Houllier arrives as joint manager

16 July 1998

Gerard Houllier's arrival as joint manager alongside Roy Evans was a sign of the changing times in English football.

The sport was now big business and clubs were taking a more cosmopolitan route in their bid for trophy success. 

At Liverpool it was no different. The early optimism shown in the first few seasons of the Evans era had faded with the club's hierarchy opting to try something new.

The decision to move forward with a management duo was a first for the club but given the impressive standard of the Frenchman's CV and Evans' Bootroom know-how, it was a combination that offered optimism for the future.

Vice chairman Peter Robinson hailed it as 'a bold and creative move' and as Houllier recounted tales of his lifetime allegiance to the Reds, fans slowly began to give him the nod of approval.

"I can still vividly remember standing on the Kop while I was teaching on Merseyside and saying to myself that one day I would come back and manage Liverpool," he said.

"It was a daydream, of course. When you consider I was in my early 20s and no-one knew me, it was almost a fairytale. Watching those great players of the '70s and mingling with fans whose passion and knowledge just swept you along made a lasting impression.

"I always wanted to be a top coach and I could think of nowhere better than Anfield to fulfil my dream."

Houllier's passion for all things red and his success in overseeing France's World Cup triumph as technical director did nothing but bode well for the future.

But as the new season got underway, uncertainty over who the players would answer to began to affect performances on the pitch and with the campaign less than four months old Evans made the decision to step down.

It was sad day for the club as the Anfield stalwart brought a close to a 35-year association with the Reds, leaving Houllier to lay the first foundations of the French revolution.

Speaking at a later date, he explained how he transformed the whole mentality of the club, preparing it for the success that would see us go on to claim a remarkable cup treble in the 2000-01 season.

"It's not that they were complacent here (Liverpool)," he said.

"It was just: 'We were winning and it worked. We were just doing five-a-side and it worked.' Like in life, if you don't question and try to update your methods you will be left behind.

"The passion of this game is that it is traditional, it is orthodox. But at the same time you have to be adventurous; you have to do something that is more forward thinking.

"That's how you progress. Here, it was: 'This is the way we play, this is the way we train, this is the way we travel.'"

Houllier's vision of the future would see him revamp his playing squad with wholesale changes in the summer of 1999, while off the pitch he oversaw the refurbishment of Melwood, the Reds' training ground facility, into a state of the art complex.

Progress continued the following season before the magnificent highs of the 2000-01 campaign ensured Le Boss was spot on when he famously declared: "In football you can only prepare for success. You can't programme it."

A near fatal illness interrupted Houllier's reign a year later and although he would return to take the helm from stand-in boss Phil Thompson, his success would be limited and he left the club in the summer of 2004 to make way for Rafael Benitez.