Steven Gerrard and Gerard Houllier

Steven Gerrard pays tribute to “special man” Gerard Houllier who “was more than a manager”

Former Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard has paid an emotional tribute to former Anfield boss Gerard Houllier.

The former Liverpool and Aston Villa manager died at the age of 73 on Monday.

Rangers boss Gerrard said: “I would like to pay tribute to him. Yesterday was a really tough day for myself and (Rangers assistant boss) Gary McAllister.

“Gerard obviously played a huge part in both our careers – and also our lives.

“So the news yesterday was very difficult to take. It’s a huge blow.

“I came in yesterday morning really happy after our result at the weekend and then to receive that news was a bitter blow.

“He was a special man, a caring man, a loving man. He was more than just a manager.”

Gerrard added: “Throughout your career, different people look after you and shape you.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, April 19, 2003: Liverpool's manager Ge?rard Houllier celebrates a 2-1 victory over Everton with captain Stephen Gerrard after the Merseyside Derby Premiership match at Goodison Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

“In your younger days Steve Heighway, Hugh McAuley and Dave Shannon for example. Then they pass you on to the first-team staff which was Gerard Houllier, Phil Thompson and Sammy Lee, who did an incredible job in terms of where I was at my age and as a player.

“Gerard was at the forefront of that in terms of shaping me into a better player, a better person, a better leader.

“So I’ve got an awful lot to thank the man for and I’m finding it really hard to come to terms with it right now.”

The Ibrox boss added: “I always try and take all the best bits from all the coaches and managers I worked. It’s impossible for me add the charisma, the care and the love that Gerard carried.

“I think every player that has worked with him will certainly echo that. He was just a special human being.

“This is not a guy who would focus solely on football and what you gave to him in terms of the relationship player-to-manager.

“This was someone who, at my age, wanted to change me as a human being into an elite professional, who wanted me to be a better person, who wanted me to really understand the tactics and the game in a different way and become an even better player and build all the other stuff around the talent I had at that age. I’ll never forget that.

“I need to send my condolences to his family who I know will be in pain at the moment. It’s just a sad, sad day for football and for me personally. It will take me a little while to get over this one.”

Villa boss Dean Smith, a lifelong fan of the club, also spoke about Houllier at his press conference on Tuesday.

Smith said: “There are certainly a lot of heartbroken people at Aston Villa who spoke very highly of Gerard when he was working here. He’ll be sadly missed. We send our condolences to his family.”