Sunday 30th May 2004 


Gérard Houllier intends to make a swift return to football management. Less than 48 hours after he had left the house of the Liverpool chairman, David Moores, clutching his P45, he was offering his services to Monaco.

Houllier had always said the Liverpool job would be his last. But that was before he saw his tenure at the Premiership club cut short unexpectedly last Sunday evening. Today, the Frenchman wants more.

Houllier yesterday confirmed that he still harboured coaching ambitions. "All I know is that I want to manage," he said. "I just want to get back into the groove." At Monaco? "It would be disrespectful to talk about specific clubs."

A source at the French club, who lost the Champions' League final 3-0 to Porto on Wednesday, verified that Houllier had been in touch, but was keen to emphasise "it was Mr Houllier who made contact with us to say he would be available, not us who called him".

Up until Friday morning, Houllier might well have been given the opportunity to jet into Monte Carlo to take over from Didier Deschamps. However, as soon as Fabio Capello flipped the managers' merry-go-round on its axis by leaving Roma suddenly to join Juventus, Houllier's future took a different turn. With Deschamps no longer going to Turin, and Jose Mourinho certain to sign for Chelsea, the Frenchman's short break in the Corsican hotel where he recovered from his heart scare in 2001, may yet go on a little longer.

Houllier may be anxious to get his tracksuit back on, but the 56-year-old is arguably more suited to an administrative role. Perhaps, then, Houllier will consider the Football Association's recent offer to do work for their technical department. Although Trevor Brooking, the FA's Director of Football Development, has been in touch with Houllier since his sacking, there is no suggestion that he has offered him the position of technical director. Rather, it would appear that Houllier might be handed a consultative brief.

"We do not see a specific full-time role for him," Brooking said. "That is not to say that we would not tap into his vast expertise, as I have done already in the past before and since he left Liverpool. Gérard was once a teacher and obviously has a lot of knowledge to impart, so we would certainly like to have some contact with him in the future."

The Soho Square offices of the technical director have been vacant since Les Reed was recently relieved of his temporary functions. Howard Wilkinson, who left the FA in 2002 to have one more go at the Premiership with Sunderland, was the last person to hold the title officially, but it may now be phased out completely. That is a pity because Houllier, who fulfilled a similar role with the French Federation between 1994 and 1998, would have been the ideal candidate. Indeed, during his four years in charge of all coaching matters, France reached the semi-finals of Euro 96 in England and then went on to win the 1998 World Cup on home soil.

"We just do not believe that the role of a technical director, as is perceived on the Continent, would fit into the FA's structure," Brooking said. "That is why it is unlikely Gérard would be considered for such a position. My own gut feeling, anyway, is that he will want to get back into management as quickly as possible."

Yesterday, Houllier was at pains to point out that, while he lost his job because he had failed to win the League title after six years in charge and had "perhaps made two or three bad signings", his track record remained impressive. The Frenchman's pride has clearly been hurt, which explains why he is so determined to jump back in the saddle and prove his Liverpool detractors wrong.

"Being a manager is an exhausting business," Houllier said, "but it is also a thrilling one. That is why, once I have taken a few days off and have had the chance to re-assess the situation, I intend to keep working."

The Guardian


Posted by The Editor