The Fiver | Merci, gentleman Ged, et adieu

The Fiver | Merci, gentleman Ged, et adieu

RIP GED

Gérard Houllier never did win the league with his beloved Liverpool. Not technically. But he did win the FA Cup. And the League Cup. And lift Euro Vase after the Greatest European Final Ever. And the Super Cup and Charity Shield. And another League Cup. And he built a team that only required the addition of Xabi Alonso and Luis García, plus moving Jamie Carragher over a bit, there you go son, stand there, to win Big Cup in the Greatest European Final Ever II. And without his root-and-branch philosophical rebuild of the club, there’d have been no chance of Rafa going close, of Brenny going closer, of Jürgen going even closer before finally, at long last, getting there. Ged, who has died at the age of 73 after a heart operation, set Liverpool’s title ball rolling in the right direction again, all those years ago. History will mark his contribution. We’re chalking one up for him, put it that way.

Ged’s greatest signing was Sami Hyypia; his most romantic, Jari Litmanen; his cleverest, Gary McAllister. All played their part in that 2000-01 treble season packed with memories. Safe Hands Sander lifting the League Cup with a 1950s-style Tiger-comic cry of “hooray”; Stéphane Henchoz performing octopus tricks on the goalline to set the scene for Michael Owen running away giggling, what was rightfully Arsenal’s tucked under one arm; Robbie Fowler wandering about Dortmund with Euro Vase while dressed as the title character from Gilligan’s Island. Oh, and that McAllister free kick against Everton, to which Ged reacted with a perfect mix of disbelief, delirium and delight, the football-loving little boy sparkling in his eyes once again. Beautiful scenes.

Houllier could well have won the league in 2002 in any case. His team were more than good enough, and full of confidence after the treble-winning season, but their campaign was derailed by the aortic dissection that nearly took him, then aged only 54, way too soon. He was never quite the same force of nature after that huge scare, though that didn’t stop him going on to win a couple of French titles with Lyon, adding to the one he’d secured for PSG back in 1986, the first in the club’s history. Throw in his contribution to the great France teams of 1998 and 2000, developing the likes of Thierry Henry and David Trezeguet, and that’s some body of work to leave behind all right. Merci, gentleman Ged, et adieu.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“My mate, my colleague, my boss. One of the greatest moments of my life was when we come together in 1998. Just to be in his company was an absolute treat. So loyal, so passionate and extremely fierce. Since we finished, at the end of every conversation we had, I told him I loved him and would always be grateful for him giving a wonderful partnership. RIP Boss” – Phil Thompson with a heartfelt tribute to the man he assisted in the Liverpool dugout.

Good times

RECOMMENDED LISTENING

The latest Football Weekly will be here soon.

FIVER LETTERS

“Back in the days before I worked on Big Website, my best mate had to undergo major heart surgery at Broadgreen Hospital in Liverpool and was understandably bricking it. It turned out the surgeon was the same man who repaired Gérard Houllier’s heart a year earlier. I wrote to Liverpool, more in hope than expectation, to ask if Houllier would perhaps pen a short note wishing him well as I thought it would help ease his nerves and do him the world of good. A few days later who turns up at his bedside to talk about all things Liverpool with him? Yes, Géd. What a man!” – Gregg Bakowski.

“So the last 16 of Big Cup was drawn today. Remember when this was the Round of Arsenal? Heady days, Gooners, heady days” – David Maddock.

“After enduring the Manchester derby, Crystal Palace v Spurs and Arsenal v Burnley, I’m just curious how long we all have to pretend that there’s any quality football or vague semblance of entertainment this season? P.S. I’m asking on behalf of a bored friend who has too much time on his hands and will be watching regardless anyway …” – Noble Francis.

Send your letters to [email protected]. And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’the day prize is … David Maddock.

RECOMMENDED SHOPPING

Available at our print shop now, Tom Jenkins’s pictures of the past decade. There’s also this Pelé picture there too.

NEWS, BITS AND BOBS

The Big Cup tombola came and went, and it’s bad-ish news for Chelsea and Liverpool, while Manchester City got a kinder draw against Borussia Mönchengladbach. To Big Vase! Manchester United have drawn La Liga leaders Real Sociedad, while Arsenal will be overjoyed to have picked Benfica out of the hat.

Big Cup

Frank Lampard’s Chelsea manager Frank Lampard, who used to make intelligent runs into the box and has a GCSE in Latin, thinks more fans should be allowed back into stadiums. Won’t somebody think about the coffers of Big Cup clubs?

Kiernan Tierney thinks the blame for Arsenal’s worst start to a season in over 45 years lies solely with the players. “There’s no way to disguise it. It’s terrible, to be honest” sobbed Tierney. “We have got a great manager and we believe in him 100%. The blame is on us, nobody else.”

Borussia Dortmund manager Lucien Favre is now just Lucien Favre after the Bundesliga club sacked the 63-year-old following the 5-1 defeat to Stuttgart.

Neymar knacked himself in PSG’s defeat and some guy called Leo Messi saved Barcelona: it’s all in our snazzy Euro round-up.

And in USA! USA!! USA!!!, awesome ballers Columbus Crew won the local trophy.

STILL WANT MORE?

Gérard Houiller’s obituary, charting his journey from being a language assistant in Liverpool in 1969 to his managerial heyday. And here’s a lovely video tribute too.

Andy Brassell on that Dortmund sacking and their temporary appointment of Edin Terzic, who according to the picture in this article, has just arrived from a Sum 41 video.

Sum 41 vibes

Adam White and Eric Devin on how Lyon beat PSG, and the brilliance of young Brazilian Lucas Paquetá.

Count ‘em, here’s 10 things from the weekend’s Premier League action. And Rachel Brown-Finnis has reviewed the WSL action here, too.

Nicky Bandini on the demise of Fiorentina, and why romanticism between Cesare Prandelli and La Viola might not be enough.

Casey Stoney, the Manchester United manager, speaks exclusively to Suzanne Wrack.

Oh, and if it’s your thing … you can follow Big Website on Big Social FaceSpace. And INSTACHAT, TOO!

THERE HAVE BEEN BETTER YEARS