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Graeme James Souness is a complete original, as a footballer a combative, brilliant midfielder and as player, manager and analyst never afraid to express his opinion. One of the few genuinely itinerant professionals of the twentieth century, Souness was born in Edinburgh and began his career as an apprentice with Tottenham Hotspur, signing professional forms as a 15-year-old in 1968. He made one first team appearance for Spurs, as a substitute in a UEFA Cup match.
During the summer of 1972, Souness excelled in the North American Soccer League for the Montreal Olympique, where he appeared in ten of the club's fourteen matches.
On his return to the UK, Souness was transferred to Middlesborough, aged nineteen, for £30,000 in 1972, a record fee for a midfielder between British clubs. His six seasons at Ayresome Park included being part of the the side which, in 1973-4, won promotion from the English Second- to the First Division as champions, under manager Jack Charlton.
At Middlesborough Souness was awarded his first international cap - in October 1974 against East Germany at Hampden Park - and his move to Liverpool kickstarted his international career, leading to his excellence on the pitch in the 1978 Finals in his limited time on the pitch.
World Cup Finals tournaments, in Spain in 1982, and in Mexico 1986, followed, and marked the country’s most successful period: Souness was consistently-present in the fifty four international caps he won. The 1986 Finals coincided with his appointment as player / manager of Rangers, and he retired from international football on Scotland’s return from Mexico.
Liverpool manager Bob Paisley, who had won the European Cup for the club for the first time in 1977, reinforced his squad with the purchase of Souness, for £350,000 in January 1978, aged twenty four, Alan Hansen and Kenny Dalglish. From early on in his Liverpool career, Souness scored memorable goals, including a spectacular volley, from outside the eighteen yard box, against Manchester United at Anfield in the season of his move from Middlesborough.
Souness was part of the Liverpool squad that retained the European Cup the following season, 1977-78, against FC Bruges at Wembley, and Liverpool went on to win- and retain the title in seasons 1978-79 and 1979-80. Souness won his second European Cup in 1981 - Liverpool’s third - with Liverpool’s 1-0 victory over Real Madrid.
Souness was appointed club captain at the beginning of season 1981-82 and the club won the title and retained the League Cup, repeating this the following season, 1981-82. The title, another League Cup and another European Cup victory, on penalties against Roma, marked season 1983-4.
After three hundred and fifty eight Liverpool appearances, scoring fifty six goals, and the club had won five English titles, three European Cups and four League Cups, Souness joined Trevor Francis, Roberto Mancini and Gianluca Vialli at Sampdoria in Genoa for a fee of £650,000. During his brief time there the club won the Coppa Italia for the first time in its history, over Milan in the Final.
A return to the UK followed as Souness joined Rangers as player-manager, for a fee of£300,000 in 1986. His playing career ended, aged thirty eight, in 1991, and Souness continued to innovate, bringing in Terry Butcher, Chris Woods, Trevor Steven, Gary Stevens, Trevor Francis and Ray Wilkins at a time - 1985 to 1990 - when English clubs were banned from European competition.
Three Scottish Titles and four League Cups followed before, mid-season in 1991, Souness left Rangers for Liverpool in April, replacing caretaker manager Ronnie Moran.
Souness’s achievements in his brief time in the Liverpool job include advancing the careers of Steve McManaman, Robbie Fowler and Jamie Redknapp. Souness’s health suffered significantly during his time at the club and the 1992 FA Cup victory over Sunderland was the highpoint. He attributed the relative lack of success at the club to the increasing influence of players and their agents.
Post-Liverpool, his managerial career followed an itinerant path, beginning with Istanbul at the end of the 1994-5 season to manage Galatasaray. His actions off-pitch will be remembered as much for those on it, including his placing of a huge Galatasaray flag on the centre circle of rivals Fenerbahçe, directed at one of the Fenerbahce dirctors, after Galatasaray had beaten them in the Turkish Cup final of 1996, as well as his involvement with the Sun newspaper post-Hillsborough.
Souness returned to the UK to manage Southampton, where he spent one season before being appointed coach of Torino, but with no decision-making on the players he could bring in, he was dismissed after four months.
Souness repeated his model at Rangers, when Benfica took him on in 1997 and he signed English Premier League based players, all of whom left the club at the same time as Souness, eighteen months later.
Four years at Blackburn Rovers led to the development of high-profile players and a League Cup victory in 2002. Newcastle United followed, replacing Sir Bobby Robson in 2004 and where, in season 2005-6 the club included Alan Shearer and Michael Owen. Half way through the season Souness was sacked.
With his significant volume of TV analysis time, for Sky Sports, RTE, TV3 and BEIN Sports, and appearances in advertising campaigns and TV fiction,, Souness has said that he has no intention of returning to management.
A measure of Souness’s worth as a player, to complement the trophies he won, notably at Liverpool, were Souness’s inclusion in the PFA First Division Team of the Year in seasons 1980–81, 1981–82, 1982–83 and 1983–84.
Souness is judged perhaps with most value, on his clarity and straight-talking, notably as a TV analyst. What he describes as his ‘Wanderlust’ has made him the ultimate optimist and catalyst for positive change wherever he has travelled, and a ‘ridiculous belief in my own ability’, which he demonstrated as a teenager at Bill Nicholson’s Tottenham Hotspur.
References to wishing that he was beginning his fifty-year-long career again, ‘warts and all’, hoping that his best years are ‘still ahead of me’ and having no disappointments in his life are measures of the man.
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