Yesterday, there was a story doing the rounds on the net about an article where Graeme Souness talked about rivalries. He discussed his time at Ibrox, and said the first question he was asked upon taking over there was about whether or not he would sign a Catholic.
We know that he did exactly that, and broke that mould.
I have always had a not-so-sneaky admiration for Souness.
This was a guy who arrived at Rangers without any of the “cultural baggage” that club was steeped in and which Sevco grew from. He had selfish reasons for wanting to shatter that paradigm – UEFA was finally watching and were going to ban the club from Europe for a start – but I have always believed he found their sectarian employment policy genuinely backward and perhaps even repellent. He would have ended it anyway.
In the course of the article he mentioned Jock Stein, and in doing so not only did Souness appear to absolutely misrepresent what Jock Stein said about Rangers “signing policy” but the former Rangers boss appears to have tried to take credit for changing ours …
And I wonder what happened here?
Did Souness do this deliberately?
Did he wilfully twist the words of a man he is on the record, time and time again, of saying he has the greatest admiration, even love, for? Souness has never spoken of Jock Stein with anything but warmth and affection … what the Hell was he playing at?
Was it what it looks like, or was it a simple misunderstanding?
Had this been an interview I would honestly have done some research on who conducted it before laying this at Souness’ door, because it’s hard to believe he could have failed to grasp what Stein actually said, but it’s even harder to think that he would have reframed it as the piece appears to have done.
Not Souness, I’d have said. Not with Big Jock.
But Souness wrote these words himself, and unless they have been edited – heavily – then these are his own views.
And they are quite incredible.
This is what Souness wrote in the article;
“Jock Stein, the great Celtic manager, once said that if there was a Protestant kid and Catholic kid, the club would only have to concentrate all of its efforts on the Catholic kid, because they already knew the Protestant would play for Rangers. That’s just the way it was. No question.”
Now, as you’ll all be well aware that is nowhere even close to what Jock Stein actually said.
It is not only a distortion of what Jock said but it’s got no association with the truth either.
It gets worse, because then Souness makes a quite scandalous claim; he tries to take credit not only for changing Rangers’ sectarian signing policy … but for changing ours as well.
And if you’re sitting there thinking “Eah? What? Ours?” you’re not the only one.
“And all of a sudden, instead of Rangers and Celtic each looking at just half of Scotland’s players, they were looking at all of them. It’s something that helped the clubs, helped the rivalry and something that I’m very, very proud of.”
Let’s get a couple of things straight here … starting with what Stein actually said. Because that, of course, is everything and what Souness has said is a complete inversion of it.
Stein was asked once that if he had a choice between signing a Catholic player and a Protestant player who he would choose.
His famous, cutting, sharp answer is an awesome example of Stein’s analytic brilliance, a glimpse of his strategic thinking, that which would overcome the greatest clubs in Europe. It was also a ruthless stab at the dark heart of their club, and Stein knew all about it. He had grown up in a family he described as “staunch Orange”. He understood. He had turned his back on it to sign for a club that was the utter antithesis of what the Ibrox club stood for.
“I would sign the Protestant,” he said. “Because Rangers would never sign the Catholic.”
Stein himself was a Protestant. Some of the finest players of that generation – some of the finest in our entire history – were too. When a wholly ignorant journalist asked Stein on his appointment as our boss how it felt to become the first Protestant manager of the club the big man had a brutally effective answer to that question; “25% of this club’s managers have been Protestant.” And he was right. He was the fourth to hold the post.
Our club has never given a damn about religion.
And a host of our players and managers and allies and friends and supporters are the living proof of it.
Souness cannot be ignorant of that fact, can he? Does he really believe the sheer garbage in that piece?
That he was the one who got us to look at “the other half” of the country’s players?
Can anyone be that ill-informed?
Can anyone who has spoken with such warmth and affection about Stein really not have known he was a Protestant who’d played for our side before becoming boss? So much for the inevitability of losing every player of that faith to the team across the city …
Stein would have been boss there instead, and history would look very different.
Yesterday, when I first heard about this, I was willing to give Souness the benefit of the doubt.
Today I am not convinced that he deserves it, but I’m happy to be proved wrong.
If he is unaware of this stuff then I hope someone makes him aware of it fast and in that event I expect him to issue a statement apologising for that piece and correcting the record. The Souness I’ve heard talking about Jock is a man who would never have misrepresented him in this way.
As it is right now, that article is a slur on Jock Stein and an historical slur on Celtic which should not be allowed to stand.
I would accept an apology.
I hope for one.
Because otherwise Souness is a man for whom the word contempt is not strong enough. If he has deliberately, wilfully, reversed Jock’s position to make himself out to be some kind of visionary figure who changed Scottish football all on his own then he ought to be called out as a liar and a fraud.
By his own words let Souness be judged.
These are on the record. If he chooses not to correct them then he is guilty of misappropriating those of another, better, man who is no longer here to tell him to his face what a disgrace he woulde be, and that’s a man who’s memory he is said to cherish above all.