Houllier's Anfield return in doubt

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Gérard Houllier is unlikely to return as Liverpool manager until March, the club have confirmed. Although Houllier and the club have always insisted on a return date of the end of January or beginning of February, there has been constant speculation the Frenchman could remain away from the game for longer.

Houllier is currently recuperating in Corsica. However, he returned to England last weekend to be reassessed by the specialist at Liverpool's Broadgreen cardiac unit where the original operation was carried out.

The Reds' assistant manager, Phil Thompson, said: "Gérard is fine and he is going to be back in a few weeks. But that may be four weeks, maybe a little longer. I've seen him and he's come back with a good tan. He is doing all the things the doctors are telling him to do."

Despite Thompson's optimism, the BBC television pundit and former Liverpool player Mark Lawrenson was yesterday questioning whether Houllier will ever be able to take up his managerial post again.

"I would seriously wonder whether he would actually ever come back in the same capacity that he left at Liverpool," Lawrenson said.

The former defender said he had talked to people in the medical profession who doubted Houllier could return to his former duties. "I said all along I would have a real serious worry whether he would come back," Lawrenson said.