The Souness Years - In Their Own Words (Part 5) - The Unforgivable Interview

The Souness Years - In Their Own Words (Part 5) - The Unforgivable Interview

This is the fifth instalment of our Souness Years series, looking behind-the-scenes of what went on at Liverpool during the Souness era of the early 90s. 

You can find the first four parts here: Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4

RONNIE WHELAN: Dicks and Ruddock were bought because Souey wanted strong, hard men in his team. And that’s fine – Souey was a strong, hard man too. But he was a top-class ball-player as well.

JAN MOLBY: As a manager, he felt that if he bought hard men he could make them play. But they weren’t good enough, and he couldn’t do it.

GRAEME SOUNESS: Ruddock was a better footballer than people remember but he struggled with his weight. Of all the players who left Anfield in my time the only one I wished I had kept was Steve Staunton.

RONNIE WHELAN: Stan was twenty-two. He went on to have seven great seasons at Aston Villa and became one of the best left-backs in the country.

GRAEME SOUNESS: It was just unfortunate that a ridiculous new rule was introduced while I was in charge that classified non-English players as foreigners and decreed that you only play three of them at any one time. It was clear the implications could be disastrous for us. The FA Cup-winning side of 1986 did not include a single Englishman. The irony was that the regulation was withdrawn a year later, but while it was in force it created havoc and had a direct bearing on how we assembled our squad.

JULIAN DICKS: I remember saying to him ‘I’m a better player than Steve Staunton’. He liked that.

DOMINIC MATTEO: He got a lot of stick when the Julian Dicks transfer flopped.

HARRY REDKNAPP: It was me that sold Julian Dicks to Liverpool. I went up to a Liverpool game and said to Graeme, ‘look we’ve got a fella here, he can really play, he’s a bit of a nutter, but on his day when he puts his mind to it he’s as good as anybody.

DOMINIC MATTEO: Maybe Anfield just wasn’t the place for Julian. But Graeme wasn’t to know that when he signed.

HARRY REDKNAPP: I thought a change of club would be good for him – he’d be less of a big fish in a small pond – and it might just sort him out. It would also be a good move for the future of West Ham.

GRAEME SOUNESS: We had the problem of Irish players being considered as ‘foreigners’ and with David Burrows doing well we thought that maybe Steve Staunton was surplus to requirements and sold him to Aston Villa. As time went on I became less happy with Burrows, though, and had seen Julian play many times and thought he was my type of player.

IAN RUSH: Julian arrived with a reputation for being a very physical player and one with a poor disciplinary record. Not your ‘typical’ Liverpool player at all.

CAROL DICKS (wife of Julian): He got on with some of the players – the younger ones, such as Jamie Redknapp, Rob Jones and Robbie Fowler. But the older ones didn’t want to know. The best of the older ones was John Barnes because he mixed with both sets. Whereas the likes of Ian Rush and Steve Nicol just wanted to pick on the kids when they wanted their own way. But they couldn’t get their way with Julian. He’d just tell them to ‘sod off’.

ROB JONES: He did a great job at West Ham, but with respect, Liverpool is a different level. His knees were knackered so I have no idea how he passed the medical to make the move in the first place. He literally had no cartilage in his knees. You knew he would always give 100% and he had a great left foot on him, but he lacked pace, which can be difficult for a full-back.

JULIAN DICKS: Graeme came to meet me in the Haydock Thistle Hotel, by the racecourse. He told me that I was his kind of player and that he didn’t want me to change. He wanted me just the way I was. As soon as I met him I thought that he was the kind of guy I wanted to play under. He was straight. You looked at him and there was just something about him.

GRAEME SOUNESS: Dicks could be difficult to handle, but when match day came around you knew what you would get from him. If there were a young Julian Dicks out there today I would not hesitate to sign him. I never had a real problem with him but Ronnie Moran did. Julian did not take to his training methods.

PAUL MORAN: When me and my Dad were having conversations about the decline he would say “Some of the players we have signed aren’t Liverpool players and don’t fit into how we have played for a long time, or don’t want to fit in.” One player that springs to mind was Souness’ last signing, Julian Dicks.

JULIAN DICKS: I used to row with Ronnie every day. He grew up with Shankly and he’d have his own way of training. I’d always been used to smashing a ball about for half an hour before training, but when I tried to do that at Liverpool they didn’t like it. They used to ask for the ball back and I’d tell them to piss off.

GRAEME SOUNESS: He wouldn’t have been the first person to have friction with that individual. But that person has been at the club a long time. It would have been nothing personal with Julian – in my opinion, he was as good as Stuart Pearce.

GRAEME SOUNESS: Nine months into my time at Liverpool my blood pressure was classed as very high, and I was advised to take an ECG. They spotted something they were not happy with and asked me back for a second test. There, they showed that I had suffered a mild heart attack at some stage of my life without knowing it. I was persuaded the next step was to take an angiogram, but I tried to forget about it. Try to imagine what was going through my mind when they told me I needed a triple heart bypass operation at the age of 38. I was told one artery was 75% blocked, another 85%, and another 90%. If my condition worsened, the consequences were potentially fatal. This all happened on a Thursday and the FA Cup Semi-Final was three days later. I agreed to an operation on the Tuesday. On the Friday, The Sun newspaper contacted me, and I foolishly agreed to write an article about it.

ROBBIE FOWLER: He’s a smart guy, so to this day I still can’t understand why he sold his story to the Sun.

GRAEME SOUNESS: They offered £50,000 and I accepted, although in the end I never took a penny, giving it to Alder Hey Children’s Hospital. The article appeared on the Monday, a day before the operation, and it might have been a good idea for me to resign then and there. The Sun had asked me to pose for a picture to celebrate Liverpool reaching Wembley. I agreed to it, but the photo wasn’t published until April 15 – the anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster. I contacted The Sun’s London office, and they said it was a coincidence. I have to admit in the eyes of most of the public I must have come across as a really horrible person, and that was a shock. I was far from well, mentally and physically, and those body blows did hit home.

ROBBIE FOWLER: To be fair to him, he wasn’t a well man and his judgment must have been slightly clouded, but he had people around him who should have made it clear to him that it was professional insanity.

JAN MOLBY: It was a huge own goal – even though he said he would donate the fee to charity. He shouldn’t have done it in the first place. Later, he quite rightly made a public apology. Obviously, the players felt strongly about it too, but nobody had a go at Souness.

DOMINIC MATTEO: I still can’t understand why he went to them with the story in the first place. Since Hillsborough, the reputation of the Sun on Merseyside has been rock bottom because of their disgraceful coverage of the disaster. In fact, it has never managed to recover sales lost in the aftermath of the tragedy.

GRAEME SOUNESS: There are no excuses for what I did. I will regret the decision forever. I don’t have a defence.

ROBBIE FOWLER: It is hard to explain to someone who’s not from Liverpool how much those tragic events hurt our city, and not just because of the tragic loss of life. It does seem almost incomprehensible that Souey didn’t realise what he was bringing on himself.

JAN MOLBY: I think he’s probably regretted selling his story to the Sun many times ever since.

PHIL THOMPSON: I knew he had made a mistake, and Graeme probably knew it as well. Whenever people asked me about it, I would try and explain that he did not understand the depth of feeling about The Sun because he had been in Scotland when all of the controversy unfolded. He was my boss and my instinct was to try and be protective towards him. I can remember Graeme returning just before the FA Cup Final. From my side, I just felt that something was not right.

GRAEME SOUNESS: I was in a Manchester hospital recovering from my heart operation and Walter Smith drove down from Scotland to inform me what was going on at my own club. Ronnie Moran had taken charge as caretaker manager and Roy Evans as his right-hand man, but Phil Thompson had promoted himself to fill the gap I had left, and to make matters worse was trying to dominate team talks before games. After the United game, he went into the Boot Room and criticised everything I had done as manager with the visiting manager and coach in attendance. It showed a divide in what should be a united club. I am told Roy tried to intervene but Phil just ignored him. Brian Kidd was so shocked by this attack he rang Archie Knox the same evening. Archie told Walter Smith, and Walter came to the hospital. I remember him saying ‘This is not the best time to be telling you this after such a major operation but you need to know a member of your staff has been criticising you behind your back.’

PHIL THOMPSON: Apparently, when the team beat Manchester United 2-0 at Anfield when Graeme was ill, I am supposed to have said something to their coach Brian Kidd in the Boot Room about Graeme changing things too much at the club. I am alleged to have said: ‘this club is not the same. There is not the same closeness.’ Whether I said those words about Graeme, I don’t know.. What I do know is it caused me tremendous personal grief and affected all of my family, not least my sons. I had to tell them what had happened. The two of them started crying.

GRAEME SOUNESS: I’ll always wonder why Phil did this. Was he jumping on the bandwagon because of the article I had written in The Sun, or was it a simmering resentment going back to when I took the captaincy off him?

PHIL THOMPSON: Of course, there had been a problem between Graeme and myself when I lost the captaincy to him in 1981, but I spent three years with him after that and it was water under the bridge.

GRAEME SOUNESS: Whatever the reason, his actions were inexcusable and I decided he had to go. Nobody on the board spoke up on his behalf, and Roy Evans did not reappoint him when he took over from me.

PHIL THOMPSON: I’m still uptight all these years on that he never gave me a chance to explain those ‘alleged’ words.

To be continued…

References

John Aldridge – Alright Aldo (2011)

Arnie Baldursson – Ronnie Moran – Mr Liverpool (2017)

John Barnes – The Autobiography (1999)

Peter Beardsley – My Life Story (1995)

Kirk Blows – Terminator – The Authorised Julian Dicks Story (1996)

Jamie Carragher – Carra: My Autobiography (2009)

Jan Molby – Jan The Man (2004)

Kenny Dalglish – My Liverpool Home (2010)

Rob Jones & Paul Hassall – Robbed

Dominic Matteo – In My Defence (2011)

Steve McManaman – El Macca (2005)

Neil Ruddock – Hell Razor (1999)

Ian Rush – Rush: The Autobiography (2009)

Graeme Souness – The Management Years (1997)

Graeme Souness – Football: My Life, My Passion (2017)

Paul Stewart – Damaged (2017)

Phil Thompson – Stand Up Pinocchio (2005)

Ronnie Whelan – My Life In Red (2011)