8 times Graeme Souness was actually the nicest bloke in the world
Graeme Souness will call time on his time with Sky after 15 years with the company at the end of this season, closing the curtain on one of football’s most colourful punditry careers.
Stepping into the world of broadcast after phasing himself out of football management, the legendary Scottish ex-player certainly made a splash. Love him or loathe him, Souness had the ability to generate headlines and top stories every week with his words.
Is that a good thing? Perhaps not. The 70-year-old’s punditry has long been polarising at best in the eyes of many, while some of his comments over the years about players and the beautiful game as a whole have at times been grossly unacceptable.
But amid all that, there have been flashes where Souness had managed to come across well. Really well, in fact.
Like the nicest bloke in the world, for a brief moment. Can you imagine that? No need to – here’s a list of those exact moments, which will make you question everything you ever thought about the man.
Swimming the Channel for charity
Your eyes do not deceive you. Souness will be swimming the English Channel.
In a bid to raise money for a rare skin condition charity, the Scot will be tackling the 16-hour swim and aims to raise around £1.1m.
Souness was inspired to take on the challenge after meeting 14-year-old Isla Grist from Scotland, who suffers from Dystrophic Recessive Epidermolysis Bullosa, an incurable condition which causes the skin to tear or blister with extreme ease.
He’ll be swimming in aid of Debra, a charity which provides support for Isla and the 5,000 or so people who live with the rare condition in the UK.
“She’s just unbelievably courageous, brave and strong,” He said on BBC Breakfast: “It is just the most horrendous disease and if you are affected by it you must wake up every morning and think, why me?”
'It's the cruellest, nastiest, disease.. this is a very special young lady and she gets me in tears every time'
Former footballer Graeme Souness told #BBCBreakfast why he's swimming the Channel to raise funds for the charity DEBRA – details on their website pic.twitter.com/2QUEoYfLaG
— BBC Breakfast (@BBCBreakfast) May 22, 2023
Switch to veganism
In what remains one of the most bizarre character arcs ever in football, infamous hard man Souness shocked the world in 2021 when he revealed he’d been following a vegan diet for the last three years.
No. Seriously. The man who your old man loves for his no-nonsense takes on football and life. The man famed for – essentially – being a dinosaur in an age where they’re extinct, follows a diet plan that so many brand as ‘woke’ and ‘soft’.
He might hate flashy footballers, but he hates animal cruelty just as much. Get this man a tote bag and some cropped trousers.
He owes ‘100 apologies’
Say what you like about him, one thing that became clear on Super Sunday when he announced the news is that he is somewhat self-aware, if nothing else.
“I think I owe 100 apologies, but we haven’t got time for that, to people that maybe I may have said some harsh things to,” he admitted.
One hundred might even be selling himself short. But, as we said, at least he’s acknowledged it. That’s something.
Serious hats on for a moment, Souness deserves immense credit for the way he spoke so candidly on the issues surrounding LGBT players within male professional football, and the institutional issues embedded within the game, in 2019.
The Scot discussed his own experiences, where he admitted to being in the game during a time which was, in his words, ‘extremely homophobic’, consequently making the men’s game a more uncomfortable place for LGBT players to exist within since.
Souness also discussed attending Brighton pride and how that experience helped change his attitude.
In a time where not enough is done to help men’s football become a more accepting space and to eliminate such institutional homophobia, it was incredibly powerful to see such a key figure – from such a generation – speak out on the subject.
It remains one of the only instances of its kind today.
Graeme Souness on why there are no openly gay footballers in the Premier League
🗣"I came from a generation which was extremely homophobic. I went to the Brighton pride and learn't so much, it changed my attitude" pic.twitter.com/ysbBlZshJ7
— Football Daily (@footballdaily) December 8, 2019
Tribute to Gianluca Vialli
Following the extremely sad passing of football legend Vialli at the beginning of 2023, tributes naturally poured in for the Italian.
Souness didn’t hold back when discussing him, recounting a story from their time together at Sampdoria in the 1990s. Seeing the Scot choked up discussing just how much Vialli meant to him was powerful.
An icon being honoured in an emotional and fitting way.
'Forget football for a minute, he was just a truly nice human being.'
Graeme Souness paid this touching tribute to his friend Gianluca Vialli just 10 minutes after learning of his passing 💔pic.twitter.com/niyeqXHoqi
— SportsJOE (@SportsJOEdotie) January 6, 2023
‘Zero sympathy’ for Zouma
Get the vegan Dr Martens, the tote bag and the independent brewery lager back out – animal welfare activist Souness is at it again.
After West Ham defender Kurt Zouma was found guilty of abusing his pet cat in February 2022, the French defender missed a game for West Ham against Leicester after falling unwell later that month.
Souness’ response? “I’ve got zero sympathy for him. I’ve got major problems with it.”
He continued: “That cat didn’t do anything wrong, it was abused for entertainment, it wasn’t out of anger. They’re laughing. The example he sets for the child, he smashes the cat out of the child’s arms. And the biggest problem I have with it is they decided to put it on social media.”
That cat didn’t do anything wrong. A strange way to put it, but he’s spot on.
Again, refreshing to see someone take a genuinely horrific incident seriously and speak about it unfiltered.
Now go and enjoy your IPA, Graeme.
Souness made quite an important apology in 2011 when he reflected on giving an interview to The Sun in 1992 while in charge of Liverpool.
Following the events of the Hillsborough disaster and the manner in which the publication covered the incident, where 97 fans died through no fault of their own, pressure was on for people to boycott The Sun – and it still is today.
But the Scottish manager allowed them to interview him about his recent heart surgery, which would be published on the third anniversary of the disaster after a delay.
“I accept I made one almighty rick by doing The Sun newspaper,” he admitted, adding: “The thing that really killed me, and makes me sad today is that the last thing I want to do is upset any Liverpool supporter – especially the people damaged by Hillsborough – in whatever shape or form.”
A touching anecdote
Following the news that Souness would be leaving Sky, TV presenter Simon Thomas shared a story involving Souness on Twitter.
Immediately, you’re concerned. But don’t worry, it’s nothing bad. Quite the opposite, actually.
Thomas recalls how Souness was one of the first people to ring up and check in on him when he had to take time away from work in 2017 following ‘serious mental health problems’.
After complimenting his work as a player and a pundit, he finished by stating that Souness is ‘someone who cared’. And that is the biggest compliment you can pay to a person.
When I went through serious mental health problems back in the autumn of 2017 and had to come off work . . . . . . one of the first people to ring me and see how I was doing was Graeme Souness.
Hell of a player & pundit who wasn’t afraid to speak his mind & someone who cared. https://t.co/X9FCSqmw3R
— Simon Thomas (@SimonThomasTV) April 30, 2023
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