TURNING up uninvited at a house owned by Graeme Souness is never the brightest idea. Not when you are somebody for whom the tough-tackling former midfielder already has an obvious distaste.
It is particularly unadvised when you were one of those he blamed for ruining the club he worked hard to return to the summit of the Scottish game in the late Eighties. The current mess at Rangers is illustrated by the need for Souness to clarify who exactly it is he means when using the phrase “that pr*ck” in a discussion about the recent years of upheaval at Ibrox.
In this instance, it is Charles Green, the garrulous businessman who rebuffed repeated attempts by Souness ally Brian Kennedy to buy the club in 2012. Kennedy, the owner of Sale Sharks rugby union club, recently returned with another offer to invest. Once again this was rejected, this time by the current board.
There have been some laughable episodes in the otherwise serious business of the running down of Rangers. Souness provided just one more when he revealed how former Ibrox chief executive/owner Green turned up on his doorstep at 11pm with only an hour’s warning with the offer to come on board with him. The former Rangers player-manager did not, unsurprisingly, wish to do this. This news was delivered to Green in a nearby hotel after Souness decided against inviting the Yorkshireman into his home. “What is it? Two years since that pr*ck had it?” said Souness on Tuesday, when asked whether Rangers would now be in a better position had Kennedy, a longstanding friend of Souness and fellow native of Edinburgh, succeeded in gaining ownership, either in his own right or as part of the so-called Blue Knights consortium. This stirred in Souness a clearly unsettling memory. It emerged he was referring to Green and not one of several other candidates.
“The guy came knocking on my door one night asking me if I would get involved in it, with him,” continued Souness. “Late one night about 11 o’clock. My answer was no. I got a phone call about an hour before that he was coming to see me. I had been asked to see him and I had refused.
“I got a call an hour before to say he was on his way to see me. We went for a cup of tea at a hotel around the corner.
“You’ve got me angry now…”
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It clearly causes Souness distress to think about what might have been achieved at Ibrox had both Kennedy and himself got involved. The chance is gone now, it seems. “Who knows what would have happened if we had got in? But I’ll tell you – the stadium would still be full,” said Souness.
The possibility that Souness might one day return is now a remote one. It is the club’s loss, he contends. There were no detailed discussions with Kennedy about what role he might have occupied – “I wouldn’t have been manger,” he notes. He would, however, have welcomed the chance to have some input at the club he left in 1991 to take over at Liverpool. More importantly, he contends, the club have suffered for spurning Kennedy’s advances.
“It would have the right people running it for the right reasons,” he said. “That would have been Walter [Smith] and I and the right person as the owner.”
It does not require much reading between lines to know this is not why Souness believes Green was there. He did not go as far as former Ibrox vice-chairman Donald Findlay when asked how he feels about the present-day Rangers.
Souness doesn’t regard it as a different club, something Findlay felt was the case. But the atmosphere is definitely different, as are, according to Souness, the motives of those in charge. Ambitions are also now different for a club currently operating in the second tier of Scottish football. But then, this is as much to do with the changing face of British football as financial mismanagement at boardroom level, appalling though it has been.
“It’s a very different Rangers,” said Souness. “You look at the world we occupied when we were there [in 1986-91]. We could compete with the best in Britain in terms of transfer fees and salaries. I’m angry about it and saddened by it in equal amounts,” he added. “I don’t want to get into being involved in a libel case. All I would say is that, if we had got it, the people there would have had the club for the right reasons.”
He doesn’t necessarily view Newcastle owner Mike Ashley’s recent involvement as a bad thing but wonders about his motives. “I wouldn’t be critical of Mike Ashley,” he said. “Mike Ashley is a fantastic businessman who has seen an opportunity at Newcastle.
“I think he has done the right thing at Newcastle. When I worked there [as manager], the owner and largest shareholder was from Newcastle and the pressure on that man was enormous to make changes too quickly. I think, in terms of Newcastle supporters, they should be counting their blessings rather than being critical. If he came to Rangers and was to plough a shedload of money in there, everyone would be happy, but I don’t see that happening.”
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