By Fatman On The Lower Centenary, Issue 55,
So, I'm sitting there watching the Leeds game
with an Evertonian, the camera focuses on Houllier
several times through the first half, and the
blue nose turns to me and says 'He's not that
animate today, is he? I suppose that's a reflection
of the way the game is going'. At full time the
reason is explained. It was brilliant the way
the whole thing was underplayed, by the club,
and probably with Houllier's influence behind
it. Make no mistake though, this was a very serious
illness. God forbid what would have happened two
days later in Kiev.
All the amateur sages came out of the woodwork,
along with some of the Thicko's. They dragged
out Souness, who had by-pass surgery because of
a congenital inherited condition i.e. high cholestorol
in his blood. Nothing at all to do with what affected
our current manager. Joe Kinnear and Barry Fry,
who had heart attacks, probably brought on by
their lifestyles. Again, nothing to do with what
happened to our manager. One of the Sundays managed
to find an 'expert', who stated that if the illness
was related to his job, he should pack in straight
away. Yeah, you'd like that wouldn't you?
All the usual crap came out about the intolerable
level of pressure that the modern day footballer
and manager have to endure, just as the club announced
that Thommo would be installed as the acting temporary
manager. The worst drivel of the whole week came
from an ex-player of ours, that the club may consider
appointing Kenny Dalglish to take the pressure
off Phil Thompson. Step forward Mark Lawrenson,
proof positive that all the ability in the world
doesn't stop you from talking absolute shite.
There was genuine concern about whether Thompson
could deal with the media side of things, probably
based around the misjudgment of the passion he
shows from the touchline. People conveniently
forgot that he spent a couple of years on the
panel with the Sky Soccer Saturday programme.
If ever restraint was required, surely it was
needed whilst working with Rodney Marsh and Clive
It has since transpired that Houllier and Thompson
are actually friends who share a deep passion
for the game and exchange opinions with other
very freely. This puts to bed the snidey remarks
made by the media that the appointment of Thompson
was only a sop to keep us scally Scousers happy
about the appointment of our first foreign manager,
There may have been a grain of truth to this,
as the die hard romantics were resistant to the
changes Houllier wanted to make to the blueprint
laid down by Shankly. If you examine the ethos
of both managers though, the things that both
share is a passion in the belief that you get
bollocks all if you are not prepared to work for
it, and that you achieve nothing in reflecting
on yesterdays glory.
One thing that has become apparent, and which
has surely endeared Houllier to the last few doubters
amongst our fans, is that he lives, breathes and
eats everything to do with Liverpool Football
Club. His workaholic lifestyle probably has contributed
to his current condition and changes will definitely
have to be made to enable him to return to work.
I still don't accept though, that the pressure
is any worse in professional football, particularly
at Premiership level, as it is in my own job.
In fact if you look at some of the rewards at
that level, even for failure, it is quite astounding.
Stuart Gray was fired from Southampton, along
with his assistant. The pay off? Reputedly £750,000.
Joe Royle, who somehow manages to sound even more
boring than David Pleat when he is commentating,
got a half million pay off. Everton would probably
have sacked Walter Smith by now, if not for the
fact that they could not afford to pay him off.
George Graham got over half a million from Tottenham,
is doing some part time work as an analyst, and
looks like the cat who got the cream. And remember,
this is for a job that is essentially part time.
These are amounts of money that should set you
up for the rest of your life and put you in a
position where you never have to work again. But
have you noticed the odd thing about it? The same
useless bastards always manage to find their way
in to work again!! Why do you think that Lineker,
Hansen, Marsh and Venables aren't arsed about
managing football teams. Its because the money
they are earning in that gentleman's club they
call television is of an astronomical amount as
There are pressures to being a football manager
obviously, but they are different types depending
on which club you happen to be managing at the
time. Stuart Gray must be laughing his cock off.
The expectation at Southampton is probably that
he should keep them in the Premier League. He
was given just three months to prove he could
do that, and realistically that isn't enough time,
and now he is laughing all the way to the bank.
He can sit back, wait for a coaching job somewhere
else, and count the interest on his money.
The pressure on Houllier to succeed at Liverpool,
likewise the pressure on Wenger, Ferguson and
Ranieri is totally different. Certainly with the
history of Liverpool, Arsenal and Manure, the
expectations of the fans and the hierarchy at
the clubs far outweighs that at other clubs. With
Chelsea it's slightly different, they have had
a relatively successful last decade, but you do
have the added burden of having Bates (Master?)
as your chairman. Besides, the best description
for Chelsea is that given by my fellow moaning
arse, Steve Knight, according to him they are
'nothing but Johnny Come Lately's'.
Is it easier to manage Liverpool with their millions
of pounds to spend, than say, Ipswich? The press
certainly thought so following the Manager of
the Year award going to George Burley. They thought
it was harder for a man like Burley to manage
a backwoods club like Ipswich, their justification
being that Houllier had spent sixty million in
assembling his side. NO, you sanctimonious pricks,
it isn't. The expectations of a board of directors
are much higher at a club like Liverpool, never
mind what the expectations of the fans are. Also,
and as Houllier pointed out, he had recouped forty
million of that money.
I believe Gerard will be back. Stronger, fitter
and better than ever. He will be back because
he loves it all. The footy, the people around
it all, the fans and the so called pressure. For
all us non celebs, pressure is getting up in the
pissing rain to go to a full time job that we
hate; to pay for a mortgage on a house, that is
in a shit-hole of an area; to raise enough money
to buy our kids overpriced trainers, that are
pushed by overpaid footballers; to pay our every
day bills; and to do it all without collapsing
from exhaustion, or having a stroke before we
reach retirement age.
In these days of saturation coverage of our national
sport, where interest in the personal lives of
our sporting hero's sometimes outweigh the sporting
side, its sad that people just can't accept that
sometimes you just get ill. It's your bloody turn,
and there's nothing you can do about it. But putting
it all down to pressure? Don't make me laugh.