Souness looks north to end Rovers slide

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The Independent Football

After shutting his players in the dressing-room for an hour following their latest defeat away to Leicester City on Sunday, Graeme Souness now wants to take them away from it all on a five-star hotel break to lift the gloom that has settled on Ewood Park.

Blackburn have lost five consecutive Premiership games and have won just two of their past 13 matches. Only Leeds United are beneath them in the table. The Rovers manager has come up with the idea of a bonding exercise at a luxury Scottish retreat in an attempt to improve morale among his failing squad. A couple of games of golf, a few hours relaxing by the pool and, no doubt, a few social drinks are on the agenda as Souness continues his search for a winning formula.

Souness has tried everything - making changes tohis side and system - to reverse the run of results that has left a team supposedly capable of challenging for a Champions' League place in the bottom two in the Premiership. Now he hopes the bracing air of his homeland and some pampering may do the trick.

"I've never experienced anything like this in 35 years," Souness said yesterday. "This is a new experience for me, and I'm finding a lot out about myself as we go through this bad patch."

Souness, who will be without Andy Cole and David Thompson for Blackburn's next match against Everton, wants to take his players away from the downbeat atmosphere and any bad headlines in the build-up to that match. This dismal run has hurt Souness's pride but has still not shaken his belief in his players, many of whom were only recently signed by him.

Souness has stood by his players, sometimes sticking up for them and covering their faults as he tries to build a side. The blame has instead been laid elsewhere - on opposition managers and coaches, referees and their assistants - and Souness's latest idea is to show to the players that the manager is on their side.

There is a unity about the club, with the board and the chief executive, John Williams, behind Souness. The situation Rovers now find themselves in is, after all, minor compared to what Souness has achieved in his time at Ewood Park.

Under Souness, Blackburn have won promotion to the Premiership, the Worthington Cup and qualified for Europe in three seasons of increasing success. The fact that Souness turned down the chance of replacing Glenn Hoddle at Tottenham only a fortnight ago is also fresh in the memory.

Souness added that he has no plans to implement wholesale changes. "I can understand the fans' disappointment and I'd like to reassure them that no one is more frustrated by the current situation than the players themselves," he said. "But this is not the time for me to start criticising people. We've all got to pull together and work at turning things around together, and the spirit in the dressing-room is the big thing that encourages me to believe we can do that.

"We've got players who are playing without confidence at the moment, but a couple of good results could change that." And so might a few days away from it all in Scotland.

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