Souness' iron side on Tyneside

Newcastle will be no easy touch for a new manager surrounded by reminders of glory-starved past

It was around 9.40pm on Thursday that the new manager got his hands on a cup at St James' Park. "Thanks very much," Graeme Souness said, as Kath Cassidy furnished him with a steaming bowl of coffee. Kath has been the tea lady in the press room at Newcastle since 1968. In her 36 years of sterling service, there has only been one cup of first-class silver on display in the trophy cabinet upstairs. There was a reminder of it on the walls of the press room as Souness left his coffee to cool and stewed over his frustrating first match in charge of Newcastle United. "United Bring Home The Cup," proclaimed the headline of a framed report from the Evening Chronicle. It was dated June 1969.

It was around 9.40pm on Thursday that the new manager got his hands on a cup at St James' Park. "Thanks very much," Graeme Souness said, as Kath Cassidy furnished him with a steaming bowl of coffee. Kath has been the tea lady in the press room at Newcastle since 1968. In her 36 years of sterling service, there has only been one cup of first-class silver on display in the trophy cabinet upstairs. There was a reminder of it on the walls of the press room as Souness left his coffee to cool and stewed over his frustrating first match in charge of Newcastle United. "United Bring Home The Cup," proclaimed the headline of a framed report from the Evening Chronicle. It was dated June 1969.

Souness happens to be the 13th manager Mrs Cassidy has served since the reign of Joe Harvey, the Yorkshireman who brought the Fairs Cup to Tyneside from Budapest the month before Neil Armstrong took his small step for mankind into the Sea of Tranquillity. "Let's hope it's lucky 13th," she said.

It was not quite the same when Souness first walked into football management at Ibrox back in 1986. Rangers had not won the Scottish title for a mere eight years, though in Old Firm terms that equated to a longing of similarly despairing length. It was satisfied within a year, after Souness had turned the Scottish Premier League into something of a sea of turbulence.

Within 35 minutes of his debut as player-manager, he was sent off for kicking George McCluskey in an off-the-ball mêlée at Easter Road. So perhaps the rag that Nicky Butt lost on the hour at St James' on Thursday night might prove to be an omen of tougher times to come for the opponents of a new, meaner, Newcastle United.

Though Bnei Sakhnin, Arab-Israeli trail-blazers for peace on a scale way beyond the world of football, snapped with their unflinching challenges from the opening whistle in the Uefa Cup first-round tie, none of their players scythed into the tackle with quite the same consistency or zeal as Lee Bowyer. And it took the combined intervention of Souness and Shay Given to stop Butt from throttling the Sakhnin captain, Abas Suan, for a second time as they made their simultaneous red-card departures from the pitch. "We've learned a lesson," Souness reflected in the wake of the disappointing 2-0 win against the Israeli League part-timers. "You have to rise above what's going on out there and play your football."

Still, on a night when the flowing, attacking football of the Bobby Robson years dried to a trickle, the flash of steel could be construed as a measure of compensation for the new Newcastle. For all their fancy play under Sir Bobby, particularly on the green, green grass of home, Newcastle were always prone to be a soft touch. They have not won a Premiership match away from St James' since 21 October last year, when they overcame a 2-0 deficit to beat Fulham 3-2 at Loftus Road.

It will be tangible progress if Souness can end that run this afternoon. His first Premiership match in charge of Newcastle is at Southampton, where Newcastle have not won a League match since February 1972, the month they were famously humbled at Hereford in the FA Cup. "We're going to go there and win sooner or later, so why not Sunday?" Souness reasoned.

Of course, Souness himself does not have the happiest of memories of Southampton. His year there as manager ended acrimoniously after Rupert Lowe attempted to persuade him to hire psychologists, dieticians and fitness experts - though not rugby union coaches. There was also the farcical episode when Souness was duped into giving a trial to a Senegalese player called Ali Dia after receiving a telephone call purporting to be from George Weah; the player turned out to be a business studies student at Newcastle University. Then there was the unseemly pitch-side scuffle with Dennis Rofe when Souness was at St Mary's with Blackburn last October.

Not that the former Saint is breathing fire and brimstone ahead of his latest return. "I was only at Southampton a year," Souness reflected. "I had a three-year contract. I didn't see eye to eye with the new board that was coming in, so I resigned. We kept them in the Premiership. I think at that time that was successful for Southampton. I only have good memories there. It's a good football club and I'm looking forward to going back there."

Alan Shearer is looking forward to going back there too, and having spent the new manager's first night warming the substitutes' bench, the Newcastle captain can look forward to a place back in the firing line. Despite the brace bagged by the nimble-footed Patrick Kluivert on Thursday, Souness intimated that a change of strikeforce would restore Shearer and Craig Bellamy to front-line duty.

Not that Kluivert has been ruled out of the striking equation. Asked whether the Dutchman, the Englishman and the Welshman could be incorporated in the same team, Souness replied: "We're going to have to do that. I've not learned anything new about Patrick Kluivert. I've been a fan for years, since he scored in the European Cup final at the age of 18. He's a top man and a top, top player."

Whether Souness can be a top, top manager at Newcastle remains to be seen. He might be happy to instil some of his old flinty quality into the heart of his new team, but he is not the snarling confrontationalist that he continues to be portrayed as. "That's certainly not what I'm all about," he said. "I'm a different manager to how I was 18 years ago when I walked through the doors at Ibrox.

"As you get older, you learn things. You'll make mistakes. You'll do things the right way. And you hope you'll choose the right path more than the wrong." As long as the path leads to a cup of silver, the Toon Army could not really care how their new leader might get there.

Suggested Topics
Sport
sportSo, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Arts and Entertainment
Dennis speaks to his French teacher
tvThe Boy in the Dress, TV review
News
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
The Plaza Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia was one of the 300 US cinemas screening
filmTim Walker settles down to watch the controversial gross-out satire
Arts and Entertainment
Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz in Tim Burton's Big Eyes
film reviewThis is Tim Burton’s most intimate and subtle film for a decade
Life and Style
Mark's crab tarts are just the right size
food + drinkMark Hix cooks up some snacks that pack a punch
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect