“Mark Lawrenson would get in any Premier League team today.”
Graeme Souness worked with several brilliant Irish players throughout his career as a footballer and a manager. He rates Ronnie Whelan and Mark Lawrenson as the two best Republic of Ireland players he shared a pitch with.
Souness on Whelan.
“Paul McGrath was ridiculously good, Liam Brady from my generation, Roy Keane. All those have been fantastic players,” Souness told Pundit Arena earlier this year.
“If you asked me to mention one, it would probably be Ronnie Whelan. I knew how good Ronnie Whelan was. I saw a young man come into the team slightly feeling that he didn’t belong, then I watched him grow into one of the most fabulous footballers in terms of understanding the game and being cute.
“He was really talented and a great footballer for Liverpool. He scored some very important goals. He quickly got what being a Liverpool player was all about for someone so young.”
Whelan and Sheedy.
Souness also detailed the battle to get into the Liverpool team between Whelan and former Ireland winger Kevin Sheedy. Whelan persevered and Sheedy made just three appearances with the club before going on to carve out a fine career at cross-city rivals Everton.
“Him and Rushy came into the team at the same time, and as is the way the striker gets the goals and the spotlight goes on him,” Souness said.
“Ronnie played with me and started over on the left-hand side. The people at Liverpool had a very difficult decision when Ronnie was coming through because they had Kevin Sheedy as well.
“Kevin Sheedy had a wand of a left foot and was every bit as talented as Ronnie, but Ronnie had a steeliness about him. You don’t really talk about that when you talk about Ronnie Whelan, but Ronnie Whelan could look after himself big time. No-one messed with him.
“He was caught a couple of times early on, but as he grew he was very much someone who could look after himself on a football pitch. He played on the left, then he gravitated in and became a fabulous central midfield player. He was the guy on the pitch that had the most touches and could be a major influence tactically at the club.”
Souness on Lawrenseon.
Souness also shared his thoughts on Mark Lawrenson claiming that the 39-time capped Ireland international would get into any Premier League side today.
“I’ve watched some games with Mark Lawrenson. A couple of weeks ago, I watched the European Cup final from 1984 against Roma. That partnership between Mark Lawrenson and Alan Hansen, if you remember the players they were playing against for Roma, they never gave them a kick.
“Mark Lawrenson was the outstanding defender of the day. Alan Hansen was silky and he caught the eye because he was so good on the ball, but for an out-and-out defender, he was as good as anyone.
“Put it this way, I would say Mark Lawrenson would get in any Premier League team today.”