Houllier strikes back at Souness jibe

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The Independent Football

Gerard Houllier hit back at Graeme Souness last night as the Liverpool and Blackburn managers carried on their angry argument following the incident in which Jamie Carragher's leg was broken in the Premiership game at Ewood Park on Saturday.

Houllier was still angry at Souness's jibe that "you have to have played at the top level" to judge Lucas Neill's leg-breaking tackle on Carragher, following Liverpool's 3-1 win.

"Maybe I have not played at the highest level but I have managed at the top longer than Graeme Souness," Houllier said. "This comment about not playing at the top was obviously directed at me.

"I see Graeme Souness saying with his hand on his heart there was no intent. Look at the photographs. That was a tackle which was meant. If that's what you do when you go for the ball, I'm surprised. I understand Souness wants to defend his player but I don't understand his attitude.

"Maybe Neill is a good footballer but he behaves like a bad gentleman. I am not saying he is a coward but I thought the tackle itself was cowardly. Maybe Souness is a good manager but he should put aside his bad feelings for Liverpool.

"Of course, I understand these things happen. But what is unacceptable is their lack of grace and dignity. 'Carra' was injured at 3.10pm on Saturday and the apology came 48 hours later. It was absolutely pathetic."

Souness said he was taken aback by Houllier's comments but refused to respond. However, sources at Blackburn said Houllier had been friendly towards his Blackburn counterpart after the game - when neither knew that Carragher had broken his leg. Houllier had even given Souness a playful squeeze outside the Ewood Park media theatre. The Blackburn manager said that he only found out the extent of Carragher's injury on Sunday afternoon and issued an apology on Monday morning.

The pair were urged to deal with the problem in a more grown-up manner by the League Managers' Association. The LMA's vice-chairman, Frank Clark, was at Ewood Park and said: "I know all about the history and it is difficult for both sides. But they have to deal with the situation like adults."

He added: "We would hope that things will die down between the parties, I believe it will. But if it continues, maybe we will have a word with the two sides."

Souness, the former Liverpool manager, once sacked the present Anfield No 2, Phil Thompson, from a coaching position at the club, and does not get on with his former team-mate, whom he criticised in his autobiography.

Souness' claims that Liverpool are a "counter-attacking team" have annoyed Houllier, who recently remarked that just because the Scot had expressed that view "does not mean it is true".

The bad feeling has not been helped by the injury to Carragher and Houllier's claims that neither Souness nor Neill apologised after Saturday's match. Both have since have expressed their sympathy for Carragher, but have not apologised for the tackle.

Clark made it clear that only when the LMA chief executive, John Barnwell, returns from holiday at the weekend will the association decide whether there is a need for its intervention.

Clark said: "I was at the match and it was a concern to see the pair of them involved in altercations during [the match] in the technical area. It was an emotional atmosphere, but the exchanges were not something we like to see.

"From my seat in the main stand, the challenge did not look that bad initially, but the referee was very clear about his decision. Not until I had seen the tackle from another angle did I realise what had happened.

"It was a bad challenge, I am not trying to defend it, but I do not believe that Neill intended to cause serious injury.

"It also shows what a hard job refereeing is, because there were people around me who were initially surprised by the immediate red card, but we had not seen the tackle from the referee's angle."

The stand-off between the two managers has not been helped by Souness claiming that "you would have to have played the game to realise that these kind of things happen". Houllier never played at the highest level in France during his career.

Clark added: "As for the things that have been said, I hope that it all calms down a bit now."

The Manchester United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, is expected to contest his Football Association misconduct charge within the next 24 hours.

The departure of the club's chief executive, Peter Kenyon, last week saw Ferguson granted an extension to the 14-day deadline he was given to respond to the charge which followed his side's 2-1 win over Newcastle at St James' Park last month. Ferguson is facing a lengthy touchline ban or a heavy fine after he was sent to the stand by the referee, Uriah Rennie, following a heated exchange with the fourth official, Jeff Winter, after a tackle on Ryan Giggs.

The FA was yesterday assessing the weekend outburst of Dave Jones, who branded Rennie "useless" after Wolves' 2-0 defeat at Southampton.

The Molineux manager criticised the official for awarding Saints a penalty when Denis Irwin caught Kevin Phillips but refusing the visitors' appeals when James Beattie bundled over Jody Craddock.

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