Emotional Steven Gerrard reveals how interested Gerard Houllier was in Rangers after Liverpool legacy
Just over 24 hours after Gerard Houllier’s death was announced, it was no surprise that the raw emotion in Steven Gerrard’s voice was still palpable as he paid tribute to his former Liverpool manager.
For Gerrard, the Frenchman who arrived at Anfield in 1998 was so much more than just a coach. Houllier was the biggest professional and personal influence on a career which saw Gerrard captain both Liverpool and England. Their bond remainded a close one and Houllier’s role as a mentor for Gerrard was maintained when he moved into management with Rangers in the summer of 2018.
"I was lucky and blessed to work with Gerard because he wasn’t just a coach,” said Gerrard. “He was someone who was like a father to me from a football point of view. He was my football father from the moment I turned professional. I’ve got a lot of respect for all the coaches I worked with but he’s ‘the one’ because he played the biggest role in shaping me and my Liverpool career.
"He remained very interested in what we are doing here at Rangers. His relationship with my assistant Gary McAllister, who was also at Liverpool under him, was very strong as well.
“He was very keen on being a support in any way, shape of form. He was more interested than anyone else in how we were doing here. I can’t tell you how much interest he had in my development as a coach and a manager.
“The relationship has been strong since day one. I spoke to him just a couple of weeks ago and I’d spoken to him in the summer.
“There was a difference in the way he sounded, compared to when I played under him. He obviously had a big operation back when we played, which was well documented.
“He was getting older and a little bit frail in his voice. But it was still very unexpected and still very much a shock to hear the news yesterday.
“Even though there was a difference a few weeks ago, he was still very enthusiastic and upbeat, laughing and joking on the phone.
“Basically, still giving me soundbites of advice on what I’m doing at Rangers. He will be a real big loss to me from a personal point of view and I know there are an awful lot of other people in the game feeling the same.”
Houllier oversaw one of the most memorable seasons of Gerrard’s career when Liverpool, after a period which had seen a significant downturn in their fortunes, won a memorable treble of the FA Cup, League Cup and UEFA Cup in 2000-01. It is the kind of revitalisation Gerrard is now trying to effect at Rangers as he looks to end their decade-long wait for major silverware.
"Gerard, for sure, turned Liverpool back into a winning team,” added Gerrard. “He brought a culture and a philosophy into the club and it was the right thing to do. Part of the club was broken at the time, the standards weren’t good enough.
“He brought the winning mentality and culture back. For sure, that’s what we are trying to do here at Rangers.
“They are different scenarios. Liverpool at the time was a lot different to when I walked in the door at Rangers. I actually think the challenge here is much bigger, but for sure Gerard Houllier was a winner. His culture and philosophy helped him to become a winner.
“We are hoping one day, by putting the right things in place on and off the pitch at Rangers and bringing in players who understand those standards and can deliver on them, to turn this club into a winning one as well.
"Gerard has left a huge legacy for me, but not as much in what I’m trying to become, because there is a level of coach and people I worked for and there’s no way I can become them. I can’t become Gerard Houlier, or Rafa Beinitez or Fabio Capello or these coaches who are incredible people as well as high level managers. I have to be myself but, for sure, I have to steal ideas and use methods and ways I believe are right ways with players – and add them to what I’m trying to become.
“Gerard gave me loads and loads of advice. The man piece of advice was to be myself and do it my own way. Try and learn as much as I can. Lean on people at the right time, don’t do it all on your own – be your own man but use the people throughout your career who you trust and believe in to take soundbites and advice from. He was always there on the end of a phone. If I wanted to set up a certain way, if I was up against a certain opponent, if I was unsure in any shape or form, he was the type of person I could pick a phone up to and bounce anything off.
"He had time for people, he knew when you needed telling, he knew when you needed some home truths and to be disciplined. But he also knew when you needed him, when you needed a shoulder, when you needed some care and some love and he was an absolute magician at picking and choosing his moments. So, yeah, he’s a big loss that is really tough to take and still is today, but hopefully he is resting in peace just now.”
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