Remembering the tumultuous 18-month spell of Graeme Souness at Newcastle United

Jack Kitson by Jack Kitson / 13 September 2019, 12:25

15 years ago Graeme Souness began life as Sir Bobby Robson’s successor at Newcastle United, a job the Scot held for 18 months.

He’s not managed since.

Souness began his managerial career at Rangers where he won 63% of his matches, three league titles, and four League Cups.

After five years at the helm he returned to former club Liverpool where he lifted the FA Cup, before he ventured over to Turkey with Galatasaray, bagged a couple of domestic cups, and infamously cemented the club’s flag into the centre circle of Fenerbahce’s pitch.

Souness spent a single season in charge of Southampton - best remembered for giving a debut to Ali Dia - then there were four months over in Italy with Torino, and 18 months at Benfica.

He fared better at Blackburn, leading the club back into the Premier League and later a top-6 finish, plus League Cup glory which remains the club’s last major trophy.

In 2004 he switched Lancashire for the Toon, selected ahead of the likes of Terry Venables and Steve Bruce as the manager to follow in the footsteps of Robson.

“When I was offered the Newcastle job in 2004, my first thought was: 'I will be the one to prod this sleeping giant awake,'” Souness would later state in his autobiography ‘Graeme Souness - Football: My Life, My Passion’.

Souness flew out the traps, overseeing eight wins from his opening 11 games. Complacency and inconsistency soon set in as the Magpies suffered a dip in form over the festive period, but come mid-March they’d bounced back and amassed eight wins on the spin and progressed into the FA Cup semi-finals, and Uefa Cup quarter-finals.

Souness’ troops then threw away a first-leg lead over Sporting Lisbon in the UEFA Cup, and suffered a 4-1 hammering at the hands of Man Utd in the FA Cup.

They could only record one win from their final 10 league games which resulted in a 14th place finish - their lowest top-flight standing since 1988/89 season. During this rotten run Kieron Dyer and Lee Bowyer were both sent off for their infamous brawl in a 3-0 defeat at home to Aston Villa.

Souness spent the summer dismantling his squad. Craig Bellamy, Patrick Kluivert, Laurent Robert, Olivier Bernard, and Jermaine Jenas - James Milner went out on-loan - were all dispensed off, many of whom had endured a tumultuous relationship with the strict disciplinarian.

“Newcastle will never win anything with a team of James Milners,” a scathing Souness told the media - Milner has since won two Premier League titles, the Champions League, FA Cup, and League Cup.

Souness splashed £40m on the likes of club-record signing Michael Owen, Albert Luque, Scott Parker and Nolberto Solano, but Newcastle didn’t start the 2005/06 particularly well.

They were booted out of the Intertoto Cup by Deportivo, then took two points from their opening five league games. The Toon dusted off the cobwebs and won six of their following eight games in all competitions, before inconsistency once again set in, not helped by an injury to Owen before the year was out.

In early February Newcastle fans showcased their anger during a 3-0 drubbing at Man City, during which they unveiled a “Souness Out" banner. Chairman Freddy Shepherd took note and pulled the plug on Souness’ tenure.

Souness was undone by a combination of poor performances, disappointing results, questionable signings, and misfortunate injuries, while in truth the supporters never warmed to him.

In the end, he departed St James’ Park with a 43.3% win rate from 83 matches in charge. He would later tell Sky Sports: “I had eight jobs and that was the most difficult one I ever had.”

He’s not returned to the dugout - and is unlikely to either - instead preferring the lucrative world of TV punditry.

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