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Hou's better? Hou's best

By Glory Hunter
From Issue 59, Winter 2002

If your opposition needs taunting, just call Rent-a-quote
He's got quips and bit and lots of brags, at Rent-a-quote
If your best player needs chastising, Or you’re just nine games from glory,
Remember what you see is not humility, but Rent-a-quote
Remember what you see is not humility, but Rent-a-quote ha, ha, ha, ha, ha

To the tune of Rent-a-ghost and will therefore pass by about 95% of you. However, it was the best children's TV show of the late seventies and early eighties.

This was, is, a piece to defend the manager against what, on certain Internet forums in particular, is beginning to become pretty vitriolic campaign to get him sacked/to resign /moved upstairs/replaced - whatever. But to do so I feel I've got to address some of the things that he does that are becoming annoying.

First and foremost is obviously the increasingly vocal outbursts to the press - hence, the above. I, like many, have been brought up -weaned - on managers who were distrustful of the press and didn't like speaking to them. Paisley was a man of few words, Dalglish too. Joe Fagan was a bit more outgoing but it was hardly the stuff of banner headlines.

I would dearly love to go back to those days - as far as I'm concerned, the less we are in the press the better. However, I realise we are in an age where T.V. and money rule. GH has to do so much more in the way of communicating - it comes with the territory.

His comments regarding Steven Gerrard were interesting to say the least. Maybe he had done his best to cajole him in private, without success, feeling the only option remaining was to go public and give him a kick, and in principle I have no problem with that. However, the way in which it was put forward did concern me somewhat. "I have given him five chances"; "We played well in Moscow and against Leeds and then I brought him back in"; "Against Basel I even played him in his favoured role in the middle!" He went too far and then had to back-track in subsequent interviews.

And if you're talking about chances, how about Heskey's 30-odd chances last season and 15 this? Too often recently we've also heard how we're going to win what trophy, how many games we've got left to do it; incredibly - WHICH ONE WE'D PREFER TO WIN!! This is all very un-Liverpool like. Please let us talk only of the next game - no further. Do not worry about tomorrow, today has enough worries of it's own.

The manager is also showing signs of becoming increasingly mad during interviews. His latest excuse for the defeat against the Glams - World Cup exhaustion - is straw clutching to say the least and doesn't address why Diao has been one of our best players. "We were poor, we didn't compete and we were undone by a flukey goal. We'll be looking to put it right as soon as we can." That's all he has to say.

Presently we have too many players who are bang out of form. GH's problem is that he seems to be standing by them too much. Riise, Heskey, Gerrard and Dudek shouldn't see the inside of the first team for weeks. Playing them out of position - as has happened with the outfield players just hasn't helped. Riise isn't a left back. He's admitted as much himself. At left back he has too much to think about - positioning etc. He also the worst tackler in the team - and that includes Smicer. If he plays he should play left wing. As it happens, he shouldn't be playing at all at the moment because he is so poor. Fortunately for him he is being overshadowed by the form of Gerrard and Jerzy.

So if Riise is on the left wing it means Heskey can't play there. Ivanhoe is a striker; he should play there. If he isn't on form and scoring - and he isn't- then he shouldn't play at all, it's that simple. You could argue that Houllier continued to play Owen through his bad patch. Fair point, but Owen was actually missing chances whereas Heskey is just not getting involved enough to have any to miss.

We're still putting square pegs into round holes and it won't work over any length of time. Despite all this, and let's be fair things don't look that good at the moment, calls for the manager to be changed are way off beam especially as the names being put forward are O'Neill, O'Deary and - for the love of God - Keegan.

Reasons given for this range from: He's taken us as far as he can; we haven't progressed to we're not very good. Well, granted at the moment we're not very good. However, it cannot be denied that the beginning of the season left us very optimistic as to what we thought might follow. But late goals by Newcastle, Blackburn and Birmingham seem to have put the willies up. A revert to a tried and trusted formula (which hasn't worked so far this year) was always on the cards.

You've got to say that we have progressed since Houllier took over. Roy Evans did well, 3rd/4th/3rd/4th on the face of it were decent finishes but he was never going to take us on from there with accusations of being too nice. Houllier seems determined to be completely the opposite and whilst I don't hold to the notion that 4th - 3rd - 2nd = 1st, it does show definite progression. Even this season there have been signs - best start for donkeys years; football (to start with) that was better than last year; fewer defeats and more wins each year show we are going in the right direction.

Look at the players he brought in during the Summer. Diouf and Cheyrou are not defensive players - Duff was apparently on the cards and that bloke from Leeds. All forward thinking players. Okay, so they've hardly been spotted so far, but they will. The two French lads are coming in before next season - again forwards. They players are amassing for a more fluid style.

But what about the Champions League? “Where's the progression

there?” I hear you ask. True, we've ballsed that one up, but is that the first time we've ever gone out of a competition? Even as European champions we got dumped out in '82. As FA cup holders didn't Luton kick us out in the 3rd round in 1987? These things happen, although in the CL case we had six chances and contrived to throw them away.

Was Basel the first time we've ever had a bad half? No. Then why was it such a crime this time round? What I would take from that game is the way in which we did get ourselves back into the game in the second half. A few years ago that would have ended up 5-1. Progression.

We didn't win anything last year. Like that's the first time that's happened. Arsenal won the double in '98, it took them four years to win anything again. And just for the record, who decides that winning Uefa, Worthington and FA cups are worthless? Should we win one or any of them this season will that mean we are less successful than last year because we got knocked out in the 1st phase? The club exists to win trophies, a third of the way through the season when four are still very much up for grabs is not the time to decide we're going nowhere.

Has Houllier taken us as far as he can? Well only he can answer that and we won't be able to see an answer to that question until, I would suggest, the end of next season.

Things aren't as bleak as people are making out - although they're not good at the moment. We are not out of the Premiership picture, domestic cups are still a possibility as is the Uefa. Please can we have a bit of patience; trophies are not our divine right to win; new players are not going to be instant successes. The manager deserves our backing - divided we fall (but at least we'll give the press some great sound-bites whilst we do)! Keep the faith.