Gerard Houllier: One of Liverpool's Greatest
CARDIFF, UNITED KINGDOM: Liverpool's French Manager GTrard Houllier holds the FA Cup trophy after his team beat Arsenal in the final at The Millennium Stadium in Cardiff 12 May 2001. Liverpool won the game 2-1 after Michael Owen scored two late goals to seal the victory. (Photo credit should read ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images)

On Monday morning, the footballing world woke up to the tragic news that Gerard Houllier had passed away, aged 73. Most renowned for his time at Liverpool, he was adored by those on Merseyside and regarded by many as one of the most instrumental figures in Liverpool's recent history, as he lay the foundations for those who followed him to flourish.

Epitomising everything he stood for, a selfless man. 

Houllier's love for football was gripping. So gripping that he was prepared to risk his health in order to continue his crusade and achieve his ultimate goal of putting Liverpool back to where they belonged, rubbing shoulders with Europe's most feared sides.

He was a footballing genius, someone who possessed a great footballing mind and enhanced the experiences of so many with his success over the years, none more notable than the 2000/2001 season.

Liverpool had been drifting aimlessly in the Premier League for far too long and many had tried to resuscitate the fallen giant that the Reds had become during the late 1990s, but subsequently failed.

As Mr Houllier stepped into the Anfield hot seat for the first time in 1998, he was not alone. He had been tasked with taking Liverpool back to the glorious heights, they had been so used to during the late 1970s and 1980s, alongside Roy Evans.

It was ultimately a double appointment that would soon be abandoned and Houllier was instructed to lead the crusade by himself, as Evans was released of his duties in November 1998.

And as he was finally given free rein of management at Anfield, success would follow, plenty of it.

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If you were to ask any match-going Liverpool fans of a certain age which season they enjoyed most, the majority will respond with 2000/2001. Birmingham City, Arsenal and Alavés. Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium and Dortmund’s Westfalenstadion were destinations where dreams were fulfilled. 

The culmination of that season, in May 2001, had announced Liverpool's return.  The Reds were back winning trophies again on a regular basis and watching those in red was once again enjoyable. Houllier’s Liverpool had become a force in Europe once again and they weren’t to be taken lightly.

People travelled the length of the continent to see the ‘boss’ lift countless gleaming trophies above his head. He made the people happy as he allowed them to dream, as supporters were engrossed in his philosophy.

However, the masterplan was never to be. As Liverpool would never get their hands on their much-craved  Premier League title during the Frenchman's reign.

 A title that many believed was so close.

But for many, it was much more than that. The man had sacrificed nearly everything in his power to transform this club and he nearly paid the ultimate sacrifice, of life itself, just to be able to manage in the Anfield dugout once more.

In the autumn of 2001, Houllier was taken ill after suffering from heart complications during a game against Leeds United at Anfield. Many thought they’d never see him back in the dugout. Except, that would never have been the case, especially if Houllier and his football-centric lifestyle had any input in a decision.

Football was his life, he lived and breathed it.

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A few months had passed and in March 2002, as Anfield geared up to see Liverpool battle their way through to the quarter-finals of the Champions League, Liverpool faced a team rich in European pedigree, AS Roma.

The challenge ahead was steep and only two clear goals would see the Reds through. And as the players and fans alike soaked up one of football most iconic anthems, 'You'll Never Walk Alone', there was a multitude of photographs gathering at the entrance of Anfield’s old, tapered tunnel. 

And momentarily, a figure surfaced from the depths of the old Main Stand. Houiller was back. As he emerged he became Anfield’s focal point. Anfield was euphoric.

Assistant manager Phil Thompson, was the only man in Anfield that night who had been made aware of Houllier's planned return.

Houiller showed up at the eleventh hour ahead of Liverpool's most important game of the season. Consequently, putting his health and well-being on hold. 

Engrossed in Anfield's breathtaking atmosphere, it took fans packed inside all four sides of the ground a few moments to realise why there was such a commotion by the dugout.As soon as it became apparent what was going on, the ground broke out into a spine-tingling rendition of the boss' name. 

Out of all of Anfield's historic European nights, this one was one extra special, one that will live long in the memory of those present that night.

At this point it was more than football, a man had refused to be beaten. He was back doing what he loved, back involved in football.

Although Liverpool crashed out of the domestic cups and the next round Europe in disappointing fashion, for many the simplicity of seeing Houllier back in the dugout felt like its weight in trophies.

Liverpool had a man at the helm who was willing to do anything for the football club. And for that, he will be eternally adored by those connected with Liverpool Football Club.

Rest in Peace, Gérard.