Anfield anguish for Souness

Graeme Souness faced growing evidence of a crumbling soccer empire last week amid fears that Liverpool FC are facing their biggest on-the-field crisis since the pre-Bill Shankly era.

Liverpool have made their worst start to a season for 28 years - and former captain Emlyn Hughes has publically criticised the players for failing to show committment and passion.

Hughes reckons that Souness inherited the biggest mess at Anfield that he can remember and is simply sliding deeper into the mire.

Concerns over Liverpool came to a head after the astonishing 4-4 Coca-Cola Cup home draw against third division Chesterfield during which Liverpool found themselves 3-0 down!

The last time Liverpool saw a scoreline like that was against Everton in an FA Cup fifth round replay in February 1992 - and within hours Dalglish quit because of the pressures.

There are no suggestions that Souness will follow suit, but the man who last season needed open heart surgery must be feeling the same emotions that sparked Dalglish's decision.

Souness wants to stamp his own identity on Liverpool. But cash is apparently in short supply after the 8 million pound ground update - and Souness' record of buying and selling is not the best.

The Reds' game at Aston Villa showed that. Once again Liverpool conceeded four goals - and two-goal Dean Saunders, sold by Souness a week earlier for 2.3 million pounds, and fellow Anfield 'cast-offs' Ray Houghton and Steve Staunton were all in the victorious Villa side.

Liverpool were hard hit by injuries, just as they were against Chesterfield but there was a time when the club's all-for-one one-for-all philosophy would have overcome even the greatest adversity.

No wonder Hughes has suggested what is happening now at Anfield is enough to make Shankly turn in his grave.

'Shanks' took charge in 1959 and laid the foundations for Liverpool to become the most feared and admired club side in Europe - and probably the world.

They won the FA Cup and three league titles under Shankly's command before Bob Paisley stepped out of the famous `Boot Room' in 1974 to become the most successful manager in the history of the game.

Liverpool strode majestically from trophy to trophy during Paisley's nine year reign - honours included six league crowns and three European Cup triumphs - before Joe Fagan extended the inhouse tradition with a two year managerial stint.

Fagan's final season, 1984-85, finished amid the carnage of the Heysel stadium.

Twenty-four hours later Dalglish was promoted to player-boss and helped Liverpool, banned from Europe for six years, slowly repair the damage and restore the club's image, winning the League and FA Cup double in 1986 and the Championship again in 1988 and 1990.

The 1989 Hillsborough disaster cast another dark shadow, but once again Dalglish shone through as the club went on to win the FA Cup a month later amid emotional scenes.

The club went 14 league games without a defeat at the start of his final season and they had only lost 3 in 33 when he dropped his 'I quit' bombshell.

That was on February 22, 1991 - and it started Anfield's own soccer 'soap opera'. The established players were growing old and cracks started to appear. The upheaval is taking its toll.

Countdown to crisis :
Timetable of events between Liverpool sharing eight goals with Everton on February 20, 1991, and being stunned by third division Chesterfield at Anfield:

Feb 91: Kenny Dalglish quits and Ronnie Moran, appointed caretaker-manager, tastes three straight defeats. Souness, then in charge of Rangers, said he would be "flattered" to be considered for the job but "would never contemplate leaving Ibrox."

Mar 91: Favourite John Toshack turns down Anfield approach to stay in Spain.

Apr 91: Souness said he was putting his family first and moving south to take charge at Liverpool. At the same time, UEFA announced that the club was being allowed back into European competition.

Jul 91: Souness signs Derby Duo Mark Wright and Dean Saunders for joint 5 million pounds and then turns down a 4 million pound bid by Marseille for John Barnes. Liverpool announce a 2 million pound rights issue to help towards cost of new stand.

Aug 91: Unhappy Peter Beardsley moves from Anfield to Everton for 1 million pounds. Souness pays 1.25 million pounds for Mark Walters from Rangers at start of season. John Barnes injured in second game and does not play again until January.

Oct 91: Wright undergoes Achilles Tendon operation, the sixth Liverpool player to be hit by similar injury. Rob Jones arrives from Crewe for 300,000 pounds and the club prepare to go to court for compensation when Dalglish announces his return to management with Blackburn.

Dec 91: Souness takes spending to 8.3 million pounds when he signs Arsenal's Michael Thomas for 1.5 million pounds. Blackburn pay 400,000 pounds to settle Dalglish dispute. Indifferent results see Liverpool end the year in sixth place and out of the Rumbelows Cup, beaten by Peterborough. Beardsley, Steve McMahon, Staunton and David Speedie have gone and in a newspaper article Glenn Hysen claims: "Nobody's happy at Anfield, but nobody talks about it."

Jan 92: Hysen given a free transfer and Barnes back on sidelines injured.

Feb 92: Liverpool fail to win in four league games during the month.

Mar 92: Two-leg defeat against Genoa in UEFA Cup quarter-finals, but progress in FA Cup, now club's only hope of silverware.

Apr 92: Semi-final stalemate against second division Portsmouth - and Souness told players after the match that he needed immediate triple heart by-pass surgery. He watched from his hospital bed as Liverpool won replay to reach Wembley. Souness infuriates fans by being pictured on front page of 'Sun' newspaper kissing girlfriend Karen Levy an third anniversary of Hillsborough disaster.

May 92: Souness apologises to fans and turns up on Wembley bench to watch Liverpool beat Sunderland 2-0. Later censured by club board over `Sun' deal, but allowed to carry on as manager.

Jun 92: Long-serving Phil Thompson loses job as first team coach and leaves club. Goalkeeper David James signed from Watford. John Barnes injured playing for England and probably out until end of year.

Jul 92: Souness pays Spurs 2.3 million pounds for Paul Stewart.

Aug 92: Off to a bad start and new sponsors Carlsberg have trouble justifying claim that they now support 'probably the best football team in the world'.

Sep 92: Thompson announces that he is taking the club to industrial tribunal alleging unfair dismissal. Souness sells Saunders to Aston Villa for 2.3 million pounds and watches him score twice against Liverpool, beaten 4-2, a week later. Liverpool's side includes a 500,000 pound debutant defender Torben Piechnik, but seven other first-teamers out injured. Chesterfield add to Anfield ignominimy by leading 3-0 in Coca-Cola Cup before being pegged back 4-4.

Copyright - British Soccer Week

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