There’s still an air of menace about Graeme Souness, a characteristic which ensures that television pundits espousing an alternative opinion to the Scot tend to remain quiet when he speaks, not least because he can be relied upon to talk sense.
A similar aura surrounded Souness the footballer when he was in his pomp at Anfield (1977-84) and pivotal to a Liverpool team that established itself as Europe’s finest. In Football: My Life, My Passion, he attributes this extraordinary run of success to what he calls a “culture of responsibility,” nurtured by the wisdom emanating from Liverpool’s famed Boot Room.
Experienced men such as Bob Paisley, Ronnie Moran and Joe Fagan would frequently tell their players to work on-field problems out for themselves before walking away, seemingly exasperated at their charges’ inherent stupidity.
The narrative is peppered with engaging anecdotes, such as the occasion during a European Cup semi-final against Dinamo Bucharest in 1984 when Souness shook off his marker, Lica Movila, by punching him, breaking his jaw in two places. “That’s the way the game was then,” says the unrepentant Scot.
When it comes to the surge in player power, Souness worries that the ‘tail wags the dog’ nowadays; managers who upset players make a rod for their own back, he reckons.
“You fall out with one player and [soon] fall out with four or five others. Then you have a couple of indifferent results and their agents are on the phone to the chief executive, the directors, the owner, the chairman, saying: “Do you know he’s lost the dressing room?”” Souness maintains that the most disgraceful recent examples were at Chelsea and Leicester where Jose Mourinho and Claudio Ranieri “were both disgracefully sacked the season after winning the Premier League.”
Souness is not afraid to highlight some of his own managerial misjudgements which include turning down the opportunity to bring Peter Schmeichel to Anfield when he was in charge at Liverpool. He’d just signed David James “so I thought I could do without a rookie ‘keeper” he adds, ruefully.
On TV, Graeme Souness comes across as a thoughtful, experienced man who knows the football industry inside out; the excellent Football: My Life, My Passion reinforces this view.