Liverpool FC is mourning the passing of former manager Gerard Houllier, aged 73.
The Frenchman was in charge of the Reds for six seasons, leading his team to an historic and unforgettable treble of League Cup, FA Cup and UEFA Cup in 2000-01 and returning the club to the Champions League.
Houllier – who recovered from life-saving heart surgery during the 2001-02 campaign to return to the dugout – later guided Liverpool to a second League Cup triumph of his tenure in 2003 and departed the following year having overseen 307 matches and successfully re-established the club as a modern force.
Everybody at the club is deeply saddened by the loss of Gerard and our thoughts are with his family and friends.
Houllier’s affiliation with Liverpool began long before he was recruited by the club as he worked as a teacher in the city during the 1960s, first taking in a Reds match on the Kop in 1969.
He would go on to build up his reputation and expertise as a coach back in his home country, taking the reins of Lens, Paris Saint-Germain and later the French national team, among others.
Gerard made the move to Merseyside in the summer of 1998, initially as a joint-manager alongside Roy Evans before assuming sole charge of Liverpool in November that year and beginning a steady revolution into the new century.
After finishing seventh and then fourth in the top flight, Houllier masterminded one of the greatest single seasons in Reds history during 2000-01.
Liverpool played 63 games over the course of an exhilarating campaign and lifted three cups along the way, beginning with the League Cup in Cardiff.
They were back at the Millennium Stadium three months later, where Michael Owen’s dramatic late double overturned a deficit against Arsenal and secured the FA Cup.
Within four days, Houllier’s charges and the fans were celebrating yet again. One of the all-time great UEFA Cup finals saw the Reds finally overcome Alaves 5-4 courtesy of an extra-time Golden Goal in Dortmund.
All this while Liverpool achieved their other major objective of the season: to clinch a top-three spot in the league and qualify for the European Cup. A 4-0 win at Charlton Athletic in game No.63 completed the job.
In all, the club collected a remarkable five pieces of silverware throughout the 2001 calendar year as the Charity Shield and UEFA Super Cup were won at the outset of 2001-02.
There would soon prove to be a tumultuous and troubling turn of events during that campaign, however. Houllier took ill in October 2001 and required life-saving heart surgery and a lengthy period of convalescence.
True to his character, he returned before the end of the term and it was one of Anfield’s most emotional evenings when Gerard made a surprise comeback to the dugout for the Champions League victory over AS Roma that put the Reds into the quarter-finals.
It was in the same season that Liverpool led their strongest pursuit of the Premier League title under Houllier, eventually finishing runners-up to Arsenal.
The Frenchman took his team to a sixth trophy in 2002-03 with a memorable League Cup final victory against Manchester United, once again in Cardiff.
It was Gerard who identified Steven Gerrard as the captain to carry the club into the future, having closely managed the Scouser’s emergence from the Academy as he shaped his squad and XI.
And Houllier once again ensured qualification for the Champions League – which, of course, the Reds would go on to win in Istanbul the next year – during his final season at the helm, 2003-04.
He and the club then parted ways, though with his legacy as a revolutionary and vital figure in Liverpool’s modern history enshrined and cherished.
Houllier twice returned to club management after bidding farewell to Anfield, with Olympique Lyonnais in France and later Aston Villa back in England.
Loved equally by Reds supporters – “They are really special. I was one of theirs, don’t forget that,” he said earlier this year – and the players with whom he enjoyed sustained success, he retained close ties with the club in the years that followed, even taking charge of a Liverpool FC Legends team in Sydney in 2016.
Gerard will be missed by everyone at Liverpool FC.
Allez, Allez, Gerard Houllier 1947-2020