Football Expert & Columnist
Off Script: Jamie Carragher's standout team talks and how Ashley Cole was off the pitch
"Before Houllier came, the British way at half-time would be that when the door shut, everyone would be talking non-stop"
Last Updated: 21/08/19 6:10am
In the latest Off Script, Jamie Carragher explains how Gerard Houllier changed the art of the team talk for him, and why Ashley Cole was so special.
Carragher's friend and Plymouth manager Ryan Lowe recently allowed Sky Bet behind the scenes at the club, including a fascinating look at his pre-match team talks.
So what makes a good team talk, and how have they changed over the years?
Carragher also reacts to Ashley Cole's retirement from football on Sunday, and why all eyes are on Frank Lampard at Chelsea...
Houllier's half-time visuals
Gerard Houllier was probably the best manager I had for team talks. Not just half-time team talks, he was brilliant at a team meeting, and could really pump you up for a game.
It was interesting when Gerard came in. Before that, the British way at half-time would be that when the door shut, everyone would be talking non-stop, with 15 minutes you had to cram it in.
But when the foreign managers came in, they wouldn't speak for five minutes, and I've heard Arsene Wenger was the same. There's not a lot of information given at half-time now, because nobody is taking anything in.
Houllier would come in, not say anything for five minutes, make sure everybody was ready, and when he did speak, everyone would be ready to listen. And he'd speak for two or three minutes max.
Sometimes Houllier would send Phil Thompson in a few minutes before half-time, to write a message on the flipchart in the dressing room. The one that rings a bell is when we were 2-0 up at half-time against Manchester United once. But at that time, United were obviously famous for fighting back.
He wrote the scoreline of a recent game where United had come back from 2-0 down to win. I can't remember who it was against, but it could have been anyone. They did it to everyone!
Roy Hodgson was also interesting in team talks. People look at Roy and think: 'Everyone's favourite uncle, a really nice man.' But he could lose it!
Carragher on Hodgson at Liverpool
It was a little message for us for when we sat down. Nobody was speaking, but it was as if to say: "This game is not over." It was a visual, rather than a manager talking.
Roy Hodgson was also interesting in team talks. People look at Roy and think: "Everyone's favourite uncle, a really nice man." But he could lose it.
He would do this thing where if a player wasn't being aggressive or jockeying with his marker, he would go over to them and jockey with them, like the David Brent dance! I'd be crying laughing. He was very entertaining in team talks.
Cole didn't have an ego
Ashley was a quiet bloke off the pitch. On the pitch? He was typical Chelsea, a little bit ratty, I think Mourinho got into him, he'd get involved, and they'd always be around the referee. But I can't talk about that, I did that job for Liverpool!
He's a quiet lad. The criticism he got from sections of the media at different times for different incidents was similar to Raheem Sterling in some ways. The public then think of this player in a particular way. I've named Raheem Sterling because I played with him as well, and they were both quite quiet lads.
Ashley wasn't some big ego, or very loud in the dressing room, he didn't have this swagger about him, he just played his football. You didn't hear too much from him around the hotel with England, which was the only time I was really around him, so I felt a bit sorry for him with the way he was portrayed around in the media. That certainly wasn't the lad I knew.
I was always kicking him, because they always had the ball when we played against that Arsenal team. If you were to ask me what was the toughest thing on the pitch for me, it was playing right-back against that Arsenal team, with Ashley Cole, Robert Pires and Thierry Henry, because Henry was like a second left-winger.
Including European teams, that Arsenal team from 2002 to 2004 were the best I ever played against. I know Manchester United have been the most successful in the Premier League era, but in terms of individually giving me the most problems, it just felt things were happening so fast that you couldn't compute what was going on. It was like a pinball machine. Things were happening too quickly for me.
There were actually times after Arsenal games, up against Cole and the rest of them, where I thought: "I'm actually out of my depth here!"
A brilliant player for Arsenal and Chelsea, and a great England player too.
All eyes are on Lampard
I think everyone who becomes a manager is putting themselves on the line, and fair play to them, especially coming to Chelsea so early in his managerial career.
I know Frank. In some ways, I am as close to Frank as I am with any player who I didn't play club football with. We played U21s together and roomed together.
I'd have loved to see Frank get this job in 10 years' time, with 10 years' experience. That doesn't mean he's not going to be successful now, but he would be a better manager in 10 years, that's obvious.
I think everyone, when a former player goes back to a club, wants it to go well. I don't think Frank will ruin what happened as a player, he was that good.
But say Steven Gerrard went back to Liverpool as manager, John Terry at Chelsea or Thierry Henry to Arsenal. This part of the managerial career is remembered most because it's the former club, so this will be remembered more than what he does at Derby, or some future jobs. So there is a lot on the line, and I think he's taken the job in difficult circumstances.
Some people think the club have done him a favour in giving him this job. You could argue that. But you could also look at it the other way and say he's done the club a favour, because maybe not many top managers wanted to come, with the transfer ban and losing Eden Hazard.
I hope this season goes well for him, and then next season when they can actually buy players he can shape the squad to what he wants to do.