Football: Souness bows out at Anfield

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The Independent Online
GRAEME SOUNESS resigned as manager of Liverpool last night doing something he had vowed he would never do. He left bowing to supporter pressure and with the club unable to announce a successor, or even a caretaker.

'We want to resolve this matter as soon as possible,' the chairman, David Moores, said. 'We hope to make an announcement very shortly.' Roy Evans, Souness's assistant, will be in mind as a replacement although an external appointment, possibly Queen's Park Rangers' Gerry Francis, is not ruled out.

In charge at Anfield for 33 months, Souness decided to quit after the Liverpool crowd reacted angrily to Tuesday's FA Cup defeat against Bristol City. That result ensured that the club will be without a trophy for a second successive season and the game ended with chants of 'Souness out'. With the fans so overtly against him, he decided to go.

'This is a sad day for me,' he said in a written statement. 'After a great deal of soul searching I have reached the conclusion that the best thing for the club and I is that we should part comapny. I took this job believing I could return this club to its former glory but this has proved more difficult than I anticipated.

'The fans have been very patient but I feel their patience is now running out. Liverpool Football Club has, and always will have, a very special place in my heart and I can only wish it every success in the future.'

Souness, 40, spent much of yesterday in negotiations with Moores and the club's chief executive, Peter Robinson, concerning compensation for the two years remaining of his pounds 1.25m, five-year contract. The parting was announced at a press conference at Anfield last night which seven of the eight board members attended. 'Amicable arrangements' had been made, Moores said, about compensation.

'Since Graeme returned to Anfield we have all enjoyed his enthusiasm and his friendship,' Moores continued. 'We have also felt deeply for him over a number of personal difficulties including massive heart surgery and the death of his father. We have understood the difficulties he has faced over nearly three seasons with an unprecedented number of major injuries and the need to bring young players forward more quickly than is usual at Anfield.

'With the exception of winning the FA Cup in Graeme's first season the results in the League and domestic and European cup competitions have been well below what is expected by the club and supporters.'

It was the breaking of the seemingly impregnable hold Liverpool had on success that dragged Souness down. He spent nearly pounds 22m on players yet Liverpool have regressed. They are fifth in the Premiership but are 21 points behind the leaders, Manchester United, and have been knocked out of both cups.

Souness, idolised when he was Liverpool captain and an outstanding success as manager of his previous club, Rangers, strained the sympathy of his supporters when his picture and an interview appeared in the Sun in 1992 on the anniversary of the Hillsbrough disaster. The paper was being boycotted at the time on Merseyside because of its coverage of Hillsborough so Souness's action was considered insensitive at best.

From then he was a hostage to results. If Liverpool had continued to win trophies, much would have been forgiven; failure to do so allowed resentment to simmer, and it broke out into outright hostility at the end of last season and on Tuesday.

In May he survived, although there were rumours that Liverpool had offered to pay up his contract. This week he took two days off in Scotland to consider his future and resolved that the pressure to resign had become irresistible.

'Being successful has always been more important to me than being popular,' was the opening sentence of his 1985 autobiography No Half Measures. By last night his problem was that he was neither.

----------------------------------------------------------------- SOUNESS'S DEALS - LIVERPOOL'S DEFICIT --------------------------------------------------------------- IN From Fee Pounds Dean Saunders Derby 2.9m Neil Ruddock Tottenham 2.7m Julian Dicks West Ham 2.5m Nigel Clough Nottm For 2.275m Mark Wright Derby 2.2m Paul Stewart Tottenham 2.2m Michael Thomas Arsenal 1.6m Mark Walters Rangers 1.2m David James Watford 1.2m Stig Inge Bjornebye Rosenborg 700,000 Torben Piechnik Copenhagen 600,000 Rob Jones Crewe 600,000 Lee Jones Wrexham 400,000 Istvan Kozma Dunfermline 400,000 Scott Patterson Cove Rangers 25,000 TOTAL 21,450,000

OUT To Fee Pounds Dean Saunders Aston Villa 2.3m David Burrows West Ham 1.5m Steve Staunton Aston Villa 1.1m Mike Marsh West Ham 1m Peter Beardsley Everton 1m Steve McMahon Man City 900,000 Gary Gillespie Celtic 900,000 Ray Houghton Aston Villa 825,000 Gary Ablett Everton 750,000 Mike Hooper Newcastle 550,000 Jimmy Carter Arsenal 500,000 David Speedie Blackburn 500,000 Barry Venison Newcastle 250,000 Ronny Rosenthal Tottenham 250,000 TOTAL 12,325,000 BALANCE (deficit) 9.125m -----------------------------------------------------------------