Neil Mellor reveals the biggest difference between former Liverpool managers Rafa Benitez and Gerard Houllier

Jack Kitson by Jack Kitson / 22 August 2019, 10:00

During his time in a Liverpool shirt former Reds striker Neil Mellor played under two of the club’s most successful managers in recent memory: Rafa Benitez and Gerard Houllier.

Between them the bosses lifted 10 trophies at Anfield, including the Champions League (Benitez), and the League Cup, FA Cup, and UEFA Cup treble (Houllier).

But what was it like to work under each manager?

In an interview with The Sportsman Mellor has revealed all, starting with an explanation of the dietary changes implemented under Houllier.

“When I first arrived at Melwood we had bottles of coke, sprite and fanta but by the end of that season under Houllier that had all gone. It was all healthier drinks. In the dressing room it was like ‘where have the drinks gone?’ as to us we didn’t know any different. It was a real learning experience for a lot of us.

“The food as well. It was all pasta and protein, which was different to what we had been used to. We’d previously had two or three carved meats and roast potatoes, but all that changed because of Houllier.”

Houllier left Liverpool in 2004, and in came Benitez, the former Valencia manager who had led Los Che to two La Liga titles and UEFA Cup glory.

“The biggest difference between Houllier and Rafa Benitez was Houllier spent only one day a week on the training pitch and that day was Friday,” revealed Mellor.

"He would not be on the pitch any other day.

“Houllier helped design the new Melwood training facility at Liverpool and his office could oversee the whole training ground. He’d stand in there, maybe because the weather wasn’t great, but the only day he would come out was Friday.”

Houllier’s way of working was in stark contrast to his replacement Benitez who took a more hands-on approach to training.

“Benitez was on the training pitch every day in his shorts in the wind and rain,” Mellor told The Sportsman.

“Tactically us players learnt so much more under Benitez than any manager I’ve experienced. In the warm-up every player knew where they had to be when we had possession of the ball. Centre forward you stand there, right back you stand there, centre-back you stand there. Everyone was in the correct position.

"For example, Arsenal have got the ball at right back so this is where you need to be, Arsenal have got it in central midfield so this is where you need to be. You learnt so much tactically through Benitez."

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