Being a Newcastle fan you learn to live more in hope than expectation, yet the one thing we do demand is to be entertained. Graeme Souness was on the verge of the sack from Blackburn Rovers in August 2004 and yet Newcastle United’s walking public relations disaster and part-time chairman, Freddie Shepherd, in his infinite wisdom decided to PAY the Lancashire club for the man’s services! £1.65m later and with several lucrative contracts sorted for Souey’s entourage of a clueless old timer, a few well wishers and his ‘yes’ man Dean Saunders, Newcastle United proudly presented Souness to the media. The new manager spoke in glowing terms about the club and how proud he was that his son would grow up with a Geordie accent. In reality he was probably just amazed that someone had once again been daft enough to employ him.
With one of Souness’ best friends being camp crimper Dale Winton, there is no doubt that the fiery Scot could have got a gig on Supermarket sweep or something equally as testing of his remarkable ‘talents’. That is if he didn’t get angry with Dale hogging the spotlight and as a result launch into a two footed tackle on a shopping trolley. The one time I asked Dale Winton for a favour he didn’t come through for me, damn.
There wasn’t the same fanfare from the Tyneside crowd that was usually afforded to a new manager as Souness made his first appearance at SJP. Keegan and Robson had been hailed as saviours, Dalglish was warmly received and everyone got the wigs out for Ruud Gullit. Not this time though, although the Mags hammered Souness’ previous club 3-0 (Souness was officially on ‘gardening leave’). Blackburn Rovers were a shambles that day and many onlookers questioned how badly they must have been managed to get into such a state. Our new leader just sat in the stands beaming a wide smile next to his son who wore a full Newcastle kit, perhaps hoping that it would speed up the transition of his boy’s soon to be Geordie accent. Fans knew even then what the chairman apparently didn’t until the last few weeks of the Souness tenure – this was an accident waiting to happen.
In my mind there is no doubt that Sir Bobby Robson had passed his sell by date long before he was kicked out of his job as gaffer. Not because he was a 71-year old man who forgot people’s names, he was doing that in his 50’s as England manager (Once calling Bryan Robson ‘Bobby’ to which his captain replied «No gaffer, you’re Bobby, I’m Bryan!»), but because he was making no sense in his tactical decisions and had given his all but looked worn out. With that in mind Robson should have been told that his time was up at the end of the 2003-2004 campaign and could have gracefully moved on. Instead he was sacked just four games into a season, the third consecutive Toon manager to be ousted after a handful of early season games.
Despite all of the concerns over the new man, Souness started well and the club went ten games undefeated under his guidance. A number of fans were ready to accept him and yet there remained an overall feeling of scepticism in the North Eastern air. Mark Hughes was installed at Blackburn and immediately commented on how unfit his players were and that he was appalled with the stories he had heard about the training sessions before he arrived. Most people took his remarks with a pinch of salt at the time, only later did they seem apt.
It was only a matter of time before somebody upset Souness and that man was the volatile Craig Bellamy, the club’s most in-form player and also the most outspoken. Bellamy boasted to players that he would feign injury and refuse to play as he felt he was being wasted on the wings rather than his preferred role up front, Souness reacted by leaving him out of the match at Highbury against Arsenal. Souey claims he was willing to forgive and forget until the player did an interview with Sky Sports saying that his manager: «Went behind my back, right in front of my face.» Of course this showed two things – 1. Craig Bellamy is about as intelligent as a monkey with Alzheimer’s disease and 2. Souness’ man management skills are appalling.
So Bellers was packed off to Celtic on loan and in many ways this was the beginning of the end. The team now lacked creativity and pace. When Kieron Dyer’s old Hamstring/foot/liver/eyebrow injury inevitably recurred the team suddenly looked short of ideas and this is when Souness realised that a creative genius was needed and not content with just one, he managed to find three. Jean Alain Boumsong, to whom defending is such a complicated art, was the first. If £8.5m is what he’s worth then my Mum is the pope’s wife. Then came the great Amady Faye – to this day one of the most under rated players ever…. That is if he is rated as the equivalent of a bag of treacle being eaten by a diabetic man with no taste buds and false teeth. The third of these gems was Celestine Babayaro from Chelsea who is talented but gives about as much effort as Michael Barrymore trying to fish dead bodies out of swimming pools.
Out went talented players such as Olivier Bernard and of course Bellamy who ironically eventually ended up at Blackburn. The team slumped to 14th in the league, injuries mounted up (As they had at Blackburn under Souness) and the only potential saving graces were the cups. The FA cup always looked a long shot; we were in the semi-final but faced an in-form Manchester United. The UEFA cup was more likely to bring us our first major trophy in 50 years, hopes that were soon extinguished. The 2nd of April, 2005, was one of the darkest days in Newcastle United’s 113 year history. Aston Villa came to St James’ park to face a Newcastle side that was unbeaten in nine games; they left with a 3-0 win over the EIGHT players that remained in black and white shirts. Firstly Steven Taylor was sent off for handball (Despite a great impression of a dying swan) and then any hope we still had of salvaging our season evaporated into the overcast sky. Lee Bowyer walked towards Kieron Dyer and started to throw punches at his colleague. Both players were red carded and thereafter criticised heavily in the media, but make no mistake, this was Bowyer’s fault and fans were quick to see that. Be that as it may, it was Souness who was the fall guy as his team went out of both cups with a brace of 4-1 defeats to Sporting Lisbon and Manchester United in the same week. Now nothing was left to disguise the shortcomings of the manager in a miserable inaugural season on Tyneside.
Compra online la Camisetas de fútbol! En JD encontrarás las del FC Barcelona, Real Madrid, la selección de España y equipos internacionales. by Dominic Kureen