Greame Souness, the hero of Anfield that turned Liverpool fortunes

Liverpool had seen 30 years of fantastic glory when Greame Souness entered the premises of Anfield and became their new manager shortly after their 90/91 league runners-up experience.

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Souness who left Liverpool in 1984 to take on adventures in Italy with Sampdoria and later became player-manager at Rangers, was seen as an ideal candidate to follow Kenny Dalgish.

He was not seen as a stranger and his period as a player at Liverpool, and his success at Rangers made the appointment sensible and in a way part of the route that this club had followed since Bill Shankly was given the wheel in the early 60’s.

Greame Souness knew Liverpool in and out, but as we all know, despite winning both league and cup titles at Rangers and really showing great promise in management, he had never managed in English football.

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When Bob Paisley took over at Liverpool after Bill Shankly he just continued to work in the same way as his former boss did, and this continued under Joe Fagan and then with Kenny Dalglish.

Kenny Dalglish resigned at Liverpool and he must have had his reasons, despite being in the league lead and no one talking about his position being threatened, but as Greame Souness came in he started to chop and change.

First of all the “iconic” boot room had to see it’s change or as we all know it was “taken away” and refurnished and rebuild or whatever, the symbolic change made Greame Souness the man that removed the boot room.

He then started to search the market for new recruits as changes were made gradually to the squad of players. If you end runners-up in the league it does not say that you have to rebuild very much to get the edge back, but Greame Souness made no secret about building a new team at Anfield.

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In the first season under Greame Souness, 1991/92, they made it to the final of the FA Cup and won. They reached the quarter finals of the UEFA Cup after being allowed into Europe again after a six year ban on English clubs. The league season had started well, but with Souness being absent with a heart condition, things started to slide and The Reds ended 6th.

Souness started to make huge changes and introducing the likes of Rob Jones, Mark Wright, Mark Walters, Michael Thomas and Dean Saunders. Shipping out players such as Gary Gillespie, Glenn Hysen, Ron Whelan, Steve McMahon and Peter Beardsley. He had also a young and fresh Steve McManaman on his hands as he had also progressed to the first team.

It was really a squad of promise, but something was wrong, it didn’t look as if it clicked and especially the fact that Peter Beardsley were seen as an absentee was probably a key reason why it didn’t work out so well with all the new recruits at the same time.

Earlier and under the management of the previous bosses you never really did see such big changes at the same time, but with the injury problems a few of the players had, it might have been a difficult task to find the right answers.

The next season was in a way a real disaster, ending again sixth in the Premier League, and not really being part of any of the cup competitions, not being able to get into the final rounds on any tournament. Greame Souness had signed Norwegian Stig Inge Bjornebye, Hungarian midfielder Istvan Kozma had arrived, Danish defender Torben Piechnik and Steve Harkness. None of them really players that would galvanize Liverpool and set the World on fire.

The squad was in a way watered out with players who could not really take the final step and become what Liverpool needed to get their “glory” back and be a trophy winning team again. Those who were left started to age and had seen their best days.

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With the decline to see Liverpool didn’t attend any European competitions in the final season of Greame Souness and they slided down the league ladder and ended eight and again Liverpool were not seen in the final stages of those domestic cup competitions either. A group of new players had arrived, including David James, Nigel Clough and Paul Stewart. Robbie Fowler and Jamie Redknapp had been given their debuts by Greame Souness alongside Steve McManaman, three home grown players that later had a great career for Liverpool and England.

But all of these players never gelled 100% under Greame Souness and the squad had gradually been turned into something that wasn’t really as well organized as earlier and also a lot of chopping and changing never let to anything else than a team very unbalanced.

Souness also had his struggles with previous team mates from his playing days at Anfield dealing with Phil Thompson and Tommy Smith who had their difficulties accepting private matters between them resulting in Souness banning Tommy Smith from the “inner circle” of the club. It was really an unpleasant place for all of them, and that probably took away the energy as that is needed to bring everyone together and lift everything as a grand group.

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When Greame Souness left Liverpool players such as Bruce Grobbelaar, John Barnes, Ian Rush, Jan Molby, Steve Nicol, Ronny Whelan were the only players left from the League winning team four years before and that in a way made the answer. All of them at the time in their 30’s and on the way out as well. Greame Souness never managed to do anything correctly at Liverpool despite adding a lot of talent and in a way tried his best, but it was a “dark side” to it all as the club had left their throne.

To see Manchester United and Arsenal just gliding into that top position and becoming the “top two” made it difficult to accept that it was never again possible to get into that top spot again as the “magic” had left Anfield.

Greame Souness won one single trophy as Liverpool manager, the 1992 FA Cup, but it was mostly done without his interference, sadly one of the darkest manager chapters in Liverpool history, looking at results, looking in the mirror you could see that a number of good things came out of the reign of Souness after all.

 

 

 

 

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