|Thursday 26th February 2004|
INTERVIEW WITH HOULLIER
From the Official LFC Site
Gerard, is tomorrow night just another game or is there just too much going on off the pitch at the moment pressure wise?
We are aware of what is going on off the pitch, but we try to make sure it doesn't affect what is on the pitch. This is our last chance to win silverware and I can tell you that until the end of the season we will give it our best shot in this competition and in the league.
We were disappointed after the Portsmouth defeat because before that we'd had only one defeat in 12 games and I think in apart from one we were improving and playing better. Why I'm confident is because practically everyone is back now, apart from Vladimir Smicer who still has his Achilles problem. He is being treated for that and I'm hopeful he will come back before the end of the season.
Milan Baros came back and played the second half against Portsmouth and I think it showed we have missed him a bit.
Do you understand the frustration around the recent results?
I understand the frustration in the results, but I can say it is shared by the whole camp.
Do you feel a little bit hurt by the reaction of certain sections of the support?
No, that's part of the territory. There are some things that are written and said which I feel are a bit unfair and unjust, but we live with that.
Do you feel happy that large sections of the Liverpool support are still behind you?
I think a lot of people know what we have done in this club in the last four years. We have changed things around and have probably put the club in a different direction. It's a team thing, the board, the squad and the staff. We have managed to win six trophies and qualify for the Champions League twice and our target is to get back to the Champions League as soon as possible.
Obviously this season we have been hurt by injuries. It has been a very difficult season. Sometimes the results have not been proportional to the performance. But I am very hopeful for the future.
Given the criticism that you've had, do you still believe you are the man to qualify Liverpool for the Champions League and to win the title at some stage?
First of all I would say that we won't be as unlucky next season as we have been this season, that's for sure. Sometimes you have to go through adversity to progress and to get better and I'm pleased to say that the team and the squad remain extremely together. We suffer together the same as we celebrate together and sometimes it is a good incentive to get back to better heights.
If you get a penalty tomorrow, will Michael Owen take it?
Michael Owen has scored all his penalties this season and it is very unfortunate that he missed that one last week because had he scored we would have probably got through.
The good thing about it is that others players came out and defended Michael. That's what I like about the team, no one was finger pointing. I told them that there are a few positive aspects in our game, one of them is that some of the lads immediately reacted and defended him. If he plays tomorrow and we get a penalty then he will take it.
We know he has had a lengthy injury, but how far short do you think he is off top form?
He was out for almost three months, apart from one or two appearances where he wasn't at his best but still scored. But now he is getting very sharp.
Levski Sofia are European opposition from the East side. Are they similar in styles to Steau Bucharest?
All these teams are technically very good and they can hurt you. We have done our homework and scouted them a few times and know their players. So we will be prepared.
You are aware of the criticism. Do you as a manager feel under pressure?
When you work you just do your job, whether there is praise or criticism. At the moment the results aren't very good and we are going through a difficult period in terms of what is being said and written now, but we live withthat. We'll get on with it, don't worry.
Does it hurt that you have been criticised by some people for a negative style of play?
Well, I don't think that is right. If you've seen some of our games, I don't think you can say we have been negative. Maybe sometimes we have had to keep the ball and possession more than we have before. If you are saying that sometimes we lack the clinical finish then yes I'd say that's right, but you can't say that we are negative.
Does the fact that you have won this competition before give you an advantage in that you have the experience?
A lot of our players, despite their young age, have played between 40 and 50 games in Europe. It's experience and when you get to that level you know what its about, it's a different ball game.
When you reach the final stages then obviously that experience plays a part and the fact that we won it two years ago maybe gives you confidence.