A strange choice to herald the rebranding of the Scottish League was Souness. Here’s an appreciation of his brief stint in Scotland, as manager of a club currently in the process of being liquidated, that appeared in a previous NTV.
Scrupulously fair, gracious in defeat magnanimous in victory, a man of principles, a true sportsman and a credit to the game. None of these are qualities that could ever be attributed to Grame Souness with regard to his five year stint as manager of Rangers (as they were known back then).
Having learned whatever football skills he had from Bobby Murdoch while a youngster at Middlesbrough, Sadam acquired for himself something of a tough reputation as part of the relentless Liverpool machine of the Seventies before perfecting his hard man routine in Serie A. Once he’d established himself in the same literal and figurative league as renowned international cloggers like Daniel Passarella, he returned to the Scottish Premier League in 1986 as player-manager at the Death Star.
He quickly made his mark in his first league match, away to Hibs at Easter Road – right down George McCluskey’s shin bone, which required more stitches in it than one of the mail bags at that time being cobbled together by Jeffrey Archer in HMP Belmarsh.
The resultant red card – the first of many waved under the blue noses of Souness and his compadres in the following seasons – set the tone for the remainder of his five year reign of terror.
As a player, his own personal tally of three red cards in a year (which would have been at least double that had Scottish referees any moral fibre at all) set an example for the likes of Butcher and Roberts to emulate.
Few players can count among their claims to fame that they provoked a mass withdrawal from an international squad by players from a club side. But that’s what happened to Romania when the Steaua Bucharest side downed tools in protest at a particularly disgraceful challenge by Sadam on one of their number in a European tie at Ibrox, a challenge which merited both a red card and a lengthy prison sentence.
As a manager, far from liberally sprinkling his side with the cream of imported talent to grace the SPL, he was responsible for inilicting on the country’s pitches the likes of Colin West, Avi Cohen, Dale Gordon, Bonni Ginsberg and John McGregor.
He also ensured that the nation’s physios were kept on their toes (unlike their wingers) by providing gainful employment for some human threshing machines; the aforementioned Butcher and Roberts had good company in John ‘Psycho’ Brown and Terry Hurlock.
In his brief career north of the border he managed to oversee unprecedented bad relations between Rangers (RIP) and almost every other team in the league, most notably Celtic, Hearts, Hibs and, of course, Aberdeen. He left a trail of damage on and off the pitch from Pittodrie to East End Park and even had a widely publicised spat with Aggie the St. Johnstone tea lady; all this while still finding the time to bludgeon the odd journalist on the way.
Hacks who dared criticise the Souness regime for their gamesmanship or shockingly bad disciplinary record soon found themselves with their noses pressed up against the outside of the Blue Room window as bans were distributed as freely as Terry Hurlock suspensions.
The revelation (once he was safely back home in his native country of course) by left-back Jan Bartram that he was sent out on occasion by his manager to deliberately clog opponents was hardly jawdropping stuff by the time it appeared in a Danish football magazine. Nor was Batram’s claim that he would sit quietly in the dressing room watching his manager erupt in psychotic outbursts and foul·mouthed ranting as tea cups and televisions went flying across the floor. This kind of thing might have shocked the sensibilities of civilised Europeans, but we were experienced Rangers (deceased) watchers. Nothing about them freaked us out during the Souness years.
His long overdue departure in 1991 brought forth risible suggestions from his toadies in the media that he was the victim of persecution directed at him from that notorious bastion of Rangers bashing, the SFA. The truth is that his persistent flaunting of touchline bans and his repeated breaches of the rules made the job of even the transcendentally feeble-minded Park Gardens Discipline Committee a fairly straightforward one.
The most nauseating aspect of his exit was the plaudits handed to him by his media sycophants, who still become misty-eyed whenever they get the chance to wallow in post-Souness revisionism.
Chick Young is one who merits a special mention. His artide for the Glaswegian headlined “Graeme Souness: The Most Remarkable Man I’ve Ever Met” could easily have been retitled “Graeme Souness: The Most Odious Stream Of Drivel I’ve Ever Written”. It prompted a suggestion at the time that Chick should really try to get out and meet more people instead of staying in the house watching Rangers videos. (Now the only way to watch ‘Rangers’)
Considering the amount of money squandered on mediocre players during his time in charge. the return in terms of trophies was hardly spectacular.
Europe was, as ever, a joke. His modest achievements pale into insignificance in comparison with Stein or Ferguson, managers who had a fraction of the resources available to Sadam .
Far trom heralding a renaissance in Scottish football, his antics in the transfer market, indulged by a reckless and short-sighted board, helped to overheat the Scottish football economy and established the pattern of provincial clubs buying over-priced foreign diddies which they are only recently attempting to reverse.
His win at all costs attitude merely pandered to the ‘No one likes us we don’t care’ mentality at the Death Star.
Even Sadam’s final claim to beatification among his acolytes is unconvincing. His crusade against sectarianism at Ibrox conducted hand in hand with David Murray was personified in the signing of Maurice Johnston. As Mo sat there at the press conference smirking with his tongue literally in his cheek it was hard to fathom how anyone couldn’t see through this tawdry publicity stunt carried out in order to stick the boot – successfully it has to be said – firmly in the nethers of a beleaguered Celtic set up and send it into terminal decline.
Hmm. On second thoughts, maybe we owe him one!