The Souness effect brings instant result for Newcastle

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Southampton 1 Newcastle United 2

So there it was. In their first Premiership match under Graeme Souness's control, Newcastle United earned their first away win since 21 October last year, and their first victory at Southampton since February 1972, the same month in which they suffered their momentous FA Cup defeat to the Hereford United team of Ronnie Radford and Ricky George.

"It must be a good feeling," someone suggested to the man whose managerial credits include Rangers, Liverpool, Blackburn and - for season 1996-97 - Southampton. The response was not immediate.

"I've been at this a long time," Souness eventually said. "We'll play better football. But I'm looking at the fact that we were gritty and determined today." That Newcastle were, despite periods of desperate defence in the final 20 minutes as they sought to hang on to the lead which Stephen Carr had restored with a sidewinder of a shot in the 57th minute.

Souness may have inherited Sir Bobby Robson's personnel, but this was already a team beginning to play to his direction. As he was quick to point out, Newcastle fielded two players in unfamiliar wide positions, Jermaine Jenas and Craig Bellamy.

"We have got to get the same attitude here as the players have at Arsenal and Manchester United, which is that it's the cause that's important," Souness said. "Some players will be asked to play out of their normal positions, but at the end of the day, it's the points that count."

Souness picked out Jenas - "It is Jermaine, isn't it? We call him JJ" - for special praise over the way in which he closed down the danger of Southampton's Fabrice Fernandes.

"He's always a big threat for them," Souness said. "He drags the ball down, checks back, and knocks it in for the big men like James Beattie. He didn't do that once today. JJ did a splendid job."

Bellamy's unfamiliar role allowed Souness to retain Patrick Kluivert up front while recalling Alan Shearer, who was on the bench during the midweek Uefa Cup win, and the Dutchman provided a series of elegant touches in a first half where the visitors deserved the lead they eventually took in at the break, courtesy of a Shearer cross-shot which went in off the haplessly defending David Prutton.

Shearer saw it differently. "As far as I am aware, I shot and it went in the back of the net," he said. "Try to take it off me!" He also paid tribute to Souness, saying: "The manager's changed things and it has worked."

Southampton drew level eight minutes after the break when Prutton's attempted shot looped up off a defender and fell ideally for the unmarked Anders Svensson to drive it low into the corner of the net from 10 yards.

But Newcastle were making a special effort for their new manager, and after Kluivert had had what looked like a fair penalty appeal for handball turned down, they went ahead again after Carr accepted a quick free-kick and made the most of the space in front of him.

Thereafter it was a case of Newcastle's central defenders, Andy O'Brien and Robbie Elliott, striving to keep their two larger opponents, James Beattie and the beanpole substitute Peter Crouch, at bay. They just about managed - but despite Souness's praise for their efforts, the fact that former Manchester United defender Ronnie Johnsen has been signed as cover indicates that there may be more long-term work to be done at the heart of the Newcastle defence.

"I brought players like Alan [Shearer] back because I feel away from home we need to be a wee bit harder to play against," Souness said. "I left Laurent Robert out because we needed to be a bit more solid. The problem arises when you leave the big stars out when they feel they should be in the team."

Goals: Prutton og (45) 0-1; A Svensson (53) 1-1; Carr (57) 1-2.

Southampton (4-4-2): Niemi; Nilsson, Lundekvam, Jakobsson, Le Saux; Fernandes, Prutton, Delap, A Svensson (Best, 75); Beattie, Phillips (Crouch, 66). Substitutes not used: Blayney (gk), Higginbotham, Telfer.

Newcastle United (4-4-2): Given; Carr, O'Brien, Elliott, Bernard; Bellamy, Butt, Bowyer, Jenas; Kluivert (Milner, 66), Shearer. Substitutes not used: Harper (gk), Robert, Hughes, Ambrose.

Referee: C Foy (Merseyside).

Booked: Newcastle United: Bowyer, Bellamy.

Man of the match: Shearer.

Attendance: 30,709.

Comments