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'He was like having a manager on the pitch' | Why Graeme Souness failed as Liverpool manager

Liverpool legend Graeme Souness failed as a manager of the same club because he didn't give players a chance to prove they still had the legs, according to his former teammate Mark Lawrenson.



Liverpool legend Graeme Souness failed as a manager of the same club because he didn't give players a chance to prove they still had the legs, according to his former teammate Mark Lawrenson.

Liverpool were highly successful under Kenny Dalglish, winning three league titles and two FA Cups in the five seasons prior to Souness taking over as manager.

When Dalglish stepped down in 1991, his former teammate Souness took over, having earned his managerial stripes at Rangers as their first ever player-manager.

The former Liverpool midfielder would only manage the side for three years in an unsuccessful run, with only a single FA Cup trophy to add to his trophy cabinet.

However, this failure to succeed is at odds with the experience of Souness' former teammates, including Lawrenson, who felt that playing alongside him was like 'having a manager on the pitch'.

'A manager on the pitch'

Speaking on Football Saturday, Lawrenson recalled what it was like to play alongside Souness. In particular, Souness' character as a captain and a tactician shone through to his teammates, suggesting that he was practically a manager already.

"Graeme Souness was like having a manager on the pitch," Lawrenson said. "The boot room obviously knew. He would test them sometimes.

"Ronnie Moran played left back for Liverpool for quite a long time, and obviously was a coach there and eventually manager. Ronnie, basically, was the sergeant major.

"If you played at left back for one half of the game it was a nightmare, because he was always on that side. The ball would come to you and he'd say three different things!'

"We cam in at half time one day, we weren't winning and weren't playing particularly well. Alan Kennedy used to get it in the neck all the time.

"Graeme was captain then, and just said to him, 'Ronnie, it can't be him every single week! It's all of us!' In fairness to Ronnie, he kind of kept his mouth shut for a little bit."

Souness made too many changes too soon

Armed with the knowledge that Souness showed management material while he was still playing, Johnny Ward, who joined Lawrenson on Football Saturday, wondered why the Scottish manager failed at his former club.

"I know exactly why, because he told me," Lawrenson responded. "He'd been to Rangers... he signed player after player after player.

"He made lots of changes. When he came to Liverpool, he said he made changes too soon, which is really unusual. The thing about Liverpool would be, if they thought your legs were going, they'd give you an extra six months just to make absolutely sure.

"He didn't do that, Graeme. He just made the decision with [Peter] Beardsley, Ray Houghton, Ronnie [Whelan], there was quote a few of them.

"He said, 'I wanted my own team, but in hindsight I should've given all those players another six months just to make absolutely certain'.

"Let's be fair, the three or four mentioned were all top players, and their legs hadn't gone, by the way."

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