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Thompson: Houllier signs are 'positive'

Gerard Houllier is recovering well from a heart scare according to Phil Thompson, the man who deputised for the Frenchman at Liverpool when he required an emergency heart operation in 2001.

• Houllier taken to hospital

Houllier has been admitted to Queen Elizabeth II hospital in Birmingham after suffering chest pains and it is reported that he is unlikely to return to the dug-out for the remainder of the Premier League season.

He required five months out of the game when recovering from heart surgery in 2001 but Thompson, who has spoken with Villa club doctor Mark Waller, says Houllier's condition is not as serious as it was ten years ago.

"I've spoken to Doc Waller and he's told me that everything is fine and he's doing all right," Thompson told the Daily Mirror. "He's been making loads of calls on his mobile phone and after his family and football, his favourite thing is his phone. All the signs are positive.

"When he was ill before, in 2001, I always believed from day one when I was standing in for him [as Liverpool boss] that he would come back, and from what I'm told his illness this time is nothing as bad as what happened before, thankfully."

"Gerard has been extremely careful with his health," he added. "Every six months, he goes for his check-ups and everything has been good."

Striker Darren Bent added: "It was a big shock to all the players, but the main thing is his health and hopefully he is back soon. All of the players wish the gaffer a speedy recovery and if we can turn that into another win against Stoke, that will be one less thing for the manager to have to worry about."

Assistant Gary McAllister will take charge of the side for Saturday's game against Stoke, and winger Stewart Downing added: "Obviously, everyone at the club is concerned for the manager. It's never nice, an experience like this, especially for his family.

"But the news is that he's going to be all right and that's pleasing and reassuring. A good win against Stoke on Saturday will help him no doubt. In fact, the last couple of weeks have been good and I'm sure the gaffer will want us to continue in this vein.

"That's what Gary McAllister told us, that the gaffer wants us to carry on playing like we're playing and to win as many points as we can between now and the end of the season. Hopefully, a good result on Saturday will be the perfect boost for him.''

Birmingham manager Alex McLeish is a close friend of Houllier and admits the Frenchman had appeared to be in a relaxed frame of mind. He said: "I hope all is well for Gerard. He has gone through a lot in his life. Since the (heart) operation, he has had a different perspective and seems cool and relaxed.

"But you never know what goes on inside of people and this job is highly stressful because of the massive stakes in the Premier League. The League Managers Association provide 24-7 support. The job is stressful but people also need a challenge otherwise they will do nothing in their life.''

Everton boss David Moyes added: "I am saddened to hear about Gerard. He is a good friend and someone I got to know really well when he was manager at Liverpool. If you are listening Gerard, I hope you are well. Look after yourself, we are all thinking about you. I really do hope he is fine.''

Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp said he would make contact with the hospital to wish Houllier well.

He said: "He is a really good man and I'm sorry he has had a turn for the worse but I hope he's okay. We all feel the stress, stress is everywhere. Everyone gets it. You're in the public eye.

"When you're at a match you get into it and you're kicking every ball and that's when it shows and you feel it, but there are people out there in far more stressful situations than football managers. We are fortunate to be doing what we do. The anxieties that come with it are all part of the job.''

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said the job of a football boss was not a healthy one.

"You never know how unhealthy this job is, but one thing you know is that it is not healthy,'' he said. "How much effect it has on everyone's body is difficult to measure. I don't know how unhealthy a press conference is for example, I could never really measure that, but for sure it is not healthy.''


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