Graeme Souness is a man carved half from granite, half from marble.
As a player he was both a rugged midfield enforcer and a sophisticated schemer. He scored great goals too. There was also an aura about him which, given the way he strutted about the pitch, could be mistaken for arrogance, but was actually the mark of the supreme leader and winner Souness was in THE great Liverpool teams of the late Seventies and early Eighties.
So you might expect he would have built and extension to his house in order to accommodate all the memorabilia in a fancy Trophy Room. Not so. Since the Sky Sports pundit lives on the outskirts of Bournemouth in a property he rents most of his gongs from the golden days are in storage.
But some are more precious than others which is why he arranges to meet me outside the bank in Bournemouth High Street. Upon arrival it is clear Souness still cuts a suave figure with the hint of menace. He looks a cross between a mature model for Giorgio Armani and the lead actor in a Martin Scorsese movie, as he leans nonchalantly against a lamp post dressed immaculately in a lightweight charcoal suit, wide collared white shirt (top button open, of course) and a pair of wrap-around Raybans.
“Stay there for five minutes, just let me nip into the bank, there’s a few things from the deposit boxes you might like to see” says Souness.
Half an hour later we are sitting on the veranda of the Harbour Heights hotel which overlooks stunning Poole Bay harbour. After ordering Earl Grey tea and slice of Madeira cake (not quite so tough at the bar, but then it is afternoon) Souness, 59, reaches into his pocket and pulls out a tuft of tissue paper. He unwraps the little parcel then places down on the table three very small, not much bigger than cufflinks, but very stunning thick gold coins.
Seeing three European Cup winner’s medal in a row, in the flesh, touching them, is verging on football porn. For the record Souness won five Championship medals and four league cup medals for Liverpool, plus a stash of trophies with Glasgow Rangers as both player and manager as well as playing in Italy and competing at three World Cups (it was nearly four) for Scotland but clearly the three he had just put on the table are the ones he most cherishes.
“Winning the European Cup was the ultimate. These medals are very special to me. It proved you were the best team in Europe and I would say it was harder then than it is now” said Souness.
“Yes there are more games to play to get to the final in what has become the Champions League but remember you don’t have to be the best team in your country to qualify like we did back then. That is why I would say there are more occasions when the best team in Europe doesn’t win the trophy. That said, as great a team as we were back then, the Barcelona team of this era is the best I can recall seeing given the football they play from back to front. We played that way but they have taken it to another level.”
Indeed while Souness despairs about some aspects of the modern game he is not one to look back with rose tinted glasses. When I ask his what he thinks about the emerging Jack Wilshere, the Arsenal midfielder who shares many of Souness qualities, his eyes light up.
“Oh yes, I like the lad a lot, he can become a really top player for Arsenal and England.” Souness asserts. So I venture, how does he think Wilshere compares to Liam Brady, the great Arsenal and Ireland midfielder of the Seventies and Eighties who, like Souness, was also a successful export to Serie A.
The answer was somewhat surprising. “I think Wilshere can become better than Brady…”
By Rob Shepherd
Look out for the full interview with Graeme Souness coming soon to Bobby.