Last updated : 21 January 2003 By editor
Owen, who made a public admission to losing in the region of £40,000 in betting over the last two years, has "laughed off" the newspaper revelations according to Houllier.

"People are trying to ruin his career and reputation," said Houllier. "But he's like me, he took it as a laugh. I repeated to him, 'don't let them destroy you because you're stronger than that and you're bigger than that'."

Speaking on the eve of his team's tricky Worthington Cup semi-final second leg against buoyant Sheffield United, the Liverpool manager insisted that there is no gambling problem at the club. "We have a code of values, and a code of conduct," he said. "There is no money involved when they play cards."

Houllier disclosed that he and Owen have spoken openly about the issue and added: "I don't think this will affect his image. What has happened shows two things - the strength of character of the player and the total support of me and the whole club."