By TTT Subscriber Anthony Stanley.
Part 9: Judging Houllier
The summer of 2002 was, for many Liverpool supporters, when things began to unravel for Gerard Houllier. Three signings stand out as the apogee of poor talent spotting and most probably give Reds a headache nearly fifteen years later. We were meant to kick on, we were meant to take the final step, the gradual improvement was supposed to reach its glorious zenith with that elusive league title. What we got was crushing disappointment.
El Hadji Diouf, Salif Diao and Bruno Cheyrou; a depressing troika of underachievement and a trio that have – rightly or wrongly – come to symbolise the massive displacement between the Houllier that came before his health issues and the Liverpool manager after he had almost died. It may be overly simplistic – in fact it almost certainly is – but the transfer dealings in the summer of 2002 were a massive alarm bell and this became progressively clearer and clearer with every passing month.
Liverpool had signed Diouf after passing up the chance of securing the permanent signature of Nicolas Anelka, again a decision that had many supporters scratching and shaking their heads. From the outside this made little sense, but the Liverpool management had been privy to some disturbing (and, it has to be said, typical) noises from the French striker’s camp. Apparently there had been an attempt from Anelka’s agents to sell him back to Arsenal and, as Phil Thompson noted:
‘It told us a lot about the advice he was getting (which) had caused issues at other clubs and we didn’t want to take any chances.’
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