Gérard Houllier has said that no amount of cup success will quell the "obsession" with the league championship at Anfield but insisted that Kenny Dalglish needs at least another year to make a success of his second tenure as Liverpool manager.
The Frenchman, Liverpool manager from 1998 to 2004, said there is "too much expectation" around Anfield but reflected also on the way that managers' reputations diminish too abruptly in football. "In football, you can go from the attic to the basement very quickly so one day he is the hero and the next day he is the zero," Houllier said. "You have to be careful. Liverpool need another year to kick in. They have had a lot of recruitment done and a lot of problems, so give him some time. There was a time when David Moyes was criticised and Arsène [Wenger] was criticised – see where they are now. It is a rollercoaster. They won the League Cup the same way we did in 2001. It is a good sign for the future. I think he is heading in the same direction, just give him some time."
Only Wolves have taken fewer Premier League points than Liverpool since 1 January and Dalglish's haul of eight from a possible 33 in 2012 is less than the total managed by predecessor Roy Hodgson in his last 11 games.
Rafael Benitez, who would consider an approach from Chelsea if one arrived this summer, did not rule out one day returning to Liverpool. "I'm professional and I am looking for a new job. At this time Kenny is the manager and I have a lot of respect for Liverpool," he said. "No rush. If Kenny retires in 10 years' time and I am available I would be really pleased."
Benitez said Liverpool's greater stability under Fenway Sports Group – something he lacked under Tom Hicks and George Gillett – would help Dalglish. "They have to carry on, keep going. He has the support of the owners and that is the key thing if they want to do things in the future," the Spaniard said. "The bad thing [at the end of Benitez's time at Liverpool] is that the owners were not the right owners. You could see things were changing and we had less money. But Kenny has the owners and that is really positive."
Houllier said he was not interested in the new Football Association technical director's role but claimed that whoever was appointed must be able to handle the difficult relationship with Premier League managers. He said that the new National Football Centre at Burton-upon-Trent, which opens for the start of next season, could enhance England's chances of competing for trophies. But he, Benitez and the England caretaker manager Stuart Pearce all pinpointed the lack of football for 18- to 20-year olds at the top of the English game as a real problem – with a reserve division being one solution.
"In England you lose a lot of players between 18 and 21. The two countries who are failing [in that respect] are England and Italy. I knew one or two players at Aston Villa who didn't have enough games to play at the top level. Between 18 and 20 there is nothing," Houllier said.
"In France when they don't play on a Saturday they can play for reserves the following day. If you want to be a successful technical director, you need to have the clubs with you. So going to see all the Premier League coaches is vital."