Houllier shrugs off job threat

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The Independent Football

Gérard Houllier has laughed off claims that his job could be on the line if Liverpool do not return to Europe's élite by insisting he has a squad good enough to get the club back into the Champions' League.

He and the club claim that the chairman David Moores' seemingly critical remarks in a report to shareholders have been misinterpreted. And the Liverpool manager, who also described as "nonsense" a weekend report that he had been offered a job with the Australian Football Association, was equally dismissive of the interpretation of Moores' comments that Champions' League qualification was the "minimum acceptable target".

"We are still in a decent League position going into the turn of the year," Houllier said. "We were without six players at Newcastle at the weekend who are first-team regulars in Michael Owen, Harry Kewell, Steve Finnan, Jamie Carragher, Milan Baros and Stéphane Henchoz.

"I think pretty well everybody will be back in January. After that I think we will be really in there fighting strong to improve our position and get into the top four or third place, which is not out of reach."

Owen, Kewell and Finnan could all be back before Christmas. But it is the loss of Owen for the third time this season with ankle, calf and thigh injuries - none of which is connected to previous hamstring troubles - that has hit Houllier hardest. "With those problems, I think our position is not bad," he said.

Moores' shareholders report underlined that Champions' League qualification was the minimum requirement. But the club moved to quell reports that Moores' comments indicated Houllier's job could be on the line by publishing the report in full on their website.

Houllier said: "I laughed when I read the interpretation of what has been said. The chairman was simply saying what I have said all along. We set our target to get into the Champions' League and we want to win every competition we enter."

Meanwhile, Yeovil have played down fears their FA Cup tie with Liverpool is in jeopardy following a fire at Huish Park.

Emergency services were called out at 3.30am yesterday morning to put out the fire that destroyed the stadium manager's office and also swept through the club's ticket department.

However, the club managed to salvage all the computers in the ticket office and said the third-round tie will go ahead on 4 January.