Birthdate: 3 September 1947
Birthplace: Thérouanne, France
Other clubs as manager: Noeux Les Mines (1976-82), Lens (1982-85), Paris St Germain (1985-87 and 1988), France international team (1992-93), Lyon (2005-07), Aston Villa (2010-11)
Arrived from: France Football Fed.
Signed for LFC: 12 November 1998
First game in charge: 14.11.1998
Contract Expiry: 24.05.2004
LFC league games as manager: 216
Total LFC games as manager: 307
Honours: F.A. cup winners 2001
League cup winners 2001, 2003
UEFA cup winners 2001
One of the Frenchman’s first tasks was to bring ex-skipper Phil Thompson back to the club as his assistant. It was a popular appointment because everyone knew what the club meant to Phil. The Gerard Houllier reign started for real with a home defeat by Leeds United, the club’s 3rd loss at Anfield in a week. Other disappointments were to follow as the new management team introduced their own ideas to try to turn round what had so far been a disappointing season. There was an early exit from Europe where Celta Vigo beat Liverpool home and away but at the time there were still restrictions on the number of foreign players that could participate and this affected the team that could be named for those matches. Steven Gerrard was introduced into the first-team as a late substitute in the home fixture with Blackburn at the end of November but results were inconsistent and a finishing place of 7th was not enough to guarantee European football for the next season. The most heartbreaking result came at Old Trafford in the F.A. cup 4th round when Liverpool held on to Michael Owen’s early goal until the match was virtually over, only to concede two goals in injury-time. Defeat to United was bad enough on its own; the fact that United went on to win that cup and the Treble just made it harder to bear.
The winds of change swept through Anfield in the summer. Sami Hyypia & Stephane Hechoz had arrived to bolster an at times fragile defence; and with immediate effect because 19 fewer goals were conceded in the league programme than during the previous season. Other arrivals included Titi Camara as a forward and Vladimir Smicer in midfield. But four league defeats before the end of September did not suggest that the club was suddenly about to challenge for the major prizes again. However, a decent second half to the season which included a run of only 1 defeat in 18 league matches saw the team climb the table until they were in with a realistic chance of claiming a place in the lucrative Champions’ League. But it all fell apart in the final weeks of the season. There were no wins in the final 5 fixtures and not even a goal to cheer. Defeat on the final day at Bradford City meant that the Yorkshiremen secured their place in the top division and at the same time consigned Liverpool to the UEFA cup.
Several more signings of variable quality arrived. The experience of Babbel and McAllister was welcome and the latter became a real talisman for the side, especially in the closing weeks of what was to be a truly remarkable season. The same could not be said of Barmby, Ziege & Litmanen, whose Liverpool careers would only be brief. The team was proving difficult to beat and although 9 league defeats was the same as the previous season, three of those (all away) came during a depressing spell in November. The final league position was improved by one place to 3rd and although faced with having to win their final match again to qualify for the Champions’ League, this was achieved with some comfort at the Valley, where it should be noted that Charlton’s supporters gave the Liverpool team very genuine applause considering they had been on the wrong end of a 4-0 scoreline.
It was in the cup competitions that Liverpool took their place in the history books with an unprecedented triple success. It took penalties to beat a stubborn Birmingham City side in the League cup and the team certainly enjoyed some huge slices of luck in the F.A. cup final with Arsenal, being outplayed for most of the match before Michael Owen’s two late strikes at last saw some sort of revenge for three previous final defeats by the Gunners. But perhaps the UEFA cup adventure was the most praiseworthy. The club certainly had some favourable draws in the two domestic knock-out competitions but the same could not be said of the final stages of the European equivalent, where Roma, Porto & Barcelona had to be faced in consecutive rounds.
Winning in Rome’s Olympic Stadium was a massive achievement, even if the second leg ended in controversy after the Spanish referee appeared to give the Italians a chance of equalising the aggregate score only to change his mind and give a corner-kick after seeming to originally point to the spot following a handball in the area by Babbel. Gary McAllister’s confident penalty was the only goal of the semi-final with Barcelona and he repeated that feat in Dortmund in a crazy match that finally saw Liverpool prevail over Alaves with a ‘golden goal’ own-goal in the closing minutes of extra-time.
There were now real hopes of mounting a serious challenge for the championship in 2001-2002. Once again Liverpool improved their final league position by one place. 80 points might have won the title in other seasons but it wasn’t enough to beat a very good Arsenal team. The manager proved that he wasn’t afraid to make difficult and controversial decisions. Sander Westerveld’s late error at Bolton meant that he was ruthlessly axed with Dudek and Kirkland immediately arriving to replace him. Houllier had already moved Ince on and it became clear the manager was not a man to mess with.
But his own situation changed dramatically during the home match with Leeds in October. He failed to come out for the 2nd half and it was later announced that he had been rushed into hospital for immediate and life-saving heart surgery.
It was a big shock to the whole club but Phil Thompson stepped in to deputise and did an admirable job until Gerard Houllier returned to take his place on the bench before an emotional match with Roma in the middle of March. The team got safely through the two group stages of the Champions’ League and had real hopes of further progress when they were paired with the Germans of Leverkusen. But a narrow home victory was not enough. Houllier controversially substituted Hamann for Smicer after an hour and the tie was eventually lost 3-4 on aggregate.
Optimism was higher than ever during the summer of 2002 and with good reason. The team made a blistering start to the league programme with 9 wins and 3 draws from the opening dozen matches. But the next match at Middlesbrough would prove to a real watershed in Liverpool’s season and probably looking back on Houllier’s management too. The manager was criticised for having too cautious an approach in a match that a confident team should have been capable of winning. It resulted in a 1-0 defeat. Liverpool would not taste victory again in a league match until the 2nd half of January, a terrible run that hadn’t been seen since the relegation season of 1953-54. As the performances and results worsened, so did the criticism. A fortune had been spent in the summer on Diouf, Cheyrou & Diao. None of them proved to be worth a fraction of what the club had paid for them. Apart from that, Gerard Houllier seemed to have a never-ending supply of excuses to explain the latest miserable performance. Anything and everything it seemed was to blame more than his team selection, the players and the tactics they had been asked to employ. The team had failed to negotiate the opening group stage of the Champions’ League and Liverpool were knocked out of the UEFA cup by Celtic despite managing a decent 1-1 draw in the away leg in Glasgow. What probably saved the manager was another success in the League cup, this time against bitter rivals Manchester United. It is always nice to win a cup, of course it is. But everyone knew that it wasn’t the sort of success the club really craved.
Harry Kewell arrived from Leeds and the two French starlets le Tallec & Pongolle were also paraded pre-season. But there were many comparisons with 2002-2003 when it came to form and (lack of) entertainment. One difference however was that there was no Champions’ League football to look forward to and no consolation cup victory either. The manager’s excuses became more and more difficult to listen to. It seemed clear that he was living on borrowed time. But it was also clear he had no intention of resigning. Playing in the Champions’ League was financially important for the club but many supporters found it difficult to associate a ‘target’ of finishing 4th as success. It was for Gerard Houllier though. He reached his target, perhaps as much due to Newcastle’s faltering end to the season as his own team’s ability, but it wasn’t enough to pacify the Liverpool board and during the following week a press conference was called to announce that Gerard Houllier would be leaving the club with one year of his contract still to run. Who knows how much his life-threatening illness took out of Gerard Houllier? In one respect he really was living on borrowed time since then. But he was never the same man after he returned. Certainly some of his expensive signings failed to deliver the goods but he also changed a lot of the negative culture that can be around a football club when it comes to diet and lifestyle. Houllier was also criticised for his failure to blood more youngsters in the team and there does seem to have been some friction between himself and Steve Heighway at the Academy. Four trophies in five seasons gave the supporters some unforgettable memories. But in the end there were too many other memories that were not as good and too much money wasted on players that just weren’t up to the job. Gerard Houllier had a dream for Liverpool Football club, a dream that he wasn’t allowed to fulfil. Right to the end, he still believed he was the man to take Liverpool that one step further. But long before the end, most of us realised that he wasn’t. He was too proud to admit his mistakes and he had to be pushed out of the door instead of opening it himself and walking away with some pride and dignity intact.
Nobody could say that he had been an unqualified success; but nobody could say that he had been an outright failure either.
A year after leaving Liverpool, Houllier signed a two-year contract with Lyon, the French club which had just won four consecutive Ligue 1 championships. He increased that run to six but was unable to convert Lyon's dominance of their domestic game on to the European stage. Towards the end of May 2007 he left Lyon. The club's view was that he had asked to be released; the man himself declared that he needed a break after the stress of managing the club for two years.
Gerard returned to the English game in September 2010, taking over from Martin O'Neill at Aston Villa. One of his first jobs was to appoint Gary McAllister to be his Assistant Manager, Gary being a man he knew well from his Liverpool days. However, Villa did not start the 2010-11 season in good form and only collected 21 points from the opening 20 Premier League games. They were knocked out of the League cup by local rivals and eventual winners, Birmingham City. The first-team squad suffered numerous injuries and lost heavily in the F.A. cup to Manchester City. On the 20th of April Gerard Houllier was taken to hospital to undergo tests after falling ill in the night. This was clearly a concern because of his previous illness in 2001 while he was Liverpool's manager. Early reports from Birmingham indicated that his condition was stable but he was not immediately discharged from hospital and therefore was unable to attend training so Gary McAllister took over that responsibility and Gary was also expected to be in charge when Villa resumed their Premier League campaign against Stoke City on Easter Saturday. Gerard was subsequently expected to be discharged from coronary care by the end of April after intensive tests showed that his heart was "working properly".
It wasn't a major surprise when Aston Villa announced early in June 2011 that Gerard Houllier would be leaving the club less than a year after he was appointed to be manager. Villa officials were said to be concerned that a return to the dugout could
cause further health issues. Gerard himself declared "I am extremely disappointed that I will not have the opportunity to
manage Aston Villa next season. My health has improved considerably since I was taken ill on
the 20th of April. I now intend to take the next few months to concentrate on
recuperating fully before I may return to football".
For the first time in 16 long years since the shame and tragedy that was Heysel, Liverpool took their place in European football's top club competition. Chris Wood documents Liverpool's European history.More
Paul Doyle simply can't understand why Lyon think Gérard Houllier can bring them the Champions League More
An article from Garstonite on RAWK on 9th July 2005.More
lfchistory.net is designed for every statistician who wishes to study Liverpool's history through facts and figures.More
Chris Bascombe interviews Gerard Houllier at the end of the 1999-2000 season.More
Match report by Liverpool Daily Post on Liverpool - Derby on 06.11.1999.More
The Telegraph report on Liverpool - Middlesbrough on 02.05.2004.More
The Telegraph report on Liverpool - Charlton on 12.04.2004.More
Liverpool's summer signings in 2000-2001 raised more than a few eyebrows.More
There has been a lot of activity on Liverpool's behalf in the transfer market in the summer and we wanted to refresh your memories how Liverpool has done in the market in recent years.More
Report by Garry Doolan, Daily Post in 1999.More
For the last time as LFC boss, Gerard Houllier sat down to speak to lfc.tv. Clearly emotional on what he admits is his saddest day in football, Houllier spoke of his time in charge at Anfield and also of his hopes for the future. More
Ian Ridley inter Houllier after his return in The Observer on 7th April 2002.More
Liverpool Echo article on 20th March 2000.More
Liverpool Echo press report on Liverpool - Aston Villa on 06.12.2010.More
LFC.tv report on Liverpool - Roma on 19.03.2002.More
Interview with Gerard Houllier by Paul McCarthy. Published on 11 February 2001.More
"The players country is Liverpool Football Club and their language is football."
Gerard told me at the end of our time: 'Phil, if you ever go to another football club in your work, first thing you must do, because you run the club, is to think: 'What is your legacy?' We changed the face of the football club from being on the front pages and took it to the back pages again. We were a proper football club again. We brought the club back from the players. We left one of the best training grounds in Europe. New people who come in will say: 'What a good job they did' and we did.
In the Liverpool Echo when we finished they had: '10 million pounds of cost to get rid of us.' They had pictures of us in the newspaper like we were criminals. That was absolutely dreadful. We put the smiles back on the faces of the Liverpool fans. We had the first European final for many years. People had only heard of the legends of European finals. We beat Manchester United in the League cup. That wasn't anything to be sniffed at. We had a wonderful day down at Cardiff. Over the few years we were there we gave some fantastic times. We were going down to Cardiff on a regular basis so it wasn't a failure. We were a part of the history of the club. We came, we served, we left. The club needs to move on. If people think that we took the club as far as we can, no problem, maybe it was."
Phil Thompson on his time with Houllier in an exclusive interview with LFChistory.net
"At Liverpool, I was lucky enough to be playing for a great club but unfortunately things didn't go well with Gerard Houllier. The memories I have from Anfield will stay with me right until my final days.
It's not that I lacked ambition. The first season went very well, but after that Gerard Houllier wanted to stop me playing for Guinea. He wasn't happy when I left and when I got back, he decided to sideline me. It was sad for the fans, because I'd given quite a lot to Liverpool and I'd also learned a lot from Liverpool in return.
That's part of a footballer's life. There are times when a coach decides a footballer's fate and it's sad."
Camara in 2004
"Technically, I thought Gerard was brilliant. Melwood, the training ground, is like a five-star hotel and it is all due to him. He said 'I want this there, that there, I want the swimming pool'. We've got the lot there but tactically, I just don't know. I went to a lot of the games at home and I wasn't too pleased at what I saw and obviously something had to happen."
Yeats' post-Houllier analysis
"Houllier did a lot of work - he built a great training centre. He was much appreciated by the Englishmen and I can see why. But a lot of the French players didn't have a chance to play and express themselves. We had to work twice as hard to play. So, I have a mixed view on Houllier. Today I proved that it is not down to him that I was there - I deserve to play for Reds. Personally, in the end, I didn't trust him anymore. I was upset.
So many times I knocked on his door saying I wanted to leave the club. It was frustrating because I didn't play. And nothing changed. If he would have stayed then I would not be at Liverpool anymore. We, the Frenchmen, were frustrated because we saw how it worked at Arsenal."
Djimi Traore in June 2005
"One, you run the team and the staff, you have responsibility for improving results and winning trophies.
"Two, you have an impact on the running of the club, help build up the facilities.
"And three, you leave a legacy, to make sure the club will achieve in the future, whether it is with me or somebody else. Paisley had a better record than Shankly, but he completed what Shankly had built up.
"I don't believe in being Mr Motivator, more in creating the best environment for the players to fulfil their potential. Then it is up to their professionalism and desire to be winners."
Houllier on his role at Liverpool
"When people told me I had to stop being a manager, I told them I would rather stop breathing than give up football. I took the decision to carry on after my operation even though I know I'm taking some risks. But I've taken risks all my life - I was taking risks before I went into the operating theatre. Life is only interesting if you live on the edge.
My obsession is still as great as ever. I'm not a very good sleeper, so what do you if you can't sleep? You either read or watch films, it just happens that I watch football videos. But the intensity of football makes it impossible to take time away, there are so many games in such a little space of time that I can't see a way of taking time off. I would like to take more breaks but the fixture list just makes that impossible.
"I have tried to cut down my involvement, but it is very difficult. The most important relationship in football is between a a manager and his players - you cannot ignore that."
Gerard Houllier explains why he continued as Liverpool manager after his heart operation
According to genial Houllier at the time, Robbie was merely suffering from a touch of Mad Cow Disease brought to the club by Rigobert Song:
'It was just a joke. The Metz players would get down behind each other and pretend to eat the grass. Rigobert, who used to play for them, did it in training and we all had a laugh. Robbie did this in front of the Everton fans, but if the goal had been scored at the other end, he would have done it there.
It was just a goal ceremony. It had nothing to do with drugs. At the moment, everything he does seems to be open to interpretation. When your heart is racing, maybe you don't think of the circumstances. We had a laugh about in in the dressing room. Robbie has been surprised by the reaction to this."
Houllier on Fowler's celebration when he pretended to snort cocaine after scoring against Everton
"There's a huge difference. Rafa and Pako have got a completely different way of training. We train harder, we train for longer and we work harder than we used to. Everything is about tactics as well. You know that they know what they are doing and that's the main thing. If you ask Pako, he tells you what we will be doing in training in two weeks time. That's unusual because when sometimes things don't go right, people change things. What he does is very impressive.
We work on tactics almost every day and if you look at our goals against record, that is a massive improvement. We played Valencia a few years ago when Rafa was in charge there and that was probably the hardest game ever for us. It was hard to get the ball and once we had it, we couldn't play. We got beat 1-0 at home and I think we only had half a chance through Emile Heskey. We were completely outplayed and couldn't get anywhere near them. When you work with them and see the way they train us now, you can see why Valencia played the way they did."
Hamann on the difference between Rafa and Houllier
"I thought to myself 'I can't believe I'm hearing this'. And I said to him: 'You've had months to tell me but you decided you were going to do it just before pre-season. I can't believe this - it's total crap! I just wanted to punch Houllier in the face. If I was younger I would have. He would have deserved it."
Ince wasn't happy when Houllier told him to leave Liverpool
"At Anfield the fans are fantastic - the best in the world. You'll see the singing at the beginning of the game and it makes you shiver, it gives you some kind of different feeling. They're very supportive of their team. They like good football and they like their team to win, but not necessarily in an ugly way - they want their team to win in style. Liverpool are a prestigious club. To me they are one of the best, if not the best, in Europe, with fantastic people, a great coach and good players. I will definitely be at the game and I don't think I will show my feelings and emotions who ever scores, but everyone knows that Liverpool is deep in my heart and always will be.
Houllier on Lyon TV in October 2009 before the Liverpool - Lyon in the Champions League
I remember recovering from a long injury lay-off and sitting stewing on the bench for Liverpool, not getting as much match action as I thought I deserved. We were playing Newcastle and when I was finally sent on, I rose above Duncan Ferguson to score a rare header and win the game. I ran as fast as I could towards the manager, my own manager, Gerard Houllier. I screamed every expletive imaginable in his direction. It was an explosion of emotion. The injustice overcomes you.
Jamie Redknapp on his goal vs Newcastle on 25th March 2000