'I have got rid of Newcastle's dodgy characters,' says indignant Souness

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The Independent Football

In an effort to win back the hearts and minds of the club's disillusioned support the beleaguered Scot turned to television in an attempt to explain his very public predicament.

And it may well be that the sound reasoning and impressive self-confidence which underpinned yesterday's candid and emotional interview has earned Sir Bobby Robson's successor a temporary and largely unexpected reprieve.

The Newcastle chairman, Freddy Shepherd, will have watched his manager's carefully phrased verbal offensive with interest and admiration following a constructive meeting between the two on Wednesday. In 20 minutes Souness displayed a level of passion and commitment so often lacking in his team's performances this season and, in so doing, made the thought of his dismissal seem somehow less sensible.

"I've brought in five new signings this season and of course there will be hiccups," he said. "Nothing happens in football overnight and all successful clubs have had continuity in terms of management and their board. It needs someone here to break the mould, to change the situation from being a desperate one to a manageable one.

"We have to get away from the attitude of changing everything, the theory that the manager has to go and that we've got to get more players. There's not a club in the history of football that has had success by continually making changes. That's a fact."

Newcastle United's Premiership history is littered with examples of painful transitions, which perfectly illustrate Souness's point. Whether the former Liverpool coach is the one to buck a trend for change remains to be seen, but Shepherd has so far remained loyal to the man he appointed with a remit for ridding the dressing-room of dissenting voices and unsavoury influences.

"We got rid of some very dodgy characters and the players we wanted to leave have gone," Souness said. "I've got a really good group of players. I don't have players turning around telling the manager to go and sling his hook. We're not on the front pages of newspapers right now with people doing ridiculous things."

Souness managed successfully to force both Laurent Robert and Craig Bellamy out of St James' Park - two disruptive influences who nevertheless possessed the intermittent flair and unpredictability that Newcastle now lack.

He is in no mood to follow the pair through the exit door just yet and sees no reason to walk out on a job which is renowned for its unparalleled pressure in a part of the country where football is more soap opera than sport.

"I'm here and I'll remain here until somebody tells me differently," insisted a defiant Souness. "From my point of view, the relationship with the chairman is fine. We had a meeting this week and we spoke about the possibility of new players who we would like to bring in.

"I'm in possession of this seat and I'll give everything I've got to bring success to this club. I have no intention whatsoever of walking away," Souness said.

The Scot is furious with the intense criticism of his players by a number of local and national newspapers and the decision to air his views on television was no coincidence.

"The criticism isn't helpful, and some of it has been hurtful towards players," Souness said. "They're being continually caned and that increases the pressure on them when they go out to play in front of 52,000 fans.

"We've brought in some very good players but the injuries have killed us. Some fool has written that I'm hiding behind injuries, but we've been decimated. It means we can't play the kind of football you want and it means you don't get the results you want.

"I have a great bunch of players here. I bet I'm the only manager in the Premier League who hasn't had players knocking on my door on a Friday afternoon asking, 'Why am I not in the team?'"

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