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Gerard Houllier set for Anfield return with Aston Villa


Houllier relishing Liverpool return

Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson expects former Reds boss Gerard Houllier to receive a warm welcome when he returns to Anfield with Aston Villa on Monday.

During his six-year reign, Houllier led the Merseysiders to the League Cup, FA Cup and Uefa Cup Treble in 2001.

"I am certain he will get a very good reception when he comes back to Anfield because people appreciated the work he did for Liverpool," said Hodgson.

"I know the fans will welcome me," added Houllier.

The Frenchman will be revisiting Anfield as an opposing manager for the first time since his departure in 2004.

He joined Liverpool in July 1998, initially sharing the helm with Roy Evans before taking sole command in November of that year and embarking upon a rebuilding process.

Houllier masterminded a new training complex, overhauled the squad and delivered success on the pitch, but he fell ill in October 2001 and - despite coming back after life-saving heart surgery - his team never managed to recover their previous form.

Gerard Houllier and Jamie Carragher celebrate Liverpool's 2001 FA Cup triumph
He's the manager I won 70 or 80% of my trophies with, he's someone I get on very well with and I'd like to see him do well. Though obviously not on Monday

Jamie Carragher on Houllier

The 63-year-old had spells at Lyon and the French Football Federation before taking over at Villa Park following the departure of Martin O'Neill.

"I have known Gerard for many years, since I went to Switzerland in 1990," stated Hodgson, who sat alongside Houllier in the Liverpool dugout for Jamie Carragher's testimonial in September.

"We have been friends for over 20 years, we've done a lot of work together in Europe for Uefa in the technical study groups and Fifa as well for that matter.

"I am delighted he is back in English football and I am certain he will get a very good reception because people appreciated the work he did for Liverpool.

"Like anyone in the Premier League, we all have difficult jobs on our hands and we know his team will be hard to beat, well organised and have some very good individual players."

Houllier forged a strong bond with the Liverpool supports and is looking forward to seeing them again.

"We had a close relationship and we worked together because the fans are part of the team," he explained. "I know they contributed to the success that we had.

"They will remember [the success] and the fans in Liverpool, when I went back for TV reasons, were always full of cheerful hospitality.


"It is a club I liked even before going there so, having spent six years there, and being together with some people, obviously you can't forget the club.

"I might feel something special when I get on the pitch just before the game. Before that, I will do my job and be focused on the team."

Hodgson has endured a difficult start to life on Merseyside, collecting only 19 points from his 15 Premier League games since leaving Fulham to succeed Rafael Benitez in July.

The Reds boss will also be without two plays who his opposite number helped nurture - captain Steven Gerrard (hamstring) and talismanic defender Jamie Carragher (dislocated shoulder) - but Houllier has backed the 63-year-old former Cottagers boss to turn things around.

"Roy is a great pal of mine, he has been a good friend for a long time," Houllier said. "We first met when he was coach at Malmo and I was at Paris St Germain and we had an indoor tournament.

"It was a League Managers' meeting where I saw him again - but we meet several times in a year. I don't think we have ever managed teams that have played against one another before.

"I am sure he will turn it around at Liverpool. He will do it. No problem. Give him a bit of time. He needs to change a few things. The problem is at Liverpool, when you lose, it's a crisis.

"I would have wished Steven and Jamie would be playing against us because I like them as men and as players. Unfortunately both of them will be absent.

"I wish Jamie the quickest recovery ever. I think Stevie will be back maybe one week later. I'm not one who says 'I'm happy they are not playing' I would have liked them to play against my team."

In an in-depth interview with Liverpool's official website, Carragher lavished praise on his former manager and admitted he could have been forced to retire by now without Houllier's mentoring.

"He was the biggest influence on my career because of what I won with him, how he influenced me as a player and what he gave me off the pitch," the 32-year-old defender reflected.

"The fact I'm still playing now, and you look at Danny Murphy, Stevie [Gerrard], Michael Owen, Emile Heskey - all those players are still playing around the 30 mark or over. A lot of that is down to the manager.

"It probably wouldn't have been possible [to play 650 games] without the advice he gave me off the pitch. He's someone who came in just after [Arsenal manager] Arsene Wenger and revolutionised English football in terms of how we look after ourselves."

Carragher believes a premature return from illness contributed to Houllier's downfall at Liverpool but still feels he deserves some credit for the club's 2005 Champions League triumph under Benitez in Istanbul.

"He came back too soon," suggested Carragher, referring to Houllier's dramatic return to the dugout for a Champions League encounter with Roma in March 2002 - only weeks after undergoing heart surgery.

"I think he'd say himself now that he'd probably have been better waiting until the end of the season. That was just his enthusiasm for football.

"For the first three or four years he was the best manager I've had. He put us back on the map in Europe with the Uefa Cup run in 2001. He was also the first manager to get us into the Champions League.

"The Treble in 2001 is definitely under-appreciated. It's actually a better achievement than Istanbul. Istanbul as a one off will never be beaten by anyone but someone wins the Champions League every year.

"To win three cup competitions in one season - that's not something that happens very often, not just at Liverpool but anywhere."

Carragher added: "Don't get me wrong - the players and Rafa, it was our team. But a lot of the players Gerard brought through played a major part in Istanbul. He's got to take some of the credit for that.

"Whenever a manager leaves it's because things haven't gone too well towards the end - it was the same with Rafa Benitez lately. But what Gerard left was winners in the team. He didn't inherit a team of winners.

"He's the manager I won 70 or 80% of my trophies with, he's someone I get on very well with and I'd like to see him do well. Though obviously not on Monday."

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see also
Liverpool 3-0 Aston Villa
06 Dec 10 |  Premier League
Tottenham 2-1 Liverpool
28 Nov 10 |  Premier League
Aston Villa 2-4 Arsenal
27 Nov 10 |  Premier League
Hodgson angry over Gerrard injury
19 Nov 10 |  Liverpool
Houllier named Aston Villa boss
08 Sep 10 |  Aston Villa
Hodgson named new Liverpool boss
01 Jul 10 |  Liverpool
Houllier backed for England job
28 Nov 07 |  Internationals
Houllier steps down as Lyon coach
25 May 07 |  Europe
Houllier's Liverpool career in pictures
24 May 04 |  Photo Galleries
Houllier exits Liverpool
24 May 04 |  Liverpool

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