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Friday, 16 November, 2001, 16:46 GMT
Houllier back in training
Gerard Houllier has returned to Liverpool's training headqyarters for the first time since emergency heart surgery
Houllier - back at Liverpool's training headquarters
Gerard Houllier has made a shock return to Liverpool's training ground to deliver a tonic to his players before crucial Premiership and European games.

Houllier - recovering from emergency heart surgery - made it clear to his squad that he has no intention of retiring despite his illness.

He spoke to his squad and told them he wanted them to "push on" and claim more glory.

Houllier revealed pop legend Sir Elton John sent him flowers as he was recovering from major surgery, and that England captain David Beckham was one of the first to send his best wishes for a speedy recovery.

He left his players in no doubt what he expects from them in the coming weeks, but assistant manager Phil Thompson insisted it was not an official return to work.

Thompson said: "He didn't drive himself, and he didn't stay to watch the training session. But he got the entire squad together for 15 minutes to tell them how proud he was of them all.

Assistant manager Phil Thompson has been in charge in Houllier's absence
Thompson - in charge
"But he also told them to push on, to do more and to win more. The visit had a big effect on the players, they all had big smiles on their faces.

"None of them has seen him since he was taken ill, and I would like to think that his visit lifted the players."

It was his first visit to the Melwood training complex since his major surgery, that followed the Leeds United home game on 13 October.

Thompson said: "The lads didn't know anything about it. But Gerard had asked to come in a couple of days ago to reassure the boys about his fitness and the fact that he would be coming back.

"It was decided that we would wait for the several lads who were away on international duty to return before he visited the squad. It was a major boost for the players."

Houllier timed his return - he also spent time in his office at the training ground - to perfection. Liverpool can go top of the Premiership, at least for a few hours, if they win at Blackburn on Saturday.

Liverpool then start their second stage matches in the Champions League against Barcelona at Anfield.

Thompson said: "Gerard just told the lads how pleased he was with them. It was just good to see him back and walking around the training ground and just sitting behind his desk again.

"He's feeling so much better, but he will be very careful about what happens now.

He got the entire squad together for 15 minutes to tell them how proud he was of them all
Liverpool assistant manager Phil Thompson
"I'm sure his medical advisors and his wife will have a lot to say about when he comes to see us again, but he will probably do so again before he resumes in the hot seat. But it's not fair for him to come back too soon."

Houllier is now expected to go on holiday for a fortnight, at least, before he considers his next return.

Thompson added: "Gerard also talked to the medical and technical staff and the young lads too. He wanted to make sure people knew he was fit-ish.

"He told the lads how well they have done, and how focused they had been since his illness. But he made it clear he wants them to push on and that there is still plenty to play for.

"He felt the time was right to come in, he wanted to re-assure the players that he was OK. But you can't come back here until he's 100%, that wouldn't be fair to anyone."

Assistant Liverpool manager Phil Thompson
"Gerrard wants the players to press on "
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