Gérard Houllier gets a lot of grief. Grief from the fans, grief from some of the players, grief from the pundits perched above, always thinking that they can do better. But as Aston Villa prepare to fight off the dreaded r-word, other players have come forward to defend the manager and assert that the club is standing together and supporting Houllier. Yesterday it must have been Robert Pirès who drew the short straw, as he was the one getting chit-chatty about the boss.
Of course, it makes sense for Pirès to be supportive of Houllier. After all, the Frenchman stepped in to give his fellow countryman another chance at the footballing life, and continued to bring in Pirès even when the rest of the seeing universe was ready to put him out to pasture. But apparently there's more to it than simple faith in footballers.
When speaking about Houllier, Pirès said:
"He is the father, we are his sons and he protects his sons. People don't know that about him, how human he is."
You're right, Robert. Many of us, when thinking about Houllier, consider him a robot. He is merely a droid sent to earth with the express mission of defeating the 4-4-2 and bringing on head-scratching subs. Houllier-bot is programed to put forwards on the wings and wingers in the middle. No wonder many of us have trouble believing him to be human.
Also, if Houllier is the father, how do you explain the youngsters? Is it merely a case of, "If you love something, set it free"? You'd think that this father figure, seeking to protect his sons, would keep the Villa babies close at hand rather than sit them on benches or send them off to the reserves (or loans, sniff). But ok, Houllier's the father, the players are the sons -- if that keeps the club out of the relegation zone then the Villa can have any sort of weird family dynamic they choose.