Liverpool's Istanbul hero Jerzy Dudek has a book coming out, and as it is currently being serialised in the British press we get a few tasty stories before the full thing is released. Yesterday we heard how Rafa Benitez nearly caught a punch in the face from the Polish goalkeeper, but today another former manager comes under the spotlight.
Liverpool were under the management of Frenchman Gerard Houllier for six years between 1998 and 2004, and during that time they won trophies and challenged for titles as some very good (and some very, very bad) players came and went from Anfield.
However, according to Dudek, Houllier slowly but surely began to descend into paranoia as things were not going as he would have liked, and about six months before he would eventually get the sack, his behaviour was beginning to concern a few members of the squad.
Dudek revealed that after one game in particular, Houllier went after the team one by one.
First Emile Heskey got a grilling:
Increasingly, Houllier had been trying to ‘motivate’ players by making examples of them in front of the other lads. After another game he started going through the team. “Where’s that player from Leicester City? Emile? Emile Heskey? Where are you? Remember when you used to get the ball, run through the defence and score goals? Where is that player now? Am I missing something? We paid a lot of money for you...”
Then Salif Diao, although to be fair Gerard may have been onto something here:
Then it was Salif Diao: “Do you remember where you came from? Sedan. And do you know the difference between Sedan and Liverpool? I don’t think you do. You don’t appreciate the fact you play for mighty Liverpool now.”
An injured Stephane Henchoz also took some stick:
Stephane Henchoz had problems with his Achilles tendon. He was doing all he could to get back on the pitch and had been a great servant for Houllier, especially when Liverpool won five trophies in 2001, but now he was on the receiving end of the manager’s anger.
“How long are you going to be injured, Stephane?” asked Houllier. “You’re taking your time to recover on purpose because we’re not playing well.”
“I’ve just come back from the doctor. I’ve had another injection,” he replied. “He says I’ve got tendinitis but this might help...”
“I know what I’m seeing.”
And then it was Dudek's turn, although he seemed to enjoy it:
Then it was my turn. He went back to the start of my Liverpool career and listed every mistake I’d made, month by month.
“November 2002, Middlesbrough. December 2002, Manchester United. March 2003, Tottenham.” He chucked in a couple of other teams and yelled: “You think because you were Man Of The Match when we won the League Cup you can act like a star? You’re making mistakes which cost us points.”
“That’s not too bad for the three years,” I snapped back, smiling as I did so.
“You think it’s funny? Let me tell you this. If Chris Kirkland had been fit he’d have played in the League Cup final.”
Even Danny Murphy, a player on Houllier's good-books, took a tongue-lashing, albeit one that was reeled in, after this particular match:
Then he turned to Danny Murphy: “And don’t think I haven’t been watching you. You train like a grandad. Are you going to retire soon?”
But then he paused for a moment. Danny was part of a ‘titled’ group at Liverpool, I suppose you might call it a group of players the manager favoured. “But Danny, I liked your reaction against Bolton.” Danny had scored in that game and, realising he was a player he wanted to keep onside, he tried to soften the criticism.
Lastly, Djimi Traore took his share of abuse as Dudek revealed they all saw cracks appearing in their manager's mentality:
Traore also got stick from Houllier: “Since you got your contract extension you’ve stopped trying in training – you’re lazy.”
He concluded by addressing the whole group and displaying his paranoia: “I know what you’re up to. You’re waiting for me to be sacked. You’re playing badly to get rid of me. You’ll be sorry. The new manager will put most of you in the reserves. You won’t be laughing then.”
That doesn't reflect particularly well on Houllier.
After leaving Liverpool he returned to France to take charge of Lyon before returning to England for a brief and very unsuccessful stint at Aston Villa. He hasn't managed since.
Dudek's book looks like it will be an interesting read, and you would have to imagine it's something most Liverpool fans will want to read.