Klopp is at a great club with or­di­nary play­ers

Souness is typ­i­cally forth­right in his opin­ions on club where he has leg­endary sta­tus

The Daily Telegraph - Total Football - - FRONT PAGE - Jeremy Wil­son DEPUTY FOOT­BALL CORRESPONDENT Graeme Souness was speak­ing on be­half of The Foot­ball League and Cap­i­tal One – the credit card in your cor­ner. Visit face­book. com/ Cap­i­talOneUK

There are some fa­mous peo­ple who, upon ac­tu­ally meet­ing them, it be­comes in­stantly ob­vi­ous that pub­lic per­cep­tions are dis­con­nected from re­al­ity. That can be both a pleas­ant sur­prise or a rather dis­con­cert­ing rev­e­la­tion.

There are oth­ers, though, who are so re­as­sur­ingly them­selves in any cir­cum­stance that, even if you hardly know them, it still some­how feels like meet­ing an old ac­quain­tance. Graeme Souness falls firmly into the lat­ter cat­e­gory.

On the field, he was in­tense, fiercely com­pet­i­tive, de­mand­ing and, yes, a lit­tle scary. In the dugout, he was in­tense, fiercely com­pet­i­tive, de­mand­ing and, yes, a lit­tle scary. In the tele­vi­sion stu­dio, he is still in­tense but that fierce com­pet­i­tive­ness has since man­i­fested it­self in a cer­tainty, crisp­ness of thought and charisma that has made him one of foot­ball’s out­stand­ing tele­vi­sion pun­dits.

He also re­mains just a lit­tle scary. The firmest of hand­shakes is fol­lowed up by fixed eye con­tact and it is quickly ob­vi­ous that any ques­tion he deems stupid or point­less will be dis­missed. Yet there is also not even the slight­est at­tempt to tem­per his opin­ion on a va­ri­ety of sub­jects, not least Daniel Stur­ridge, Roberto Martínez, Steven Ger­rard, Jürgen Klopp and the im­por­tance of the Cap­i­tal One Cup semi-fi­nals this week.

Of Stur­ridge, who has played in only 17 Premier League games dur­ing the past two sea­sons, Souness says that it has reached the point where he sim­ply can­not be a part of Klopp’s main plan. “With­out be­ing too cruel, you just can’t rely on him,” Souness says. “His his­tory would tell you that he misses too many games.

“When he is on the pitch, he is star qual­ity but he doesn’t play. If he plays it is a bonus in­stead of some­one who is first name on the team sheet. That’s a shame for the boy but that is a fact.”

So how do you han­dle that? “You go and buy other play­ers who will be fit for most of the games you play,” he says. “He’s not Plan A. He’s the bonus plan.”

The wider point about how Liverpool’s squad has been di­luted not just by Stur­ridge’s in­juries but the de­par­tures of Luis Suárez, Ra­heem Ster­ling and Ger­rard is ob­vi­ous. “You don’t need to ask that,” he says.

“I said at the start of the sea­son that, for Liverpool to get into the top four, [Chris­tian] Ben­teke has to get 20 plus goals. That ain’t go­ing to hap­pen. They haven’t got a freescor­ing mid­fielder and, on top of that, they leak goals.

“I think Steven Ger­rard went a year too early. He could still change games with one pass, with one goal, take penal­ties at im­por­tant times. I’m a great be­liever that you will never have a suc­cess­ful foot­ball club un­less you have good se­nior pros, down to sim­ple things like time­keep­ing. I would have fought tooth and nail, fallen out of the board, to keep him.”

It is a sit­u­a­tion that leads Souness to be­lieve that Klopp needs two years be­fore as­sess­ments can be made. “You get the job be­cause there is a lot wrong,” Souness says. “He will need time to fix that. I like him; pas­sion per­son­i­fied.

“He would ap­pear to be the per­fect fit. He has en­deared him­self to the Liverpool pub­lic. He has walked into a fab­u­lous foot­ball club with a ridicu­lous his­tory but an or­di­nary group of play­ers. The time to judge him will be in a cou­ple of years.”

Will the own­ers be so pa­tient? “They, first and fore­most will be com­mer­cially minded,” Souness says. “They will see Liverpool as an as­set. They will think the brand of Liverpool out there is in the top five in the world. The brand of Liverpool will en­able them to take Liverpool into a bil­lion-pound com­pany in a very short pe­riod of time. Whether they have fallen in love with the pas­sion, in terms of the club or in­deed foot­ball it­self, time will tell.”

The spring­board po­ten­tial of the League Cup is some­thing that Souness knows from per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence. He was in the Liverpool team that won the com­pe­ti­tion in four con­sec­u­tive years from 1980-81 un­til 1983-84 and al­ways fol­lowed up that first tro­phy by also lift­ing ei­ther the league ti­tle or the Euro­pean Cup. “It can give you that spe­cial mo­men­tum and I think the big clubs are tak­ing it far more se­ri­ously than four or five years ago,” he says. “Liverpool are hot and cold. For them it could be the con­fi­dence boost they need.

“If they could get into the Cap­i­tal One Cup fi­nal, that will go a long way. If they win, it would go even fur­ther. Then he will be think­ing, ‘Kick on from that and maybe make a run to get into the top four’. Ever­ton need to kick­start their sea­son. Be­ing 12th is not good enough for that group of play­ers.”

To the sug­ges­tion that Ever­ton have been “patchy”, Souness vis­i­bly gri­maces. “You are be­ing kind there,” he said.

“They are strug­gling – I think they have got one of the worst de­fen­sive records in the league. Ev­ery­one to­day wants to play like Barcelona, whether press­ing high up the field or play­ing too much foot­ball on your 18-yard line. I think that’s Ever­ton’s prob­lem. Too near their own goal. If you lose it there, it is a shot on goal. But that’s not new for Roberto Martínez’s sides, is it? It’s ev­ery year.”

The sta­tis­tics do largely sup­port that the­sis. Af­ter fin­ish­ing fifth and con­ced­ing 39 goals in 2013-14, they let in 52 last year and have al­ready con­ceded 34 this year. Wi­gan Ath­letic also con­ceded 73, 61, 61 and 79 goals in four league sea­sons un­der Martínez.

Souness clearly also finds the de­bates about sup­pos­edly revo­lu­tion­ary coach­ing meth­ods ir­ri­tat­ing and sug­gests that peo­ple watch a video of Ian Rush or Ray Kennedy and Phil Neal if they think it is some­how new to play with a more ad­vanced striker or at­tack­ing full-backs.

Man­agers giv­ing com­pli­cated touch­line hand-sig­nals are an­other bug­bear. “Sev­eral man­agers do that,” he says. “Do you think a player is look­ing at a man­ager giv­ing it the signs? Ever seen Fergie, Wenger or Mour­inho do that? It has no in­ter­est to the play­ers on the pitch.”

He then lets off an­other au­di­ble gri­mace, tells me that foot­ball is a much sim­pler game than peo­ple think and de­parts with an­other vice­like hand­shake.

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