While writing a tribute to the late Gerard Houllier for the Telegraph, Liverpool legend Jamie Carragher told a brilliant story about his, as he put it, “father figure”.
Houllier’s tragic passing was announced on Monday afternoon, with the former football manager best known for his success with Liverpool, as well as French giants PSG and Lyon.
One man who knew Houllier better than most was Jamie Carragher, who was young and only recently a first-teamer at Anfield at the time that he was appointed as manager.
MORE: “Absolutely heartbroken” – Liverpool FC and Reds legends pay tribute to former manager Gerard Houllier
He has written for the Telegraph a superb tribute for Houllier, it’s certainly worth reading the whole thing, but we wanted to share this anecdote told by the now Sky Sports presenter which sums up the kind of person and manager that Houllier was:
“I was leaving Liverpool’s training ground at Melwood when Gerard Houllier summoned me.”
“Jamie. Wait. I will give you a lift,” he said as I made my way towards the car park.”
“I had sensed the Liverpool manager was going to call me eventually. The previous Sunday I had been on the front of a tabloid newspaper after some drinking shenanigans at the club’s Christmas party.”
“The subsequent pep talk on the short journey to Anfield, where the team coach was waiting to take us to a Boxing Day game in Middlesbrough, was possibly the most important of my life and career.”
“This has to stop,” he told me in a firm reminder about professionalism and responsibilities. “If you carry on like this, you will be finished at 26.”
“Houllier had been in sole charge for just two months and was on a mission to rid Liverpool of the ‘Spice Boy’ reputation of the mid-90s.”
“As I listened to his advice on the perils of failing to look after myself off the pitch, the penny dropped.”
“He singled me out that day because he cared. He cared about me. He cared about my career. I knew if I listened and followed him, I would have his 100 per cent backing. If I didn’t, I would be out. If Houllier had not been my manager and so determined to invest his faith and time in me, I cannot say if my Liverpool career would have lasted 16 years.”
“My teammates will recall similar experiences. In myself, Steven Gerrard, Michael Owen, Danny Murphy and others, Gerard saw how he could influence and mould the younger players to ensure we did not follow the wrong path and undermine our potential.”
“That is the Gerard I will always remember. He was more than a manager to us. He was a father figure. His attention to detail was not focused solely on what we did on the pitch. He was eager to ensure everything was as it needed to be off it.”
Houllier’s influence on Carragher and the career he ended up having appears to have been hugely significant, or at least so is suggested in his column for the Telegraph. Our thoughts are with Carra and everyone else close to Houllier at this difficult time.
Rest in peace, Gerard.