Hughes addicted to football

The effect of the huge pressure the game places on managers was

laid bare last night when Aston Villa’s Gerard Houllier was

admitted to hospital after falling ill. The Villa boss previously

underwent open-heart surgery almost 10 years ago when in charge of

Liverpool, while Joe Kinnear was forced to step down as Newcastle

manager in 2009 after undergoing a heart bypass operation. At 47,

Hughes is more than a decade younger than both men but could also

be forgiven for not wanting to continue in management into his

sixties. But he said: “You have to understand what this game does

to you. “I was out of the game for the first time in my career

since I was a professional football player when I was sacked at

Manchester City. “It’s okay for a month but, after that, you just

crave to get back in because that’s what you do, that’s what you

know, and that’s what you love to be part of.” Asked if it was a

drug, he added: “Absolutely, and once you’ve had a taste of it,

it’s something that’s with you and has to be satisfied. “If you’re

not in great health then any weaknesses can be brought to the fore

because of the stresses and the strains that surround the game and

surround your position as a Premier League manager. “That’s

unfortunately been borne out in recent times and obviously in

Gerard’s situation.” Hughes sent his best wishes to Houllier, who

has faced a demanding first season at Villa, with the club only

recently easing away from the Barclays Premier League drop zone. He

added: “When you’re in the job we’re in, the pressures build up

and, certainly, at this time of the year, the stresses and strains

come to the fore and they can bring out any weakness that you

possibly have in your health. “Whether you deal with it outwardly

or inwardly, it still bears down on you and you have to have

strategies to deal with that.”