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Gerard Houllier's secret to managerial success


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Gerard Houllier's secret to managerial success

Gerard Houllier began his full-time managerial career as player-manager of Le Touquet in Northern France in 1973.

Over the next four decades he would manage several clubs including Lens, Paris Saint Germain, Lyon, Liverpool as well as the France national team.

For most British football fans – Houllier is best known for his six years as manager of Liverpool.

He arrived at Anfield in 1998 and went on to transform the club from under-achievers to title challengers once again.

The Frenchman’s revolution bore remarkable fruit in the 2000/2001 season, a season that would see the Reds end a six-year barren spell without a trophy. Under his guidance Liverpool won the Worthington Cup, FA Cup, UEFA Cup, Community Shield and Super Cup all in the same calendar year.

He also guided Olympique Lyonnais to two French league titles in 2006 and 2007.

In September 2010 he returned to the English topflight to manage Aston Villa but stepped down the following June due to health issues.

Since July 2012 Houllier has been Head of Global Football for Red Bull and is responsible for Austrian side FC Red Bull Salzburg, Germany’s RB Leipzig and the New York Red Bulls, while this year he added to his roles and became ‘outside counsel’ for his former club in Lyon.

Euronews met up with the 69-year old at this year’s Sportel convention to discuss the highs and lows of his managerial career.

And Houllier was clear from the start that he prefers to look to the future rather than reflect on the past.

He said: ‘‘First of all I want to reassure you that I don’t wake up at night thinking about the past, I sometimes wake up at night thinking about the future. I think nostalgia is an illness which comes to you when you are not satisfied with the present. I’m a more positive person than that and I don’t think of the past.

‘‘Of course when people mention it or when you look back, you’re happy to have achieved what you have achieved and you consider maybe you are lucky to have had good players because what makes good results is good players. I had the opportunity to have players who won the best trophy in their country or even in the world with Michael Owen when he won the Ballon dOr.’‘

After such a distinguished career Houllier explained the secret to becoming a successful manager.

‘‘If you consider that a successful coach is first of all somebody who leads teams to success – that means (a team) that wins trophies or championships – in that case I would say I’m part of that, I’m very privileged to be part of that. Because a successful coach is someone who has good results and sometimes is lucky enough to win trophies,’‘ he said.

‘‘The modern successful coach is a combination of three factors: one – great expertise, particularly now with the video system and everything. So everybody knows more about football. So he must be an expert in football. So he is a great technician.

‘‘Also (you need) good human qualities, the psychological factors are important, the communication as well, but the psychological aspect is important because sometimes you have to boost the confidence, sometimes you have to get through a crisis without damage and so on.

‘‘And the third part is to be a very acute strategist. I mean you need to have a plan, a vision and a plan how to get there.

A coach who is successful is also a coach who goes through his career on a top level all the time. You may have your ups and downs. You may sometimes go through a difficult period, but I would say that real talent bounces back, all the time.

To me one of the references was, of course, Alex Ferguson. Because over 20 to 25 years he was always successful.

Houllier’s career in the dugout has not always been plain sailing. The Frenchman has lived through some dark days, notably failing to qualify France for the 1994 World Cup. And, although it was a long time ago, this one still hurts.

He said: “There are, not a number of them, but two or three turning points in your career that sometimes help you to bounce back from behind. Because you analyze the causes of failure and you bounce back because you say well, next time I wont miss the opportunity.

‘‘I wont tell you (which ones). I’ll keep them for myself because again I don’t dwell on when its a bad period otherwise it spoils your mind. But I’ve got one or two. Of course, when we didn’t qualify for the World cup was one of them. But that happens.’‘

Every story can be told in many ways: see the perspectives from Euronews journalists in our other language teams.

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