Heart op for Houllier

Liverpool manager has surgery after suffering chest pains during half-time
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Gérard Houllier, Liverpool's manager, was last night undergoing heart surgery in a Liverpool hospital after suffering chest pains during the interval in yesterday's Premiership game against Leeds at Anfield.

The 54-year-old Frenchman was taken ill after giving his half-time team talk. He was taken to the Royal Liverpool Hospital initially and then transferred to the cardio-thoracic unit at Broadgreen Hospital. His wife Isobel was at his side.

Liverpool issued a statement last night in which they said tests that Houllier underwent in hospital showed he had not suffered a heart attack. The statement added: "Gérard will definitely be out of action for several weeks and during that period Phil Thompson will take charge of team matters while the manager recovers."

Liverpool are due travel to Ukraine today for a Champions' League match with Dynamo Kiev on Tuesday. There are two more group matches in the next three weeks ­ away to Boavista and at home to Borussia Dortmund ­ plus a home Premiership encounter with Manchester United.

Thompson, Houllier's assistant, said: "Gérard had done his talk and in fact had cut it short and had taken a back seat when he felt some tightening in his chest. The physio, Dave Galley, laid him down in the treatment room and he was given some oxygen. Then he was taken to hospital with the club doctor, Dr Mark Waller."

Liverpool were losing 1-0 to the Premiership leaders at the interval but they rallied to draw the match 1-1. Thompson added: "We didn't tell the players at the time because we didn't see any real need. It's what Gérard would have wanted, for the players to go out and focus on the game. We informed them afterwards and although they had done exceptionally well and showed the character, passion and commitment he would have wanted, it was very solemn in the dressing-room."

Houllier, who coached the French national side from 1992-93, became joint-manager of Liverpool with Roy Evans in July 1998, but he took over sole responsibility for the team in November of that year.

Thompson said that Houllier had "always looked after himself. There is no previous history that I know of. He's always looked after himself. He's an extremely busy man and works extremely hard".

Last season, that hard work reaped its reward with Liverpool winning an unprecedented trophy treble of the FA, League and Uefa Cups, and earning their Champions' League place.