Souness's career began as an apprentice at Tottenham Hotspur under Bill Nicholson. He signed professional forms as a 15 year-old in 1968. Frustrated at a lack of first team opportunities, the teenage Souness reputedly informed Nicholson that he was the best player at the club. Souness made one solitary appearance for Spurs in the UEFA cup as a substitute.
During the summer of 1972, Souness played in the North American Soccer League for the Montreal Olympique. He appeared in 10 of his team’s 14 games, and was named in the league’s All-Star team for that season.
Back in England, Souness had played just once for Spurs prior to a £30,000 move to Middlesbrough in 1972. His debut came on 6 January 1973 in a 2-1 league defeat to Fulham at Craven Cottage. His first goal came on 11 December 1973 in a 3-0 league victory over Preston North End at Ayresome Park.
Souness's tenacious style began to garner increasing acclaim during his time at Middlesbrough. His first season saw Middlesbrough finish fourth, two places and 14 points short of promotion. In May 1973, the recently retired Jack Charlton was appointed to his first managerial post. Promotion as champions of the Second Division followed. Souness's growing influence was demonstrated in a hat-trick in the season's final fixture, an 8-0 victory over Sheffield Wednesday.
His time at Anfield began in 1978 as a replacement for veteran Ian Callaghan. After winning a first European Cup in 1977, Liverpool manager Bob Paisley sought reinforcements by signing three Scottish players, all of whom were to contribute substantially to further success. Central defender Alan Hansen arrived from Partick Thistle for £110,000. Kenny Dalglish - an established Scottish international - signed from Celtic for a then British record fee of £440,000. Souness formed the final part of the Scottish triumvirate, leaving Middlesbrough in acrimonious circumstances for a club-record fee of £350,000 on 10 January 1978.
Souness's Liverpool debut came in a 1-0 league victory over West Bromwich Albion at The Hawthorns on 14 January 1978. His first goal - a characteristic volley just inside the penalty box, eventually awarded fans' goal of the season - came in a 3-1 win over bitter rivals Manchester United at Anfield on 25 February 1978.
Sustained success followed. Souness's first League title medals were won in seasons 1978-79 and 1979-80. A second European Cup medal for Souness arrived in 1981 with a 1-0 victory over Real Madrid - the culmination of a campaign in which Souness scored a hat-trick in the quarter-final against CSKA Sofia.
This burst of success prompted Paisley to award Souness the club captaincy for season 1981-82, to the chagrin of the incumbent Phil Thompson. Under Souness's captaincy, two trophies followed as Liverpool regained the League championship and retained the League Cup - trophies that were successfully defended in season 1982-83. Souness relinquished his right as captain to lift the League Cup at Wembley after the 2-1 win over Manchester United in 1983, insisting that Paisley collected the trophy in his retirement season.
Souness's Liverpool career ended in 1984 after 358 appearances and 56 goals.
Souness's career in Italy ended in 1986 as he took up the position of player-manager at Rangers.
A defeat and a draw in Scotland's first two World Cup group games against Peru and Iran saw calls for Souness, recovered from injury, to play in the critical final group match against the Netherlands. Replacing an established midfield, Souness contributed to a 3-2 victory that nevertheless saw Scotland eliminated from the tournament on goal difference.
Souness played in two further World Cups. The first, in 1982 in Spain, saw Souness play all three group games. His first international goal arrived in the final match prior to elimination, a 2-2 draw with USSR in Malaga.
A final World Cup appearance came in 1986 in Mexico, at a time when Souness had already been appointed Rangers player-manager. Souness played in defeats to Denmark and West Germany. He was omitted by caretaker manager Alex Ferguson for Scotland's final game against Uruguay.
Souness's Scotland career ended after the World Cup after 54 appearances and four goals in almost 12 years.
What came popularly to be termed the 'Souness Revolution' began with a slew of major signings from English clubs. Significantly, this reversed the historic pattern of Scotland's most able footballers playing in England. Souness's first season saw the arrival of players such as Terry Butcher, captain of Ipswich Town and an established England international, and Chris Woods of Norwich City, England's second-choice goalkeeper. Subsequent seasons saw the arrival of other English internationals, such as Trevor Steven, Gary Stevens, Trevor Francis and Ray Wilkins. Souness was able to offer the lure of European club competition, at a time - 1985-90 - when English clubs were banned from Europe in the wake of the Heysel Stadium disaster. Rangers profited from this by embarking upon a signing policy which drew on their relative wealth to compete, for the first time, directly with England's most powerful clubs.
Souness's revitalised Rangers quickly began to dominate Scottish football. In his first season, 1986-87 they won the Championship and the League Cup, beating Celtic 2-1 in the Final. Two more Championships were to follow, this time in successive seasons (1988-89 and 1989-90), and a further two League Cup victories, over Aberdeen 3-2 in 1988-89 and Celtic 2-1 in 1990-91. Souness left Rangers, to take over as manager of Liverpool, in 1991, replaced by his assistant, Walter Smith, four games prior to the end of what was to become another championship-winning season.
Souness's time at Ibrox was marked by persistent controversy. His most noteworthy act was the controversial signing of Mo Johnston in 1989. Rangers - historically a team supported by Protestants - were widely held to have implemented for most of the twentieth century a policy of refusing to sign Roman Catholics. Although several previous Rangers players came from Catholic backgrounds (including, at the time of Johnston's signing, John Spencer), their religious background was not made public and none of them were high-profile players. Johnston's arrival at Ibrox was significant because it signaled a very public end to a discriminatory signing policy. It was also significant because Johnston, a former Celtic player and coveted Scottish international, had days earlier at a press conference at Celtic Park publicly announced his decision to return to his former club.
Further controversy centred on Souness's dealings with the Scottish Football Association and Scottish League hierarchies. A succession of confrontational after-match comments pitched Souness regularly at loggerheads with both organisations, prompting touchline bans which Souness circumvented in characteristically provocative fashion by naming himself as a substitute, allowing access as a player to the dugout. Souness was later to claim that conflict with officialdom was one of the principal factors precipitating his departure from Ibrox.
Souness's appointment as Rangers' manager garnered most attention, but his arrival as a player was also of significance. Souness arrived at Ibrox with a reputation as one of Europe's leading midfielders - a view evidenced by his success at Liverpool and, to a lesser extent, with Sampdoria. His signing was unusual in that Scottish clubs had rarely been able to sign top-quality internationals, including Scots, from other leagues.
Souness's playing career at Ibrox began inauspiciously. His competitive debut - in the opening game of the 1986-87 season, against Hibernian in his hometown of Edinburgh - saw him sent off after two yellow cards in the first 34 minutes. Souness later self-deprecatingly argued that his second booking, for a foul on George McCluskey, had been awarded because "my boot ran up his leg!". Disciplinary problems - something that had recurred periodically throughout Souness's career - resurfaced on a number of occasions during his time as a player at Rangers.
Souness made 49 appearances for Rangers. Much of his time as player was blighted by injury. His final appearance as a player was at Ibrox in a 2-0 victory over Dunfermline Athletic in Rangers' last home game of the 1989-90 season, when he brought himself on for the final 20 minutes.
In 1990, when Rangers visited McDiarmid Park to take on St. Johnstone, the Glasgow club left their dressing room in such a state that St. Johnstone tea-lady Aggie Moffat was moved to ask, "Would you leave your home like that? This led to Souness enquiring as to Moffat's ability to tidy up. A verbal ear-bashing from Moffat ensued.
Rumours about squabbles in the dressing room between the players and Souness were rife, with Ian Rush famously telling a Sky Sports interviewer that 'teacups being thrown' were nothing new. Souness' only consolation at this time was the fact that he had blooded several new prodigious young talents like Steve McManaman and Robbie Fowler allowing them to play and develop in the first team as compared to all the other senior players whom Souness accused of lacking heart.
Ironically, it was his own heart that literally was under stress. Souness had major heart surgery in 1992, and led his players out at Wembley for the FA Cup final just days after leaving hospital. But there had been controversy over the semi-final against Portsmouth
The game itself went to a replay and then a penalty shoot-out, and in the event of a victory, an interview was due to be published in The Sun, a British tabloid, with Souness celebrating the win and his own successful surgery. The photograph which accompanied the interview was of Souness, in his hospital ward, kissing his girlfriend with joy at his own recovery and his team's win.
The interview was due to go in alongside the match report on 14 April 1992 but the late end to the game meant that the deadline for publication was missed and the report, with interview and photograph, went in on 15 April instead - the third anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster.
Liverpool fans reacted with fury after seeing that the interview was conducted with The Sun - a newspaper which had been boycotted by many people on Merseyside for the intervening years over its reporting of the events at Hillsborough. Although he apologised profusely at the time, Souness has since said that he probably should have resigned.
After his stint at Southampton, Souness went back to Italy to become the coach at Torino Calcio. When he arrived it was clear he would have no say in what players he could buy or sell. The owner made those decisions. Souness lasted just four months before being fired.
He then guided Blackburn to a top 6 finish before a disappointing final season in 2003-2004 in which the club struggled, although they avoided relegation. After less than one month of the following season many Blackburn fans had begun to express grave doubts in Souness' handling of the club. His authoritarian methods had led to the alienation or departure of Yorke, Cole and Dunn. He could not be blamed for the long term loss of Matt Jansen to a motorbike accident or Damien Duff's departure to Chelsea. None of these players however were sufficiently replaced. Vratislav Gresko, Lorenzo Amoruso and Corrado Grabbi were all flops, whilst Steven Reid and Brett Emerton were also disappointing - although both shone for Blackburn after Souness' departure. Fans also became increasingly confused by Souness' tactical decisions. In spite of his undoubted successes at Ewood Park he is regarded with little fondness by some sections of Blackburn supporters.
Souness quickly fell out with a number of players including Welsh international Craig Bellamy who left the club to join Souness's former employers, Blackburn, after being farmed out on loan to Celtic. Laurent Robert, Olivier Bernard and Jermaine Jenas are also believed to have left the club on bad terms with Souness. The team finished 14th in the league and despite making it to the semi-finals of the UEFA Cup and the FA Cup, Souness found himself under mounting pressure from Toon supporters.
Newcastle began the 2005-06 season in poor form but Souness was hoping that the purchase of Michael Owen from Real Madrid on 30 August for an estimated club-record fee of £17 million would help to turn the club's fortunes around. Newcastle recorded a win in the Tyne-Wear derby against Sunderland (3-2), and went on to win their next three games keeping three clean sheets. Souness seemed to be tightening-up Newcastle in defence, with six clean sheets in Newcastle's first 12 games of the season (as many as the whole of the preceding campaign).
Souness's decision to pair two of the best England strikers in Alan Shearer and Michael Owen initially appeared shrewd. However, to Souness's misfortune, Michael Owen cracked the fifth metatarsal of his right foot when he clashed with England team-mate Paul Robinson during a 2-0 defeat at Tottenham on 30 December 2005 and was out of action for three months, adding to the manager's injury woes.
Criticism of Souness's apparent lack of long term planning centred on a threadbare squad and a consequent vulnerability to injury. Expensive signings such as Jean-Alain Boumsong for £8 million and Albert Luque for £10 million failed to make an impression.
By the end of his reign as Newcastle boss, Souness was deeply unpopular with the Newcastle fans, as evidenced by the frequency and vociferousness of "Souness Out" chants. By the beginning of February 2006, Newcastle United were placed 15th in the Premiership league table and sliding dangerously towards a relegation battle, despite the spending of £50m since Souness's arrival. Despite club captain Alan Shearer's publicly voiced loyalty and confidence in Souness's management of the team, results were not going in United's favour and sports media consistently questioned his position at the club. On 2 February2006, Newcastle United announced Graeme Souness had been released from his manager position by Chairman Freddy Shepard and replaced by United's Youth Academy Director Glenn Roeder.
In the club's DVD season review for the 2005–06 season, goalkeeper Shay Given and defender Robbie Elliott, acknowledged that Souness was under pressure at the club as a result of injuries to the squad and admitted that some players were to blame for their lack of all round effort, but also admitted there was a bad atmosphere at the training ground, with Souness seeming to favour some players over others. Alan Shearer acknowledged that the fans never really accepted Souness, whilst after Souness's first eight games, injuries had damaged the team's confidence and morale.
“There remains inconsistencies in evidence provided by Graeme Souness - a former manager of the club - and Kenneth Shepherd - apparently acting in an undefined role but not as a club official - as to their respective roles in transfer negotiations.”
Souness issued a statement denying any wrong-doing: "I cannot understand why my name features in this report. I volunteered full information to Quest as a witness and I have heard nothing further from them."
The Stevens enquiry then issued a clarification: "We wish to make it clear that inconsistencies did not exist within the evidence given by Graeme Souness to Quest concerning his role in transfers covered by the Inquiry during his time as manager of Newcastle United FC and neither the Premier League nor do Quest have any concerns in this regard.
In July 2007, Newcastle United was raided by the City of London Police intent on investigating transfer dealings involving Newcastle, Rangers and Portsmouth. The enquiries centre on two Souness transfers - Jean Alain Boumsong and Amady Faye. The Boumsong deal in particular was so odd that it was widely commented upon at the time. Four months after succeeding Sir Bobby Robson as manager, Graeme Souness was in his first transfer window as Newcastle manager. At £8.2m, Boumsong was his first big signing and Souness compared the Frenchman to John Terry and Rio Ferdinand in terms of what he might bring to Newcastle's notoriously fragile defence. The difficulty Souness and Newcastle had in persuading assessors of the worth of the deal was twofold. First, that no other club was known to be challenging Rangers to sign Boumsong and, second, that six months earlier Boumsong had left Auxerre for Rangers on a free transfer.
Newcastle were well aware of Boumsong prior to his departure from Auxerre because Robson had travelled to France to watch him. Robson declined the opportunity to sign the centre-half, even on a free transfer, and his doubts about Boumsong's suitability for British football were confirmed when Newcastle's England striker Alan Shearer was marked by Boumsong in a pre-season game against Rangers and came off to speak in dismissive terms about the Frenchman's lack of physicality.
Shearer, famous for guarded comments, even mentioned Boumsong's previous availability on a free transfer on television and when Boumsong made his Newcastle debut against Yeading in the FA Cup at Loftus Road, and was given a torrid time, doubts over the wisdom of the transfer mushroomed. However when Boumsong was available for transfer under the Bosman ruling, Liverpool were interested in signing him .
The agent in the Boumsong and Faye transfers was Willie McKay. On 7 November 2007, Quest issued the following statement about McKay's dealings: "Further to the key findings from the final Quest report published on 15 June 2007 by the Premier League, Quest would like to emphasise that, in that report, it was clear that no evidence of irregular payments was found in the transfers in the inquiry period which involved the agent Willie McKay. Quest would also like to thank Mr McKay for his cooperation with the inquiry."
In January 2008, Souness announced he would be willing to return to Newcastle United as manager, following the departure of Sam Allardyce and the arrival of the club's new ownership and board. However, United only interviewed Harry Redknapp and Kevin Keegan for the position, with Kevin Keegan soon after being appointed with the job; Souness's interests has never been publicly acknowledged by the club.
In 1982, Souness and team-mate Sammy Lee made cameo appearances, as themselves, in an episode of the BBC's Liverpudlian drama series Boys From The Blackstuff. Written by Alan Bleasdale, the series offered a critique of Thatcherism - and in particular the large-scale unemployment then evident in urban Britain - apparently at odds with Souness's own Conservative politics.
Souness is an opponent of independence for Scotland and a supporter of the Union with England. In 2007, in the lead-up to elections to the Scottish Parliament, Souness was one of 15 prominent current and former footballers named in a newspaper advertisement as opponents of independence.
A poll of 110,000 Liverpool supporters - 100 Players Who Shook The Kop, saw Souness placed the ninth most popular player in the club's history.
Souness was inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame in 2007 in recognition of his contribution to the game
Souness is one of 64 players elected to Rangers' official Hall of Fame.
Souness is one of 24 players qualifying for the Scottish national team Hall of Fame.
|Rangers||April 1 1986||April 16 1991||260||165||45||50||63.3|
|Liverpool||April 16 1991||January 28 1994||157||65||45||47||41.40|
|Southampton||July 3 1996||June 1 1997||48||14||19||15||29.16|
|Torino||July 5 1997||October 12 1997|
|Blackburn Rovers||March 14 2000||September 6 2004||212||86||65||61||40.56|
|Newcastle United||September 13 2004||February 2 2006||83||36||29||18||43.37|