Houllier off ventilator and in 'satisfactory' condition

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The Liverpool manager, Gérard Houllier, was in a satisfactory condition at the city's Cardiothoracic Centre in Broadgreen last night. Houllier regained consciousness yester-day following an 11-hour operation to repair a dissection of the aorta on Saturday night and has been taken off a ventilator.

More tests will take place to verify the operation's success, but a spokeswoman for the Cardiothoracic Centre emphasised that Houllier did not have a heart attack, adding that his heart was "in excellent condition".

"We are pleased to report that so far the outcome has been extremely satisfactory and he is now off the ventilator," the spokeswoman said. "The hospital wishes to emphasise that Mr Gérard Houllier has not had a heart attack. In fact, his heart is in excellent condition."

It is not known whether Houllier will be allowed to watch Liverpool's Champions' League match against Dynamo Kiev in Ukraine tonight, when the assistant manager, Phil Thompson, will assume temporary control of team affairs.

The Liverpool chief executive, Rick Parry, said that the club were confident that Houllier would eventually resume his duties as they had heard nothing to suggest the contrary. But Parry made it clear that Houllier's workload would have to be reduced in future.

"When things like this happen, everybody looks at their lifestyle and wonders how they can reduce the stress upon them. I think Gérard will have to do that," Parry said. "He will have to focus his energies. Because he is so professional he is always wanting to give everybody a little bit of himself."

Every manager in the country could have their cardiac conditions monitored in the future, the League Managers' Association revealed yesterday. The LMA's chief executive, John Barnwell, said that the health and well-being of its members had always been of primary concern. "The LMA feels that managers' cardiac conditions should be tested and monitored on a regular basis," Barnwell said.

George Graham is ready to answer the call from West Ham United as the pressure mounts on their manager, Glenn Roeder, in the aftermath of the club's 7-1 defeat at Blackburn on Sunday. West Ham face Southampton at the weekend and Roeder knows that he probably needs a win to save his job. Graham is primed to move after settling his financial dispute with Tottenham. He has told friends that the chance of returning to the Premiership appeals to him.

Graham is also a contender for the Rangers job, but that may not come up until next summer at the earliest when the future of the present coach at Ibrox, Dick Advocaat, is decided.

The insurance company AXA yesterday said that it had pulled out of its agreement to insure the 2002 World Cup because the risk that the event would have to be cancelled had increased significantly because of the terrorist attacks on the United States and the bombing of Afghanistan.

Fifa, football's world governing body, had agreed to pay 27.4m Swiss francs (£11.7m) to AXA in instalments for insurance cover for the 2002 finals, which are due to be held in South Korea and Japan next summer. Axa said no date or location had yet been set to resume talks with Fifa, but that it was confident that a new insurance deal could be reached and that the World Cup would go ahead.

The Aston Villa midfielder Lee Hendrie says he is optimistic that he will sign a new contract with the club in the next few days. Derby County were yesterday finalising the signing of Troyes' Argentinian defender Luciano Zavagno, after the 24-year-old right-back arrived at the Premiership club for talks and a medical. Dundee have completed the signing of the Chinese international defender Fan Zhiyi from Crystal Palace for £300,000.

John Charles, the former Leeds United, Juventus and Wales player, was yesterday awarded the CBE by the Prince of Wales at Buckingham Palace.