Graeme Souness: Players run clubs now, not the manager

Former Liverpool, Rangers and Newcastle gaffer Graeme Souness talked to Paddy Power recently about his time on Tyneside and the modern managerial game...

When was the last time they won a trophy? 1969. It gives you an idea of how difficult it is there. And, if you look at the teams who have won trophies in that time.

They’re a fabulous football club, but it’s a very difficult place to work, it’s difficult to be a player there.

Mike Ashley hasn’t been there since ’69. This is an ongoing problem. There’s a frustration that they haven’t done better, as they think they should’ve done. Managing there is very difficult, you don’t get too long, you’re always firefighting.

Football – Cheltenham Town v Newcastle United – FA Cup Fourth Round – Whaddon Road – 05/06 , 28/1/06
Graeme Souness – Newcastle United Manager
Mandatory Credit: Action Images / Keith Williams

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But they’ll turn up every week, 52,000 people, and they support their team. It’s a pressure cooker and you have to be a big player and personality to go there.

Who started that infamous on-pitch fight between Kieran Dyer and Lee Bowyer?

The referee! No, I don’t know, it was both of them.

We’d gone behind and the nervousness and frustration was building in the stadium and then panic sets in.

Someone didn’t pass to the other one and he shouted at him and then the two of them turned – and I’m now out of my seat, walking to the touchline, I could see the two of them walking towards each other and their heads had gone.

Football – Newcastle United v Southampton – FA Cup Fifth Round – St James Park – 05/06 – 18/2/06
Newcastle United substitute Lee Bowyer
Mandatory Credit: Action Images / Ryan Browne

I was actually on the pitch as they exchanged blows, but I couldn’t go any further or I’d be sent off as well.

They were full of remorse afterwards. I got them into the press conference and said ‘don’t be asking me what happened, here they are, ask them’. And they couldn’t answer it, it was just one of those things. They were off their heads.

When you meet footballers, they can be a certain type on the pitch, but off the pitch they might be a nice guy. That applies to those two, I liked both of them, they were good lads. But on the pitch they had to get themselves in the zone, where it was borderline they could explode.

Football – Newcastle United Training – Newcastle United Training Ground – 05/06 – 13/1/06
Newcastle Manager Graeme Souness
Mandatory Credit: Action Images / Lee Smith

Do you want to go back into management?

I reckon I don’t have the personality to be a manager in the modern game.

You have to be more of a diplomat today than ever before, you have to massage egos today like you never had to before, and that wouldn’t be my style. I’d find it very hard not to just say what I felt was the truth, which might be things they don’t want to hear.

I had eight jobs and only got sacked three times. In management, you get sacked on a regular basis and, today, you might get half a season.

But I made my mind up, after being sacked by Newcastle, that I no longer had the personality for management.

I think today in management you’re called the boss and that’s in name only. The players run the football club, because of their transfer values and the salaries they get paid. They are the ones that call the shots.

To have a successful football club, you have to have some good senior pros, otherwise the mad men are running the asylum. You really have to have good pros if you’ve got any chance of being successful.

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Graeme Souness – Glasgow Rangers
Mandatory Credit: Action Images

It’s hard being a manager today. I don’t know how I would’ve been, if I was getting the cash some of these boys get at 19 or 20. I think, in any walk of life, if you give someone too much too soon, they get in their armchair and put their feet up, and football’s no different.

So it’s really important you have those senior pros to tell the younger lads ‘no, this is how you do it if you want to be a top man’.

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