Houllier target for Liverpool

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LIVERPOOL are considering the technical director of French football, Gerard Houllier, as a coaching guru to work alongside manager Roy Evans. Finishing fourth in the Premiership after squandering a promising position has prompted Liverpool to tak e stock and I understand they are close to deciding on foreign coaching input. Houllier is likely to be their number one target.

"We have said on a couple of occasions that we might be interested in a foreign coach," said the Liverpool chief executive, Peter Robinson, who is well acquainted with Houllier, his board having considered him as manager when Kenny Dalglish resignedsix years ago. The anglophile Houllier, it is understood, would in turn entertain an approach from Liverpool.

Liverpool are probably the only club for whom Houllier would contemplate taking the agonising decision of leaving his present post in advance of next summer's World Cup finals in his home country. His name has cropped up in connection with the vacant man agerial positions at Celtic and Everton but Liverpool are his first love.

As a student teacher, Houllier spent a year at a Liverpool comprehensive in 1969-70 and wrote a thesis on child deprivation in the city. He also regularly attended matches at Anfield and recalls seeing Roy Evans score two rare goals in a 10-0 win over th e Irish club Dundalk in the precursor to the Uefa Cup, the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup.

Though his name is not widely known in this country and despite only having played semi-professional football, Houllier, 50, is hugely respected as a coach and administrator in the European game. He was courted by the FA to become their technical directo r a year ago before Howard Wilkinson was appointed. As a club coach, he won the French tide with Paris St Germain and went on to manage the national team for two years.

At Anfield, Houllier would probably want the job title of general manager or director of football and would expect to work with the first team on the training ground. A vacancy is due to occur anyway with head coach Ronnie Moran heading towards retiremen t. Liverpool believe that it is time for a new era, given developments in the European game and their need to close the gap domestically between nearly men and achievers.

The difficulty for Houllier will be in tearing himself away from the French Federation at this time, though it could be that Liverpool are willing to wait a year for him. Then comes the other difficulty: whether and how Houllier and Roy Evans would work together.