GRAEME SOUNESS has revealed he turned down a late-night doorstep plea from Charles Green to be part of his Rangers takeover bid earlier this year but now believes the outspoken Yorkshire businessman has proved his credentials to successfully revive the Ibrox club.
Former Rangers manager Souness was part of Brian Kennedy’s rival bid to take control of the financially stricken Glasgow giants, eventually losing out to Green’s consortium in May.
Souness admits he shared the widespread reservations over Green’s intentions but those concerns have been alleviated by Sunday night’s announcement that Walter Smith has returned to the club as a non-executive director.
Smith and Souness have remained close friends since forming the management team which revolutionised Rangers’ fortunes on the pitch back in 1986. Souness is confident Smith would not have considered taking up a new role at Ibrox if he was not completely convinced by Green’s strategy for the club.
“I think Walter coming back validates what Charles Green is doing,” said Souness. “There were question marks against Charles because of his time at Sheffield United. Nobody really knew him in Scotland and all the Rangers supporters feared that he would be another Craig Whyte. The fact that Walter is prepared to be associated with it should give Rangers supporters a great deal of comfort. It does for me. That’s the single biggest thing here, because I’m sure Walter has done his due dilligence. He will have asked the correct questions and got the correct answers, otherwise he wouldn’t have gone near it. His legacy is very important to him, in my opinion.
“Charles did offer me the opportunity to get involved. He turned up at my house late one night, prior to the takeover. I had been involved with Brian Kennedy, who was also interested in taking over, and I didn’t feel I could jump ship and be part of Charles’ group. Charles and I had met before, we knew each other from way back. But Brian Kennedy and I go back just as long. We tried to buy Wolves together and when Rangers came up he asked me if I fancied it.
“Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be so it wasn’t right for me to then go and be part of what Charles was trying to do. On face value, I was impressed with what Charles had to say at the time. But, like everyone else, I was slightly concerned and apprehensive because of the situation at the time. The right person had to come in because of what the supporters had been through.
“I suppose it is a regret for me that Brian didn’t succeed. Brian was only going to get involved if he felt it was the right deal for Rangers. In the end, that turned out not to be the case. He was asked to go out on a limb in a few areas and, in the end, he didn’t think that was the right thing for the club. Charles Green has taken that on and we all wish him the best for it. It wouldn’t have been a gamble. My attitude was the club needs Rangers people running it. I would have done it for nothing. I felt we were going to do it for the right reasons.
“It wasn’t going to be an overnight process, just like it won’t be for Charles and Ally McCoist now. But we would have got it back to where it should be.”
Although Souness admits he has struggled to come to terms with Rangers’ predicament as a Third Division club, he believes the size of their support will ensure they emerge successfully at the other side of football’s current financial problems.
“It’s something I could never have imagined, but we’re there now and we need to deal with it as Rangers supporters,” added Souness. “All we can do is keep our head down and take the criticism and humour coming from the East End of Glasgow.
“It’s the cards we’ve been dealt, now we have to roll our sleeves up and get on with it. The club have 37,000 season-tickets in the Third Division. That wouldn’t happen anywhere else in the world. Celtic fans would do the same and that’s why Scotland will always be a footballing country. I fear for Scottish football at the moment, but it’s the same in England. The only difference is TV money.
“For example, how can someone leave Rangers and go to Norwich City like Steven Whittaker did? How can they be bigger than Rangers? There’s only three or four teams in England bigger than Rangers and Celtic. It’s a very sad situation to be losing players to small English clubs because of money. It’s not because of gates, it’s not because they’re playing wonderful football everyone wants to watch.
“It’s because of the way things have evolved and we can’t attract big TV money in Scotland. It’s a numbers game. Ki Sung Yueng went to Swansea. How can you leave Celtic to go to Swansea? They get 20,000 every week at Swansea but they probably quadrupled Ki’s wages. That’s the price on the ticket right now for Scottish football unfortunately.
“That’s why you’ve got to give Celtic huge credit for beating Barcelona. They spent a lot of time without the ball, but Neil Lennon deserves tremendous credit.
“He would be the first to tell you they got a bit of luck but they deserved it. Their budget compared to Barcelona’s was tiny but they still beat them. That’s what football needs. The result would have been seen as a shock and it gave Scottish football a bit of credibility. Money doesn’t always win in football. I should know, I still remember the Hamilton Accies result when I was Rangers manager! Money doesn’t always win and that’s how it should be.”