'After your families the football club must come first'

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The Independent Football

Now that he has tended to his geraniums and his chrysanthemums, Graeme Souness can set about the green, green grass of his new professional home. After his week's gardening leave 'twixt the parks of Ewood and St James', top of the agenda for the new manager of Newcastle United will be the laying down of a set of family values for his inherited charges.

Now that he has tended to his geraniums and his chrysanthemums, Graeme Souness can set about the green, green grass of his new professional home. After his week's gardening leave 'twixt the parks of Ewood and St James', top of the agenda for the new manager of Newcastle United will be the laying down of a set of family values for his inherited charges.

"I have always been disciplined and I would expect my players to be the same," Souness said, as he sat back and anticipated the delayed start to his job as Sir Bobby Robson's successor. "All I would ask the players to do would be to respect their team-mates, respect what this football club is all about, and respect the people who are working on the staff.

"Second to their families, the most important thing in their lives should be the football club - nothing else. The families come first, of course, but after that the football club is the most important thing. Now, if they have that attitude, we will not have any problems."

There was no need to spell out what might happen if any players at Newcastle do not have that attitude. They will risk going the same way that Dwight Yorke, Andy Cole, David Dunn and Keith Gillespie all went at Blackburn: out of the door marked Exit.

It remains to be seen whether Newcastle United can become one big happy family, with Kieron Dyer, Craig Bellamy, Laurent Robert and Patrick Kluivert all contentedly toeing the line. After the romance of Sir Bobby's loose-rein regime, however, a little tight-leash pragmatism would not go amiss.

Souness has never been one to call a spade an earth-distributing implement, and he does not waste time attempting to gild any lilies in outlining his prime objective on Tyneside. "They have had five good years with Sir Bobby here, but unfortunately they haven't managed to win anything," he said. "That's why I'm here. We've got to try to win something."

No manager has won anything of first-class value at Newcastle since Joe Harvey masterminded the capture of the Fairs Cup in 1969. A dozen have tried - among them Jack Charlton, Ossie Ardiles, Kevin Keegan, Kenny Dalglish, Ruud Gullit and the bold Sir Bobby - and all have failed.

"I think if you look at my football career," Souness said, "the bigger the challenge, the more I enjoy it. I like to think of myself as someone who can stand up and be counted when the going gets tough. And this is a tough job.

"I've been extremely fortunate in my life, both as a player and as a manager, in terms of experience of winning things. I'm far from giving up that taste that you get when you win something. I'm confident, and I'm ready.

"I know what's expected at this club and I cannot tell you how much I'm looking forward to the job. My vocabulary doesn't extend far enough to explain how much it means. It's a fantastic opportunity.

"Outside of Alex Ferguson, Arsène Wenger and Jose Mourinho, every other manager in the country would be hoping to get a phone call about this job. That's how I see it. I think we've got tremendous strength in certain areas and we're not so strong in others. I'm not going to identify where I think we can strengthen, but obviously I have thoughts. I've got the next few months to target people, then at Christmas time we'll look to bring people in."

Just a month ago, Souness was looking to take out Alan Shearer from the Newcastle squad and return him to Blackburn. "Yes, I did try to buy him," confirmed the manager, who must now decide whether to keep the ageing captain in the Newcastle firing line.

"I've spoken to Alan," Souness added, "and he's made it perfectly clear to me that he'll be in the team on merit. If he's not doing it, he fully expects not to be in the team. But I think he's so determined to go out with a bang in his last year that you'll be seeing a lot of Alan Shearer this season."

The Toon Army will be glad to hear it. All that gardening leave, and still the new man is in need of a trusty Shearer.

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