Houllier made it clear that his players "had lost the plot, lost control and lost their cool" in Monday night's bad-tempered game with Everton. And he hinted that his injured stars are going to have to battle through the pain barrier to salvage the club's season.
Everton took the lead early on through a Kevin Campbell goal and then produced a storming, defiant display to plunge Liverpool to their third home defeat of a season that had offered so much after pounds 30m of summer spending.
As threadbare Everton, their squad stripped of expensive foreign players after their financial crisis during the summer, laud it over their arch rivals from sixth place in the table, Liverpool know that it is going to be a long, hard season.
That is why Houllier has laid it on the line that the likes of Dietmar Hamann, Vladimir Smicer, Stephane Henchoz, and even Michael Owen and Robbie Fowler, are going to have to play through their injuries and rehabilitation programmes. Houllier said: "These players have missed our pre-season, they have missed games and they are unfit. But if they don't play they will stay unfit. There is no point now in leaving them out and saying they are not fit. No games means they won't become fit. Some are not up to Premier League fitness, but we will have to push them."
That was a stark piece of reality for Houllier, because he knows that his precious time is running out, along with the fans' patience.
Houllier also criticised his team for allowing themselves to lose their heads. Sander Westerveld and Stephen Gerrard, along with Everton's Francis Jeffers, lost their cool and got sent off. "It's a lesson for us," said Houllier. "You can't control a game if you can't control yourselves. You have got to maintain self-control in such situations, you have to play with your brain. What happened was that players lost their control, they weren't fit, and when you are not having a good night, you pay for it. We now must have our best players out there. Providing there is no problem with the players' safety in terms of injuries, then they will have to play."
For the Everton manager, Walter Smith, it was a totally different feeling. He has won his first Merseyside derby, and hailed his team. "We are obviously pleased with the result, and we thoroughly deserved the victory. Derbies are for the fans, and we gave them a result they will long cherish."
Smith also said that the incidents that led to the three dismissals gave the referee, Mike Riley, little choice. "In derby games you get things like that," he said. "They are passionate affairs and they end up giving referee's awkward decisions. Jeffers and Westerveld got a little heated, that happens when you are involved in such a game with pride at stake."Reuse content