Gerard Houlliers Liverpool highs and lows

Last updated : 06 December 2010 By Daily Mail

Gerard Houllier will make a long overdue return to the Anfield dugout tonight - albeit on the away side - as he takes his Aston Villa team to face Liverpool in the Premier League.

Houllier has not returned to the club since leaving the Reds in the summer of 2004 but is expected to receive a warm applause from the Liverpool faithful who experienced many highs and lows during his tenure.

With a mixed record during his five years at the club, Sportsmail looks at Houllier's greatest hits and biggest flops which no Liverpool fan will ever forget.

For every Steven Gerrard there is a Bruno Cheyrou, for every cup won there is a failure to win the Premier League title.

It's a mark of the loyalty of the Liverpool fans that Houllier, who did once guide the team to a second-placed Premier League finish, can expect cheers not jeers this evening.

HitsTurning Liverpool into a Champions League team

It took three seasons but Houllier's first notable success was guiding Liverpool to the Champions League in 2001.

The club had not featured in Europe's premier club competition since its re-branding in 1992 and at the very least put the Reds back among the big hitters.

Their maiden voyage was a good effort but was ended in the quarter-finals by a Michael Ballack and Dimitar Berbatov inspired Bayer Leverkusen, going down 4-3 on aggregate

Cup kings: Liverpool celebrate another Carling Cup success

Winning the cup treble

The 2000/01 campaign will go down as Houllier's most successful at Anfield after winning a cup treble to go along with successful qualification for the Champions League.

Liverpool supporters will remember all three finals that took them on an emotional rollercoaster. Birmingham had to be defeated on penalties in the League Cup, while Michael Owen struck twice late on to snatch victory over Arsenal in the FA Cup.

King of Europe: Houllier with the 2001 UEFA Cup

But it was the UEFA Cup final against Alaves which would be the most memorable. Liverpool were heavily fancied but needed extra-time to win 5-4 with the Spanish club having equalised three times.

Finishing second in the Premier League

Following the treble success trophies would dry up in Houllier's tenure but he continued to make progress in the league when he finished second in 2001/02.

Arsenal were the runaway winners, finishing in front of Liverpool by seven points but a big consolation for Reds fans was a first Premier League finish in front of bitter rivals Manchester United.

Houllier was out for five of those months after undergoing emergency heart surgery in October 2001, but with the help of assistant Phil Thompson still managed to record Liverpool's best Premier League finish.

Keeping faith in Steven Gerrard

One of Houllier's earliest successes is still arguably the club's most important player, with the Frenchman handing Steven Gerrard his debut in 1998.

He may now skipper a side where he is loved by the fans and acts as a major influence - but he was not an instant hit.

His first season in 1998/99 he has admitted to playing with nerves which affected his performances throughout the campaign. But Houllier persisted with him and it clearly paid huge dividends.

Signing Sami Hyypia

Houllier's plunges into the transfer market increasingly put fear into every Liverpool fan but everynow and then the Frenchman would produce a gem.

Success: Steven Gerrard celebrates a goal at West Ham

Superb signing: Sami Hyypia was brought in by Gerard Houllier

Emile Heskey combined superbly with Michael Owen in attack, Gary McAllister would enjoy an 'Indian Summer' to his career while Dietmar Hamann would play a key role towards the club's future Champions League success.

But it was the unknown Sami Hyypia that was perhaps the best deal. Hardly on any team's radar Houllier picked him up from Dutch side Willem II for just £2.5million and would go on to become one of the club's finest ever centre-backs.

MissesJoint spell with Roy Evans

Houllier joined Liverpool in the summer of 1998 in an experimental but risky position as joint manager along with Roy Evans who had been in sole control since 1994.

After finishing third the previous season and now with double the brains in charge, the Reds were expected to mount a serious title challenge .

This didn't work: The Roy Evans/Gerard Houllier experiment ended with Evans out of a job

But it barely last three months as Liverpool hit a downward spiral with poor league form and a League Cup exit to Tottenham the final straw for Evans who resigned soon after the 3-1 defeat at Anfield.

Under Houllier, Liverpool would crash out of the UEFA Cup and FA Cup early, as well as record an all-time low finish of seventh in the Premier League.

Youth success: Martin Kelly

Failure to win the league

Once a title that was picked up for fun during the glory days of the 70s and 80s, it is now the dreaded number one target for every Liverpool boss since Kenny Dalglish last brought the league crown to Anfield in 1990.

Houllier came closest by finishing a distant runner up in 2002, but in truth none of his sides ever managed to sustain a title charge when the business end of the season came into view.

One reason for his appointment was to help take the club to the final frontier in the league, but in his five years it's hard to see how he made any major strides in the league from Roy Evans' tenure.

Failed youth policy

Renowned for his work with young players in France, Houllier revamped the Liverpool youth system to help bring through some young talent into the side.

But Gerrard aside, no other player made nearly as much a similar impact on the first team with Houllier often opting to use the transfer market rather than risk a youngster in his starting XI.

He would not have seen the fruits of his labours in his spell at the club but over 10 years on from his arrival, Liverpool look no closer to bringing in youth with Martin Kelly the brightest prospect.

Transfer flops

'He's signed who?' was often heard around the red parts of Liverpool when Gearrd Houllier entered the transfer market.

 Had any of these played before? Titi Camara, Djimi Traore,  Bruno Cheyrou and Igor Biscan were high-profile flops all signed by Gerard Houllier

As mentioned he had a few successes, but there were many more flops including the next 'Zinedine Zidane' in Bruno Cheyrou, Salif Diao, Djimi Traore, Igor Biscan and Titi Camara.

But his biggest mistake was paying £12million for El Hadji Diouf in 2002 when he had the option to sign Nicolas Anelka instead.

The Frenchman already had a successful spell at Liverpool on loan and the decision to sign the now Chelsea striker was a no-brainer then as much as it would be today.

The real goal: Liverpool fans voice their feelings

Failure to qualify for Champions League

It's all going wrong: Gerard Houllier (left) and Phil Thompson during the last-game defeat to Chelsea in 2003

In similar circumstances to Rafael Benitez's final season, Houllier was expected to finally lead Liverpool on a genuine title charge in the 2002/03 season after finishing as runners-up the previous term.

But wasteful signings (see above)and his own admittance of coming back too soon after his heart operation saw Liverpool finish fifth and even miss out on the Champions League.

Liverpool lost to Chelsea on the final day of the season to hand the west Londoners the fourth spot.

As fate would have it was a result that convinced Roman Abramovich to buy the financially troubled club.

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Source: Daily Mail

Source: Daily Mail