Football: Souness and Liverpool prepare to separate: Cup calamity at Anfield may prove the final straw for beleaguered Scotsman - Toshack set to take over as manager of Wales

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The Independent Online
GRAEME SOUNESS, who has always maintained he would not walk away from his job as Liverpool manager, returns to Anfield this morning for a meeting which is expected to end with his resignation.

Three days after the calamitous home defeat by Bristol City in an FA Cup third-round replay, which means that for the second season running Liverpool's season has effectively finished in January, the 40- year-old Souness is believed to be ready to bow to public pressure.

Demands for his dismissal, first voiced during Bolton's FA Cup victory at Anfield a year earlier, resurfaced during the latest humiliation by First Division underdogs on Tuesday. Afterwards, the chants of 'Souness out' intensified.

Local radio phone-ins have since been inundated with calls calling for him to quit. In a telephone poll organised by Teletext, 81 per cent of the 2,000-plus callers felt it was time for the former Scottish international to go.

Peter Robinson, Liverpool's chief executive, hinted yesterday that the anti-Souness campaigners might get their wish. He said: 'Graeme Souness has taken a couple of days off. He will be returning tomorrow when we will meet him and hold discussions. Following our talks we will issue a statement.'

Sources close to Anfield believe that Souness, who had reportedly gone to Scotland to review his future 'in the cold light of day', has met Robinson and the club chairman, David Moores, to discuss the situation.

At the meeting Souness appears to have accepted that, after 33 months during which only the FA Cup has adorned the trophy cabinet, his position had become virtually untenable. The scheduling of further talks is seen as an indication of Liverpool's desire to negotiate a compromise over the sum he would receive for the remaining two years of his five-year contract.

Paying off Souness in full could cost Liverpool pounds 500,000. Last May, Liverpool offered to pay up his contract. He resisted, insisting that he wanted the job rather than the money. A week of embarrassing wavering ended surprisingly with fresh backing from the boardroom.

Souness said then that Liverpool were only 'two or three quality players' away from regaining their former pre-eminence. He then signed Clough, Ruddock and Dicks for pounds 7.475m, taking his overall outlay to pounds 21.45m (against pounds 12.325m from incoming transfers), but even the relative respectability of fifth place in the Premiership could not disguise the club's decline since the days of European and domestic domination.

Now, unless Souness himself produces a dramatic U-turn, it seems his volatile reign is over. Roy Evans, promoted from coach to assistant manager last May to act as a buffer between manager and players, is likely to step up in a caretaker capacity. Dalglish would probably be the people's choice as successor, but a more realistic candidate might be Gerry Francis, of Queen's Park Rangers.

John Toshack might also have commanded support, but he is set to become the new Welsh manager in a move which ends the interest of Terry Yorath. Toshack, the manager of the Spanish side Real Sociedad, will work on a match-to-match basis during the 1996 European Championship qualifying group and will be confirmed in the job before next Wednesday's B international at Wrexham against Scotland.

For his assistant the Football Association of Wales has turned to Mike Smith, an Englishman who previously held the reins of the national side in the 1970s, who will have a full-time role as Toshack's eyes and ears in Britain.

Bolton no tea party,

Non-League football, page 34

Busby funeral, page 3