Why Graeme Souness was correct....

Published: Tuesday, 05 February 2019

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Brilliant eh? Just hearing his voice sends shivers down my spine. He was why Liverpool were always my 2nd favourite team as I grew up. Listen to it again before you read on....

Other than that razor sharp, gravelly, mesmerising Scottish accent - do you know the best thing about it? Correct - it’s simplicity. He’s right. Absolutely right.

Football is a very simple game - largely unchanged. The goals are the same size. The pitches are better, but largely the same size. The ball is better, but the same size. And here’s another fact, no matter what era , the successful football teams will always have had the best players.

It isn’t about 4-2-3-1’s. 4-4-2’s. 4-3-3’s. 4-1-2-3’s. My goodness, listening to today’s modern co-comms makes my head hurt. Within 3 minutes of a game starting they’re explaining game plans, telling us what’s going wrong - who’s ‘isolated’ and why. It’s nonsense. I’m forever grateful that I live and work in a part of the world where I can enjoy listening to the excellent Andy Townsend and Jim Beglin. They’re both quality - keeping things simple.

Before I go on, let’s get all the abuse out of the way from the keyboard cowards - who aren’t going to like much else in this column. ‘W****r’. ‘Sexist’. ‘Hairy prick’. ‘Adulterer’. And ‘disgraced’ - that one is especially for my friends at the Daily Mail. There we are. Done. Now maybe we can have a sensible debate.

That’s the thing about football - it inspires debate. We all have an opinion. We’re all allowed to have an opinion. There’s nothing better than listening to a ‘debate’ about football - or in my case - steering one. I’m so lucky that I’ve done it for an awful long time now.

That’s why I was really sad to see my mate Graeme Souness in trouble at the weekend. His crime was to question Alex Scott - an excellent contributor by the way, about her use of the phrase ‘low block’. I’ve done it. I’ve laughed in studios about guests use of this phrase. It means ‘defending deep’ as Graeme pointed out. He’d have done the same if he’d heard it used by anyone - male or female.

I repeat what I said earlier. Football is a simple game - and simple usesge of words should be associated with it. Have you ever walked into a pub and heard someone say ‘Aguero got a brace today’? No. Nor me. You’d more likely hear ‘Aguero got 2’. What is a ‘lateral free-kick hit with tension’? You’ll hear modern coaches - male and female - say that. What is it? As Reidy would say ‘it’s a good diag’. What about ‘percussive vertical football’? I’m lost here. I have absolutely no idea - but I keep hearing it. ‘Inverted full-backs’. ‘False 9’s’. ‘Gegen press’? I know that - it’s winning the ball back high up the pitch. Liverpool always did it. Ian Rush would trigger their press. If he closed a full-back or centre half Souness and Dalglish would pounce. If they were too stretched Rush would be told not to go. What about ‘abstract reasoning’ and ‘perceptual intelligence’? ‘Synchronicity and geometric movement’. Honestly - I’ve no idea. ‘Playing through zone 14’ - I know that one - they mean ‘the edge of the box’.

Ask yourself - how many times have you used any of those phrases when you’ve played at the weekends? I know the answer - never. And how much has the game you play today changed as a result of what we’re told has ‘moved on’ on tv. Answer? Nothing.

That Liverpool side I refereed to is the best team I’ve ever seen play football - ‘control, pass, move’ that was the mantra. ‘Get it, give it, go’. Does that sound familiar? Correct - Guardiola’s Barcelona - and now City - do it. There’s nothing new. What about Bill Nicholson’s ‘push and run’ Spurs? Catterick’s ‘School of Science’? Greenwood’s ‘Academy’? It’s all been done before.

All Graeme did was ask - ‘please justify what you’re saying’. The whole idea of a tv studio is to spark debate around a football match and it shouldn’t matter what gender a guest is. If you make a statement - justify it. If we can’t have a debate we’ll soon be like the US - where everybody gets a timed 30 seconds and we all move on.

I’ve said many times before - I don’t understand why everything these days has to be hammered. I don’t know why domestic broadcasters pay millions for football rights and then destroy the product every weekend. Cherish it. Care for it. Love it. We all need it.

Let me finish by saying this - next to Andy Gray - Graeme Souness is the best ‘expert’ working in tv - and by a million miles. He talks - we all listen (well, I don’t. There’s little I like more than winding him up!) He’s won everything as a player and manager. He’s got an opinion that’s worth listening to. He can justify anything he says. He’s been there. He’s done it all. He’s bossed games - he’s stood in technical areas - he scrapped with the best on and off a pitch.

I have no problem with tv evolving as it has. So it should. That’s something that can change. I’ve changed it. But studios are to be mixed gender that shouldn’t mean a man is frightened to offer an opinion because he’ll be branded as ‘sexist’. What nonsense. We can all have an opinion. The keyboard cowards aren’t right because they make the most noise. My science teacher always told me that it’s the ‘empty vessels that make the most noise’. That hasn’t changed either.