Tunnel feud as Souness sees red over Cole

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The Independent Football

Football showed its ugly side again when the Blackburn Rovers striker Andy Cole was sent off after a mêlée on the pitch that involved up to 14 players during the second half of his side's 2-0 defeat at Southampton.

The brawl broke out shortly after James Beattie put the home side ahead. Fists started to fly amid a tangle of players, among them Cole and Southampton's Michael Svensson. When peace was restored Cole was sent off, but all others went unpunished. Flare-ups occasionally occur between players in the heat of a match but, rather like the tension between England and Turkey players in Istanbul two weeks ago, the trouble at the St Mary's Stadium continued off the pitch. Blackburn's manager, Graeme Souness, pointed accusingly at Svensson as he left the pitch and he then turned his anger on Southampton's assistant coach, Dennis Rofe, whom he had sacked while himself Southampton's manager seven seasons ago.

He accused Rofe of encouraging the referee to send off Cole and the pair clashed in the tunnel. Souness said: "All I saw were a lot of players pushing and shoving - I will have to take a look at the video before I comment further. But what I was not happy with was the behaviour of Dennis Rofe - he was encouraging the referee to give Andy a red card. I don't take kindly to staff from other clubs trying to get my players sent off. My job is to look after my players, staff at other clubs must look after their own players and not concern themselves with trying to influence the referee. His behaviour is not correct." Told that his confrontation with Rofe in the tunnel, like the Istanbul incident, had been caught on camera, Souness added: "I must be guilty as charged then."