Graeme Souness ruled the Liverpool roost with a mixture of steel and panache, making him one of the supreme midfielders of his generation. The tenacious Edinburgh man spent the best years of his career at Anfield, helping Liverpool to unprecedented success, including three European Cup wins and five league championships.
After his maiden European Cup win, Bob Paisley indulged in a spot of spring cleaning, signing the Scottish triumvirate of Dalglish, Hansen and Souness to bolster an ageing squad. The transfers were testament to the philosophy of Paisley and proved to be arguably the shrewdest pieces of business ever conducted in the history of Liverpool FC.
Souness, who appeared as himself in an episode of Alan Bleasdale's Boys from the Blackstuff in 1982, replaced Red legend Ian Callaghan after serving an apprenticeship at Spurs under Bill Nicholson, and winning promotion with big Jackie Charlton at Middlesbrough.
The gifted central midfielder was a real hard man in the days when footballing men of steel were in abundance, and the sturdy Scotsman provided steely midfield presence, an eye for the killer pass - a boxer's punch with the silky touch of a ballerina.
Souey left Liverpool to join Sampdoria in 1985. He proved a useful mentor to Pietro Vierchowod, Gianluca Vialli and Roberto Mancini, playing his part as the Blucerchiati side won the Italian cup for the first time in their history.
With 54 caps and four goals Souness returned home to take over from Jock Wallace as player manager of Scottish giants Glasgow Rangers. Never one to tread carefully, the footballing revolutionary embarked on a strategy to revive a woefully flagging team.
With the European competition ban on English clubs, Souey lured the cream of England to Ibrox, signing Chris Woods, Graham Roberts, Mark Walters and Terry Butcher amongst others to bolster Rangers’ domestic push for honours. Mo Johnston was the first Catholic to sign for the Gers as Souness tore to shreds a bigoted tradition going back a century.
Success at Ibrox led to the Anfield hot seat after the resignation of Dalglish in 1991. The omens looked bad soon after, when Peter Beardsley was flogged to Everton during the prime of his career, followed by Ray Houghton to Villa for less than a million.
Even worse, the mercurial Houghton was replaced with a huge £2.3 million outlay on Souness’ greatest flop - Paul Stewart. Steve McMahon was the closest thing to Souness since Souness himself. He was also sold. The worse sell off was Stevie Staunton to Villa – who I thought was the best left back in the country at the time.
In between wielding the axe and sweeping the broom, Souness turned down the chance to sign a young Roy Keane from Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest. Similarly, as Benfica boss he passed up the chance to sign a young Deco. To be fair Souey did give youth a chance, bringing on the wonderful talents of Jamie Redknapp, Steve McManaman, Robbie Fowler and signing a David James to replace Grobbelaar.
But perhaps his greatest misjudgement was to durn down Eric Cantona after being sounded out by none other than Michel Platini himself in 1991. He told the Liverpool Echo: "After the game I was in my office and there was a French guy waiting to see me.
It was Michel Platini. He said he had a player for me. A player who'd had problems but would love to play for Liverpool. That player was Eric Cantona. At that time we didn't need any more problems so that was the one that get away."
Souness tried to fashion a Liverpool team of hard men in his own image, signing the likes of Dicks, Stewart and Ruddock. It just didn’t work.
The Anfield tenure was not a successful one, with a solitary FA Cup win against Sunderland being the only piece of silverware landed during his stint.
Controversy followed Souness closely. There was an interview with the Sun which was published on the anniversary of Hillsborough. He also caused a riot after planting the Galatasaray flag in the centre spot after a 1996 cup final win against sworn rivals Fenerbahce.
Graeme Souness was a special type of player and fond memories of him far outweigh the negatives. The fans have proven testament to this by voting him number nine in the poll of 100 Players Who Shook the Kop.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.
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