'Go out and win games for him'

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The Independent Football

Graeme Souness, the Blackburn manager who needed heart surgery himself almost a decade ago, has backed his Liverpool counterpart, Gérard Houllier, to make a recovery from his heart surgery.

Souness had his scare in 1992, while also managing Liverpool. "It was traumatic and I was a lot younger and, I would suggest, a lot fitter than him,'' he said. "It was difficult for me, but I'm sure he'll do it. I don't know the man, but if he's in this business I'm sure he's got that will about him.''

Souness acknowledged that his own condition had been less life-threatening than Houllier's. "It's a very different and far more serious situation than I was in,'' he said. "I echo the thoughts of everyone in football that they wish him well.''

The Charlton manager, Alan Curbishley, said the pressure of managing in the Premiership was vast. "It is there for everybody to see." he said. "We have had two managerial changes in the past two weeks [Peter Taylor at Leicester and Jim Smith at Derby] and I think the pressure on everybody is enormous.

"Clubs have geared themselves up for Premiership football. The pressure Gérard is under is to finish in the top three, but the problem for 14 other clubs is that we have to be in the Premiership next year.

"The pressure for anybody who looks as though they are going to fall out of the Premiership is enormous, and I would imagine the pressure on the top four or five clubs who look like they are going to qualify for the Champions' League is even more."

Liverpool flew out to Kiev yesterday vowing to "fight on for the boss". "There is no reason to believe he won't now make a full recovery and that he will return to work, but the key now is not for him to rush back," the club's chief executive, Rick Parry, said.

"This puts things into perspective. What happened has shaken us and you realise that football is not the most important thing."

Parry added: "It was a terrible bolt from the blue. It's too early to make any further assessment at the moment. That won't happen until he has regained consciousness.

"But he has come through the surgery OK, the condition has repaired and we must now wait and see what happens.

"But it is business as usual. The players and staff had a meeting at Melwood and the feeling was that the best thing they can do for him is to go out and win matches.

"There's a tremendous team spirit at the club. This will certainly test it but he has a great backroom staff and the feeling is that they should get on with the job in hand and fight for the boss." Parry confirmed that Phil Thompson was "in charge for the foreseeable future".

He said: "All Gérard was concerned about when we saw him in hospital before the operation was what the result was and how the team had played in the second half.

"The best thing that the team can do is to now go out and make sure they win games for him. The best thing for him to hear now is that his team have performed well in matches."