HOULLIER HORSES AROUND
(Thursday 29th March 2001)
Liverpool Manager Gerard Houllier is claiming that his players are being "treated like horses" as the Merseyside giants contend with a massive fixture pile up in the final weeks of the season.
His comments follow the re-arranging of the Premiership clash between Ipswich and Liverpool at Portman Road just two days after the Semi-Final tie with Wycombe at Villa Park. They will then play the following Friday and Sunday.
Houllier said "I don't agree with the fixtures. I am not going to let my players be treated in the same way people treat horses. How can a player be expected to play on April 8, 10, 13 and 15? I am prepared to defend the interests of my players. That's my concern and I want to protect their welfare."
The Liverpool Manager's comments should bring a smile to the face of Wycombe officials and followers alike. The French man may like to take a look at Wycombe's fixture problems this season. The 0-0 draw with Millwall at Adams Park was The Wanderers 52nd First Team fixture to date in 2000/2001. The game at Villa Park will be Wycombe's tenth FA Cup tie alone and by the end of the season Lawrie Sanchez's battered troops will have completed a minimum of 63 games.
The same night Houllier's squad, valued at a minimum of £125m, travel to Ipswich, Wycombe will be on the road to Swansea in a previously scheduled Division Two fixture. Houllier is moaning that his players then have to play Leeds United at Anfield on Friday 13th and Everton at Goodison Park on Sunday 15th. But there's no rest for Wycombe either. On Saturday (14th April) it's back to League action for The Chairboys with a home game with Wrexham, while on Easter Monday (16th April) it's the trip to Bristol City. The following week Wycombe then continue with five more fixtures in eleven days. Swindon at home (Sat 21st April), Bournemouth away (Mon 23rd April), Notts County away (Wed 24th April), Bury away (Sat 28th April) and then Bristol Rovers away (Tue 1st May). The final League game of the season is on Saturday 5th May at home to old rivals Colchester United.
Lawrie Sanchez has not yet restorted to describing his players as horses but he does realise that the amount of games is now having a physical effect on the team. "We've played 52 games, that's a full season. We've got another ten games to go and you can understand the tiredness to be fair to them"
Wycombe play Wigan at home on Saturday (31st March) before flying out the following day for a four day break in southern Spain. Sanchez added "The players need to get away. A change of environment is important but they need to get away and just rest. Not only the physical side but the mental side is tiring for them as well. They've never been a situation like they've been at the moment. If you're Liverpool, you play European Semi-Finals, Worthington Cup Finals, top three games in the Premiership, you deal with this because it's what you live under"
If Liverpool reach the FA Cup Final and UEFA Cup Final they will still only end up playing the same number of games as Wycombe. One things for sure there will be no moaning from Wycombe if there's one additional game to play at Cardiff come May.
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