Former Liverpool, Aston Villa and France manager Gerard Houllier passed away on Monday, the second Reds legend to have died in the last month.
On Nov 15, goalkeeper Ray Clemence, who also excelled for Tottenham and England, died. He was 72 and a year younger than Houllier.
One Liverpool fan who was saddened by the demise of the Frenchman is Sheldon Xavier, a fitness trainer who has worked with several Liverpool players in his career.
He met Houllier several times with the most memorable being in 2004 when he received a midnight phone call from the Frenchman who had just landed at KL International Airport.
Houllier was in Malaysia to attend a conference and invited Xavier for coffee before the event.
“I told my mates and they said p*** off as they didn’t believe he called me,” recalled Xavier.
“But I managed to get a few of them to join me at the Marriot to meet him.
“I first met him in 1999 and several times after that. He even arranged tickets to a match for me. Such a good friend. Rest well.”
That is why Xavier was delighted when Liverpool beat Tottenham 2-1 in midweek to go top of the Premier League.
The Reds paid tribute to their former manager before the match.
He is also happy Liverpool ended its title drought earlier this year as Houllier, who was instrumental in waking the sleeping giants, was still alive to witness it.
Xavier became a Liverpool supporter at age seven. He was initially attracted to its V-neck jersey and Umbro logo and later on with Hitachi’s name on the shirts.
Fun fact: In 1979 Liverpool became the first English club to have a sponsor’s name on the front of its jersey.
“At first I didn’t even know what colour the jerseys were as I was watching on a black and white television set,” said Xavier.
“As I grew older, it became a sort of religion. I’m lucky I managed to visit Anfield several times and to have met many people connected to the club.”
As for this season’s challenge, Xavier said his top three would be Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea with Tottenham edging out Manchester United for the last Champions League position.
“This is an unusual season with some unusual results. Liverpool has not been so consistent, but that is because there was hardly a pre-season,” said Xavier.
“Plus the number of injuries the club has had is crazy. The schedule is also punishing for all the teams.
“The Christmas schedule is hectic and we have the FA Cup in early January. We will get a clearer picture of who is going to be in the title hunt in March.”
FIXTURES (Malaysian time)
Crystal Palace vs Liverpool (8.30pm)
Southampton vs Manchester City (11pm)
Everton vs Arsenal (1.30am)
Newcastle vs Fulham (4am)
Brighton vs Sheffield United (8pm)
Tottenham vs Leicester (10.15pm)
Manchester United vs Leeds (12.30am)
West Brom vs Aston Villa (3.15am)
Burnley vs Wolves (1.30am)
Chelsea vs West Ham (4am)