Houllier anger over Eriksson's Gerrard tactics

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The Independent Football

Gerard Houllier has launched an astonishing attack on the integrity and intentions of Sven Goran Eriksson, implicitly accusing the England manager of being behind an alleged attempt by Chelsea in the close season to lure Steven Gerrard from the Liverpool midfield.

Liverpool's French manager was referring to reports in July which claimed that Chelsea, under the new ownership of Roman Abramovich, coveted Gerrard. Eriksson had been photographed 48 hours earlier entering the Russian oil billionaire's London home, and Houllier is unmoved by the Swede's insistence that the events were unconnected.

"It was not good timing that he went to see Abramovich and then, two days later, that there were stories saying that Chelsea wanted Stevie," Houllier said. He was unconcerned that his remarks might themselves be seen as untimelyduring the build-up to England's game in Turkey, where Gerrard is certain to play.

"We were told at the time that it was pure coincidence, but Stevie wants to stay here anyway," he added. "I know this will generate headlines but, at the end of the day, I don't care. His photo [of Eriksson at Abramovich's house] was all in the newspapers.

"I spoke to him [Eriksson] and told him that the timing was bad and he accepted my point. There's no resentment, no reproach, he does what he likes, and lives his life the way he wants to. But I was upset that just two days later, the Stevie Gerrard stories broke."

Eriksson has been repeatedly linked with Chelsea despite the club's strong early- season showing under Claudio Ranieri, and the fact that Abramovich allowed the Italian to lavish £110m on players during the summer.

Two days after the clandestine meeting, Eriksson felt obliged to confirm his commitment to England. He maintained that it was a social occasion and that the Russian was a friend he had known "for several months" after meeting him through the Israeli agent, Pini Zahavi.

But speculation persists that Ranieri is on borrowed time. The same sources argue that the players Chelsea have recruited since Abramovich bought control were nominated by the England manager. Chelsea fans have shown their support for Ranieri by singing "We don't need Eriksson".

Houllier's reference to the media interest his remarks would provoke are a sure sign that he thought carefully about the matter over the ensuing three months. His criticism was calm and calculated rather than emotional and off the cuff, and will have added credence because he normally refuses to comment on the affairs of rival clubs.

Eriksson has hinted that a ban on England following violence next Saturday would compel him to consider his position. He said: "With no international football, what will I do? There is no meaning to going around watching players if you can't pick a team."

Meanwhile, Gerrard is expected to sign a new, three-year contract with Liverpool in the near future.