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Liverpool players on the club’s drinking culture during the Graeme Souness era

Graeme Souness tried to change it but the Liverpool players were reluctant.

Now that Liverpool have regained their status as the kings of English football, fans of the club will be hoping that there’s not going to be another 30-year title drought at Anfield, three years of which included Graeme Souness’ tenure as manager.

Liverpool’s title drought.

Jurgen Klopp’s arrival at the club has revolutionised Liverpool in every single aspect but prior to the German’s arrival on Merseyside, seven different managers tried to win the league with the club and failed – eight if you include Ronnie Moran’s brief spells as caretaker manager in the early 90s.

In BBC’s documentary Liverpool: The 30 Year Wait, viewers were given glimpses at the various reasons why all of these managers failed to emulate the last manager to win the league title for Liverpool, Kenny Dalglish in the 1989-90 season.

Graeme Souness Liverpool

Souness at Liverpool.

After winning three league titles and for league cups as manager of Rangers, Graeme Souness was given the Liverpool job in 1991 – his appointment came just before Liverpool finished second to Arsenal in the race for the 1990–91 league title

Speaking on the documentary, Tony Evans, football journalist and Liverpool fan, gave an indication of the culture and dressing room that Souness was inheriting.

“Liverpool were renowned as the biggest drinkers in the league but having been a part of that – and there were still players who knew he (Souness) was a part of it there – he wanted to change it and stop it. Stop them from getting blind drunk every night. They didn’t like it, ” said Evans.

Having spent a decade at Anfield where he won two league titles and two FA Cups at the club, John Barnes is better positioned than most to speak about the culture at Liverpool and during the documentary, he was candid about Grame Souness’s tenure.

Graeme Souness Liverpool

Barnes on Liverpool.

“Of course, everyone was delighted that Graeme Souness came because he was a Liverpool icon. A lot was changing in terms of food, diet, and nutrition, which was all coming into football anyway. They’d say ‘you live your life how you want to live your life. If you want to be hungover, you be hungover…but you train properly.’

“What struck me was that yes, we’re losing games and from a winning mentality point of view, that’s a blow, but more importantly, things were happening in training. That was a problem at Liverpool, the way we were preparing from Monday to Friday. To be fair to Graeme, a lot of it became a case of if we lost, who’s going to get the blame? It wasn’t a nice atmosphere towards the end, it was a very conflicting and confrontational atmosphere,” said Barnes.

Graeme Souness Liverpool

Having inherited an ageing squad – the majority of key players were around or over age 30, such as Ian Rush, John Barnes, Peter Beardsley, Steve McMahon, Ray Houghton, Jan Molby, Ronnie Whelan, Steve Nicol and Bruce Grobbelaar – Souness faced a difficult task in rebuilding the team.

However, signings like Paul Stewart, Nigel Clough, Julian Dicks, and Torben Piechnik didn’t exactly prove to be hits as Liverpool fell off the pace.

In an interview with Anfield Index, Stewart candidly admits that despite Grame Souness’ efforts to change it, the drinking culture at Liverpool was still going strong.

“There was still a drinking culture at Liverpool despite Souness’ best efforts to change it,” said the former Tottenham and Manchester City midfielder.

Dominic Matteo adds: “Graeme’s attitude to drinking was another that did not go down well with the squad. He wanted to stop it but couldn’t. Looking back, I had started to get sucked into football’s drinking culture almost from the moment I stepped up to the first team.

“I had been out with some of the most seasoned boozers in football – lads like Steve Nicol, Jan Molby and Rushie – but managed to match them drink for drink, hence the nickname ‘Hollow Legs’, as I had been christened on the Dublin trip in 1993. From then on, I just saw football and drinking as a natural pair.”

Graeme Souness Liverpool

In terms of the changes that Souness tried to implement, the former Newcastle and Blackburn Rovers manager previously said that there was resistance to the changes he was trying to make.

“We used to put lager on the bus on a Friday for an away game. It was a particularly strong lager. I was happy for the players to have a drink but I thought it was better if they had a lighter lager. There was also resistance to that. I wanted to change their eating habits. There was great resistance there as well,” he said.

Ultimately, despite winning the 1992 FA Cup, Souness resigned as Liverpool manager in 1994 after a shock FA Cup defeat to Bristol City at Anfield.

Read next – Graeme Souness speaks about the Irish player who “would get in any Premier League team today.”

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