Houllier relaxed about fate of his England drinkers

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The Independent Online

Gerard Houllier said yesterday that he suspects that the drinking allegations made against two of his England players were "exaggerated".

The Liverpool manager has still to decide what action, if any, to take against Steven Gerrard and Robbie Fowler, who were both accused of late-night drinking in the build-up to England's World Cup qualification.

Neither player will be involved in tonight's home Worthington Cup tie with Grimsby, Liverpool's opening match in defence of the trophy they won last season. Gerrard is suspended while Fowler has been confined to bed by a club doctor with a chest infection.

Houllier has promised to investigate the claims against his two players, but that is clearly not going to affect the build-up to the match against the First Division club. And although he clearly believes that the allegations against the pair have been blown out of proportion, he was quick to point out the levels of behaviour he expects from his staff, which suggests both are likely to at least get a dressing-down.

"I do not want to dwell on the situation until I have spoken to them," he said. "We will talk about it all later. All I want to know is the truth and I don't think it was much – it was probably exaggerated in both cases."

"I haven't had the time to discuss the matter with them but I will do that in due time. Obviously Robbie won't be around. Because of his illness, he's in bed."

How many of Liverpool's England players will be on duty against Grimsby is uncertain. Chris Kirkland, Vladimir Smicer, Jamie Redknapp, Stephen Wright, Jari Litmanen and even Patrik Berger could be utilised in the third-round tie with Liverpool wanting to keep players fresh before they face Leeds and then Dynamo Kiev.

Houllier spent the weekend watching the Czech Republic's 6-0 rout of Bulgaria in which his latest signing, Milan Baros, scored a brilliant goal. Baros is only two caps away from being able to apply for a work permit, so he could be in Liverpool's ranks before Christmas – and he has high hopes of figuring in Korea and Japan next summer.

Another manager looking abroad is Houllier's counterpart at Leeds United, David O'Leary, who is planning further visits to Argentina as he tries to find the next Juan Sebastian Veron.

O'Leary travelled to South America last week to watch the Argentinian national team train, as well as take in a number of matches, having long been an admirer of the style of play and the pedigree of the players who have emerged from that country over the years.

Although O'Leary's transfer philosophy has been to sign players with an English mentality, he feels Argentinians have the necessary physical ability and mental strength to cope with the demands of the Premier League.

O'Leary cites Sunderland's Julio Arca as a prime example, the 20-year-old midfielder having been watched by Leeds before joining Sunderland last season for what now appears to be a bargain £3.5m from Argentinos Juniors.

O'Leary, understood to have run the rule over the likes of Andres D'Alessandro and Maximiliano Rodriguez, said: "I had a great time in Argentina. With no midweek matches it gave me a chance to see the standard of play down there and the players they have.

"Watching the Argentinian national team in training was absolutely fantastic and I don't think they will be too far away from winning the World Cup final.

"They've certainly a lot of good players and it's not a case of them coming through every 10 years. They seem to produce and produce, and Argentinian players are good enough to play anywhere in the world."

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