111271 Graeme Souness

BRIAN Tinnion. This is all about Brian Tinnion.

Younger readers may struggle to recall the highlights of Brian’s career, as his is a name which isn’t easily recalled by many of their generation so the salient facts are these. He played the majority of his football career Bradford City and then Bristol City either at left-back or left-midfield. He later went on to manage the Robins for a bit too, retiring in 2007.

That’s pretty much it really. He coaches in Spain now. Good for him.

Oh, and he also ended Graeme Souness’s Liverpool career. Knew there was something.

If you believe in omens things weren’t looking good 11 days earlier when a £50 cable failed at City’s ground and the match was abandoned as the floodlights gave out. The game was rescheduled for the Wednesday night, but the Gods were still against the Reds.

True, we led through an early Ian Rush goal but when City’s ‘keeper cleared a ball which smacked against Robbie Fowler and ricocheted inexorably towards their goal. Hearts were in mouths, just as they were at Plymouth when the same thing happened to Harry Wilson.

A 2-0 first half lead would have seen us through and taken the pressure off Liverpool, who were already 21 points behind Manchester United in the league. No such luck. The ball spun and came back off the post. Wayne Allison equalised and took us back to Anfield.

No-one fancied it and it was one of those horrible times where many people saw a defeat as a necessary evil to get rid of the manager. This was the same month as the famous 3-3 with United but days before the replay, we’d only just beaten lowly Manchester City with a last minute Rush goal.

Indecision and poor morale ran through the team like a dose of salts. Some players were past their bests and it showed. These lads just didn’t fancy it.

The inevitable came when Tinnion swung his left foot at an Allison pass and swept it past Bruce Grobbelaar. Junior Bent should have scored too so this wasn’t a freak one-off game.

After the match, Neil Ruddock sent a crate of ale into the City dressing room by way of congratulation. He probably had one in his car.

Souness fell on his sword a few days later with David Moores citing the manager’s heart operation, the recent loss of his father and an unprecedented amount of injuries as the reason for the club’s demise, but there were unspoken truths too.

Following his interview with that paper, the fans had turned their backs on him and would never see him in the same light again. Souness has apologised repeatedly about ‘Loverpool’, telling Simon Hughes in his book Men in White Suits “I will regret the decision forever. I don’t have a defence.”

On the pitch, things were badly wrong, much of which were his doing. Selling Peter Beardsley to Everton for a paltry sum was bad enough, but keeping the fading talents of Steve Nicol and Ronnie Whelan on the pitch was another. The average age of the team who played against Bristol was 27. True, the injuries took their toll – Fowler broke his ankle in the first game – but many of the players didn’t help themselves.

This was an age where ill-discipline was raising its head. Some of the first team carried beer bellies while the authoritarians at the club – Souness included as well as Ronnie Moran – were more or less ignored. Liverpool were slipping.

Everywhere around him the game was changing. United were the coming force while he sat with an elderly squad and overweight players, all with the enormous expectation of the fans as a backdrop. There were youngsters were coming through and he had to play them early – possibly too early — such was the packed injury room. Moreover, he’d long stopped enjoying the job and the club he adored and served so splendidly as a player.

He still receives a poor press from many Liverpool fans today, but I’ve always believed that that’s from people who never saw him play for us. Graeme Souness was a winner and though he has been proved as a better captain than a manager, his history will show that he gave us more than he took away. He’ll always be in my top five Liverpool players and certainly my number one captain. I’ve not seen anyone pull a team around him and lead them to greatness as he did in the 1984 treble-winning side which was nowhere near as great as their trophy haul suggests. There are comparisons with Steven Gerrard and 2005, but Souness was superhuman back then.

As for that interview, there are apologies and apologies. Souness’s is real and he genuinely regrets a stupid act whereas the others who apologised for writing for that rag only came out when the writing was on the wall. Graeme is alright by me and, though I’ve been lucky enough to meet a few former Liverpool players, he’s the one with whom I’d most like a pint. That won’t make me popular in some quarters but I’m fascinated by him and his approach to the game. Plus anyone who describes Arsenal as ‘a team of son-in-laws’ deserves a pint.

As for Tinnion, his goal arguably did more good for Liverpool than harm. It brought in Roy Evans and the Reds played their best football for ages and, given Souness’ heart condition, it may well have saved his life.

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