Souness in for rough ride

GRAEME Souness' appointment at Newcastle was much like one of his tackles during his Liverpool playing days.It came out of the blue, had maximum impact and hurt like hell.

By Derek Davis

GRAEME Souness' appointment at Newcastle was much like one of his tackles during his Liverpool playing days.

It came out of the blue, had maximum impact and hurt like hell.

But as nasty and vicious as those tackles were, even in the days when football was a contact sport, they generally had the desired effect.

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Souness was a great player in a great team that was part of a dynasty which kept the trophy cabinet-makers at Anfield busy for a couple of decades.

His arrival at St James' Park has left supporters as bemused as his opponents were back then. Is he the real deal or just a bully with a reputation?

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Certainly, his record as a manger in the Premiership can be regarded as average, at best, after spells at Liverpool, Southampton and Blackburn.

Sorry, what was that? A League Cup final victory over Spurs?

That alone is more than any Newcastle United team has managed since 1969.

Added to that - three Scottish League titles and a handful of other assorted cups north of the border.

He has also shown his passion and belligerence in Turkey, Italy and Portugal.

Now he has taken over at, potentially, one of the biggest clubs in the world.

The supporters are fanatical and the facilities first-class, with a squad of players with the potential to actually win something, and a bit of cash in reserve to make those changes in January.

But sleeping giants in the Premiership are a bit like those in Jack in the Beanstalk, we hear all the Fe-Fo-Fi-Fumming but they never really stir and do anything to scare anyone.

Souness could be just the man to go in there and kick and cajole a dressing room that has spiralled out of control.

Firstly, he has to get Alan Shearer on side, my guess is that it is already a done deal or Newcastle chairman Freddie Shepherd would not have dared take him on, but then he also has to deal with corridors of deceit and double-dealing.

I can't see Souness putting up with players being bought and sold without his agreement, never mind knowledge, but, at the same time, he will be grooming Shearer to take over from him, officially that is, in a couple of years.

Like most of Souness' career, I can see some silverware somewhere along the line, but I fear it will all in end in acrimonious tears.

AN hour of Fighting Talk on my way to away games on Saturday is a staple footy diet.

I don't mean the all-too-easy debates with photographer Warren Page, who is no contest, but the lively talk show on BBC's Five Live.

The 'play-off' is always a question where the two finalists have to defend the indefensible and I warrant this week one statement to back will be 'David James is England's greatest living keeper and should keep his place'.

Not even Trevor Brooking would be able to put up an argument for the big Manchester City keeper.

The question on whether Sven-Goran Eriksson should keep his place as England manager is far more contentious.

Seemingly, the fact that it would cost £14m to give him the boot causes most concern but, surely, if he failed to lead England to the World Cup Finals in Germany in 2006 that would be far more expensive.

Despite the heartfelt wishes of many, even a failure to win in Poland will not lead to Eriksson's dismissal.

That would mean decisive action from the FA international board, which is as divided as ever and dithering as usual.

Of course, the fans can see that Eriksson has made a mistake in sticking by James this long - we all knew the keeper would make another mistake sooner rather than later.

As for the Steven Gerrard substiution, well, who do you believe?

The player, who described it as a big misunderstanding and really Wayne Bridge should have gone off, or Eriksson, who said it was a planned substitution all along?

Either way, England threw away a 2-0 lead and ended up with a draw as once again the failure to guide the team to victory from the bench proved decisive.

We saw in the last World Cup, and we saw in Euro 2004, how managers can make a difference from the sidelines. Not once has Eriksson provided that.

The problem is, who replaces Eriksson? Sir Clive Woodward is not ready just yet, and any other half-decent manager will avoid the post.

NOTTINGHAM Forest have rejected to opportunity to take Chris Bart-Williams on trial.

The out-of-work midfielder has been touting his services since his unsuccessful spell at Ipswich ended in the summer.

He went on trial at Leeds United but they didn't want him after all.

Meanwhile, Alun Armstrong is to try his luck with Rotherham United after recovering from an Achilles injury.

Two goalkeepers are facing allegations of sexual assault.

Millwall's Graham Stack has been released on bail until October 22 after a night out in Beckenham last week.

Stack played in the Arsenal side which reached the semi-finals if the League Cup last season.

And Jamie Waite, the youth-team keeper released by Rotherham in the summer, is on bail pending inquiries into an alleged incident in Birmingham.

Waite once claimed to have played for the Thai senior team in a full international, though this was later disproved and denied by the then Thai manager Peter Withe.

STERN John will today choose between Leeds United and Coventry City after both clubs agreed a fee of £250,000 with Birmingham City for the Trinidad & Tobago striker.

Whoever he decides to sign for, it will be an interesting debut for the former Nottingham Forest hit-man as Leeds and Coventry play each other on Saturday.

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