As I flicked on the Arsenal game on Monday night, I sat there listening to Graeme Souness talk about football.
It turns out he is on my TV yet again because Rafa Benitez cancelled at the last minute, due to the side’s poor performance at the weekend.
I do find it funny how they manage to get Souness on Sky often enough as some sort of expert on Newcastle United because he was our manager once upon a time. It is just a shame that they never ask him any questions about when he was at the club. Funny that isn’t it?
At a time when Newcastle United fans are reminiscing what it was like to be a proper football club before Mike Ashley, it is important to go back even further to the man who started the decline. Graeme Souness.
He said on Sky “The frustration goes back decades” – well not quite Graeme, it probably can go back to about 14 years ago, to when you were appointed.
Graeme Souness took over as Newcastle manager after a few games of the 2004/2005 season to replace Bobby Robson. In the previous campaign, Newcastle finished 5th in the Premier League. The two seasons before that they qualified for the Champions League. So suffice to say, Souness took over a side that was one of the best in England, and in the top 20 in Europe.
The question can arguably be asked, was he even qualified to do the job?
His record as a manager, even before his disastrous last spell at Newcastle United, leaves a lot to be desired. Granted, Souness did well in his first spell as Rangers manager, although managing in the SPL is never a yard stick for how good a manager is… see Ronny Deila.
Souness then got his big break at Liverpool. He took a Liverpool team that were title contenders every season to a side that within a few years couldn’t even compete with Newcastle United ironically. His next spell in Turkey is only remembered for him sticking a flag in the middle of the Fenerbahce pitch when he was Galatasaray manager. He then took over at Southampton and didn’t do anything at all, except give a debut to Ali Dia. An incredible story.
So what do we have so far? Did well at Rangers, failed at Liverpool and did nothing of note at Southampton and Galatasaray.
Graeme then lasted four months at Torino, and an equally short time at Benfica. Two more failures to add to his CV. In all honesty, he did well to get the Blackburn Rovers job. In truth, Souness did a good job at Blackburn, he guided them to one top six finish, and kept them in the Premier League safely before he was forced out by the fans.
I don’t think that is a glittering record that warranted him taking over at Newcastle. Perhaps the only reason he got the job was because he was seen as a ‘hard man’ who would get the best out of the young players in the dressing room who arguably got Bobby the sack in the end.
A lot has been made of Rafa Benitez lately with some fans saying ‘he should be doing more with the squad at his disposal’. That statement is quite laughable in itself, when you realize people are referring to Perez, Joselu etc. So if you think Rafa should be criticised then what on earth does Souness deserve?
As mentioned, Souness took over a side that had played previous seasons in the Champions League and finished fourth, third fifth in the Premier League. I would compare it today to taking over at Spurs.
He was left with a squad that included Shay Given, Nicky Butt, Alan Shearer, Craig Bellamy, Patrick Kluivert, Laurent Robert and young talents James Milner and Charles N’Zogbia.
In short, Souness took over one of the most successful Newcastle teams in the club’s history.
Oddly enough, Souness got off to a flying start but it quickly deteriorated and Newcastle amazingly ended up finishing 14th! Can you imagine the uproar, or ridicule, a manager would receive today if he took a top five team to 14th in nothing short of a season? It is quite incredible when you think about it.
I wonder if Graeme Souness has ever been questioned on his transfer spending when he took over at Newcastle? His first four signings were free agent Ronny Johnsen, Jean Alain Boumsong, Celestine Babayaro and Amdy Faye. I am actually chuckling to myself as I write this. That is around £13 million on those four players. In the same January window, he sold Olivier Bernard and Craig Bellamy, two players who had been Champions League starters under Bobby Robson.
You know what though Graeme, lets give you the benefit of the doubt. Make your own signings, spent a little bit of money and you can get the team to play your way.
The following summer Souness dismantled more of the Robson Champions League squad by permanently selling O’Brian, Bellamy, Jenas, Viana, as well as Laurent Robert and James Milner out on loan.
He would spend around £40 million in the summer, including record signing Michael Owen. So no excuses really? Yet he managed to dismantle a Champions League team and turn them into a bottom half side in the space of a season and a half.
He can only be described as an utter failure and the man who dismantled one of the best Newcastle United sides of recent memory.
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