walks through the storm
By Paul Walker - PA Sport
Gerard Houllier would have done better staying at
home in bed, nursing his flu, and leaving the shouting
and bawling to Phil Thompson.
Instead he chose to witness a Liverpool horror show that
has left their ragged season at a critical juncture.
The calls for Houllier’s head have increased, the
phone-ins are red hot and he surely would have winced if
he heard one enraged punter demanding that fans “break
him” by making his life intolerable.
The club will not sack him, Liverpool do not do such
things having not axed a manager for close to 50 years.
Sources inside the club maintain he still has the
support of chairman David Moores and the board.
A source close to the board said: “The mood towards
Gerard has not changed, he has the full support of the
chairman and Rick Parry, and the board understand how
much injuries to important players have affected the
situation. Six out all at once is a lot.”
But just how much longer Houllier wants to carry on
under such pressure is open to question.
And if a fifth home defeat of the season against
Southampton and an inept, panicky display was not bad
enough, he must now be aware that the tension in the
stands is affecting his players.
The Reds were awful, Steven Gerrard excepted, and looked
devoid of confidence and ideas for long spells.
It was only the fourth time in history Southampton have
managed to win at Anfield and their thoroughly deserved
victory indicates how serious the problem of Liverpool’s
inconsistency has now become.
The abuse since has been unrelenting. From radio
phone-ins to outbursts from former legends like Ian St
John and Tommy Smith.
Houllier, who has said in the past few weeks that he
will never walk away, must be praying for a comeback
from injury of at least some of the half-dozen first
teamers who were watching from the sidelines. But even
that will not be as soon as he would like.
Houllier said: “We were missing six first-team players
and they will not be back quickly.
“Only Harry Kewell has a chance of playing next week.
Michael Owen? No, not for a while.
“Our home form is not satisfactory but we are missing a
few. When we have them back it will be a different
So even at his lowest ebb he was still trying to be
upbeat. Sadly his paper-thin squad could not match that
Southampton, bright, quick and inventive, were
brimming with a confidence Liverpool did not have.
From the moment Brett Ormerod exposed Dietmar Hamann’s
lack of fitness and pace in the second minute to score,
Liverpool were toiling and searching for collective
It never came. Michael Svensson headed the second and
even after Emile Heskey’s stabbed reply late on, there
was not enough in Liverpool’s depleted armoury to grab a
point they did not deserve, even though they had two
shots kicked off the line.
Houllier, whose side have now dropped back to ninth
in the Premiership, added: “I understand the fans’
frustration, we are suffering together.
“We just have to keep our heads up and keep going, but I
admit this is a difficult period for us.
“We were without six first-teamers and all our
first-choice strikers. In the end we paid for a lack of
“Only Chelsea, with their vast squad, could cope with
the loss of as many players as we are having to handle.
If Manchester United lost Van Nistelrooy and Scholes and
Arsenal were without Henry and Pires, they would
“We know now that we have to dig deep, this is a tough
period for us. I believe the fans who were here at least
understand the problem even if they are frustrated. I
doubt whether the phone-in fans will understand.”
As for Saints boss Gordon Strachan, there was humour
in his delighted after-match speech.
He said: “I have discovered that when you go to Anfield
or Old Trafford, it pays not to wear a coloured shirt
because everyone can see the stains as the pressure
“I always wear a white shirt so nobody sees you sweat.
But I felt we deserved it in the end, even if they did
throw everything at us towards the end. It was a case of
‘fasten your seat belts and hang on’ and we managed
But he added: “I have every sympathy for Gerard, and
anyone who wants to be a Premiership manager. It can be
“If I was a multi-millionaire I would buy a golf course
and knock balls around all day, and certainly not be
Houllier is strong-willed, proud and stubborn and nobody
at Anfield has the stomach for a quick-fix, mid-season
The fans who call the phone-ins may not like it, but
nobody close to the club expects Houllier not to still
be in charge come the summer.
But what happens then, in the last year of Houllier’s
contract left, is debatable.
Houllier offers no excuses
Liverpool boss Gerard Houllier made no excuses for
his side's shock home defeat to Southampton.
Goals from Brett Ormerod and Michael Svensson were
enough to give The Saints a memorable victory and
condemn Liverpool to their fourth home defeat of the
"We missed a good opportunity to make a step up the
league," admitted Houllier.
"We had a very bad start with the goal and that caused
us problems as we had to chase the game from there on.
"I like the way we reacted in the second half in that we
created chances and the effort was there.
"It is disappointing but these things happen in
"In the second I feel we showed enough to equalise and
we deserved a draw."
Houllier admitted his side's home form was concerning
him as they slipped down to ninth spot with another
"The home form is a problem as we have lost too many
games," added Houllier.
"You only have to look at the table to see that and we
need to improve it.
"We have lost to three of the best sides around in
Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea and today I think
we should have won, but there are no excuses.
"It is frustrating, but you have to go on."
Saints pile misery on Reds
Southampton piled the pressure on Liverpool boss
Gerard Houllier with a shock 2-1 win at Anfield to climb
above The Reds in the table and inflict their fourth
home defeat of the season.
Goals from Brett Ormerod and Michael Svensson were
enough to give The Saints only their second win in 26
visits to Anfield although they were made to work for
the spoils after Emile Heskey pulled a goal back late
Southampton stunned the home side by opening the scoring
after just two minutes with a lightning raid from a
Liverpool corner as Ormerod raced clear onto Claus
Lundekvam's long clearance to coolly slot past Chris
Kirkland as the home side's defenders were caught up in
the opposition half.
Liverpool tried to respond and Vladimir Smicer saw a
dangerous shot deflected just wide seven minutes later,
while five minutes after El Hadji Diouf headed over
after a fine run and cross down the right from Jon
Southampton looked dangerous when they attacked and
David Prutton should have done better on 14 minutes when
he got on the end of Marian Pahars' cross, but he could
not direct his near-post header on target.
Liverpool felt they should have had a penalty on the
half hour when Smicer raced into the box and went down
under a challenge from Lundekvam, but Paul Durkin waved
away their appeals much to the annoyance of the home
The home side enjoyed the territorial advantage in the
first half but all too often their final pass was
lacking as Southampton comfortably maintained their
Southampton missed a glorious chance to extend their
lead five minutes after the break when James Beattie
beat Biscan down the left and squared for the unmarked
Pahars eight yards out, but the Lativan miscued his shot
terribly wide with the goal at his mercy.
The visitors really should have added to their lead
three minutes later when Marsden picked out Beattie at
the back post and the England star powered his header
goalwards, but Kirkland produced a fantastic reflex save
to keep out the header.
Liverpool finally came to life on the hour mark and
Antti Niemi had to be at his best to turn around a shot
from substitute Florent Sinama-Pongolle after the ball
broke nicely to the French teenager inside the box.
From the resulting corner from Danny Murphy, Sami Hyypia
saw his towering header cleared off the line by Jason
Southampton doubled their lead on 64 minutes when
Michael Svensson rose highest to power home Marsden's
corner into the roof of the net.
Reds defender Otsemobor tried to find a way back into
the match for Liverpool on 72 minutes dancing past three
Southampton challenges and firing a powerful shot which
Niemi was forced to punch away.
Liverpool gave themselves a lifeline 15 minutes from
time when Heskey tapped home from close range after
Niemi could only palm out Steven Gerrard's blistering
shot into the striker's path.
The home side threw everything into attack and
Sinama-Pongolle came close to drawing them level on 80
minutes when he raced onto Gerrard's knockdown, but he
did not get enough purchase on his shot and Niemi was
able to turn away his effort.
Heskey missed a great chance to net the equaliser two
minutes later from Gerrard's inviting cross, but he
failed to connect properly with his header and the ball
landed comfortably in Niemi's arms.
Liverpool's day was summed up in the dying moments when
Smicer blazed over from the penalty spot after the ball
broke to the Czech ace from a long throw in.