By Neil Perry
I’m a Liverpool supporter of a certain age. My first memory of being a fan was King Kenny resigning. And, to be fair it was pretty much a downhill journey from there, with a few stop-overs at the far from plush False Dawn Motel.
With each passing season there were envious glances back to just a few years before, when the Reds were the dominant power, sweeping aside all before them. Every success came with a caveat of a glance back to the ‘good old days’, and remembering just how wonderful those ‘good old days’ were. They were the memories of others – not me.
Essentially, it was a pretty tepid time to be a Liverpool supporter. You didn’t have the comfort blanket of happy memories to snuggle up in when we were congealing in mid-table, and there was much going on that ever threatened to live up to the recent, illustrious past.
In a thoroughly convoluted way, and after a fair few detours on the route, this is why I would thank Gérard Houllier. He will never be celebrated as much as Bill, Bob, Joe, Kenny or Rafa, and certainly not as much as Jürgen will be in years to come. But although he never brought home either of the top two prizes, the Frenchman will always occupy a special place in my footballing heart.Embed from Getty Images
He took a flaky mess of a team with enough dead wood to build Everton a new stadium, and turned it into a trophy magnet. He went on the kind of summer recruitment drive that we all go on as soon as we start a new career on Championship Manager – just with infinitely better results.
All of a sudden we were no longer looking wistfully back to the days where we didn’t really bother celebrating trophy wins as it would be rather distasteful – as surely we’d win it again anyway next year.
For a fan who had been starved of that success, it was every Christmas and birthday at once. Wrapped in the package of a kindly uncle, one who you’d be sure would find a pound hidden behind your ear every time you saw him.
At most clubs around Europe, a manager who brought home as much silverware as he did would have stands, streets and buildings named after him. But this is Liverpool, and the bar is in a rather different stratosphere.
I’ll never get the chance to thank him for what he did, and his achievements will forever fade into the shadows of some of his more celebrated colleagues – but for this Liverpool fan of a certain age, he was the man who let me dare to dream again, and think past the idea that success was just something I’d see when watching my long worn out ‘Team of the 80s’ VHS.
Thank you, Gérard. YNWA.