosaic. Then there was the away win at Chelsea FINALLY ending the jinx, and in the season when it was least likely to happen, after Chelsea
had spent over a hundred million in just a few weeks that summer.

And probably the most poignant moments of his time here was of course when he was taken so seriously ill in October 2001. Let's never forget that this man almost died during his time with us. And for a club like Liverpool who has suffered too much tragedy, lets be thankful we didn't suffer another, because we came mighty close. The months that followed showed the sort of support that many other clubs would have struggled to match. And as Houllier's wife said at the time 'We'll never forget'. I can only hope she finds it easier to forget things that were said about her husband later in his Liverpool career.

Then there are the players he brought to the club, and the ones he helped develop. I read possibly the most insulting and disturbingly inaccurate article this week by Matt Lawton from the Daily Mail - yeah I know, I shouldn't read such rubbish. His childish and cruel verdict was that Houllier had signed only two good players - Kirkland and Hyypia. I guess he had a bit of a memory lapse when it came to players like Hamann, Henchoz, Kewell, Baros, McAllister, Babbel, Riise, Finnan, Dudek, as well as players like Westerveld and Barmby who had such a big part in one of the clubs most glorious seasons' in recent years. Mind you, maybe it should be taken as the ultimate compliment, to sign only two good players and win what he did, is one heck on an accomplishment!

And his influence in the development of two players in particular stand out - Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher. Careers that could have gone either way. Shortly after Houllier arrived, there where much publicised incidents involving young Jamie. And he himself recalls a heart to heart with Houllier one day. Asked to travel with Houllier in his car to Anfield, they had a chat, that set Carragher on his way to becoming a true credit to Liverpool FC. And I recall the times when Gerrard was played seemingly out of position, during the times he was struggling with back problems, growing pains you might say. Fans where often moaning about this and calling for Gerrard to be played in the centre, but the time spent on the right of midfield not only took him out of the more physical central position, and in doing so giving him time to grow into his then spindly frame, but helped him develop his game. And that along with the well documented fathering off the field, has gone a long way to making Gerrard one of the most complete players in the game in England.

And probably the most important thing Houllier did for this club, is something that will remain a focus for a long time to come - the redevelopment of Melwood. It's something you hear when new players sign - how impressed they are with the facilities, that it's like nothing they have seen before. From the planning and design onwards, this was Houllier's baby. Done out of the limelight and often forgotten, but it's singularly the most stunning thing that he could have done for this club, a massive legacy.

One of the most infuriating and upsetting things about Houllier's reign at Anfield is how, in it's final few months, it's been disparaged by the press and many fans, who have tried their best to do nothing but humiliate him and discredit him. And that is just sad. The fact that the press only want to recall the struggles, and none of the good times is a shameful example of how football is portrayed over here. There are teams like Manchester City, Newcastle United, and of course Chelsea, who have spent an incredible amount between them over the last 3 years, and have nothing to show for it, yet it was always Houllier that got it in the neck. So indulge me while I redress the balance this one last time, and give credit where it's due to this man.

And so onto the future, and what a bright one it promises to be. The new manager will have the most wonderful facility at Melwood at his disposal. And already a strong spine to the team and a solid squad of players. Whereas I'm sure a new manager will want to bring in his own people, I'd be surprised if he wouldn't be pleased to have a group like Gerrard, Cisse, Kewell, Owen, Hyypia, Finnan, Riise, Kirkland, Dudek, Baros, Le Tallec, Sinama-Pongolle, Carragher, and maybe influential players such as Hamann should he wish to keep him, to build upon.

So onwards and upwards. Thank you Gerard, for your relentless hard work, and   dedication to this club. Now we move on, with the foundations firmly intact.

© A Red Hero 2004

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