Monday 16 September 2019

'Joe was a quiet man but a great man' - An emotional Graeme Souness remembers Liverpool's 1984 European Cup win

Liverpool manager Joe Fagan (2nd r) applauds as captain Graeme Souness lifts the First Division Trophy for the 1983/84 season at Anfield before they went on to beat Roma in the European Cup final. (Photo by Mike Powell/Allsport/Getty Images)
Liverpool manager Joe Fagan (2nd r) applauds as captain Graeme Souness lifts the First Division Trophy for the 1983/84 season at Anfield before they went on to beat Roma in the European Cup final. (Photo by Mike Powell/Allsport/Getty Images)
Kevin Palmer

Kevin Palmer

As Graeme Souness reflects on his memories of Liverpool's 1984 European Cup winning coach Joe Fagan, emotions quickly rise to surface.

This battle-hardened Scot is not known for his softer side, but that mask cracks when Fagan's name is mentioned and he draws a deep breath.

"I remember we were playing Southampton and he could see something wasn't right with me," recalls Virgin Media Sport analyst Souness. "Joe was a quiet man, but he was a great man and I'll never forget what he did for me that day.

"My mum was dying. We were playing Southampton and we went from Liverpool to Oxford and stopped for lunch. We had no mobile phones so I stopped to phone my brother who said he didn't think she would last the evening.

"I got back on the bus late, I didn't sit in my normal seat but sat in the front, I was getting lambasted for being late, but someone told Joe to keep an eye on me and he came down to sit next to me for the rest of that trip with his arm around. That wasn't an act. A genuine man, a great man."

Souness then had to pause to compose himself. This was not an era when men shared emotion so publicly and that made Fagan's act of kindness even more touching, with Souness a big supporter of the quietly spoken assistant manager when he took over from Bob Paisley in 1983.

"When it was his time to get the job I was his biggest supporter," he stated. "I got the guys together to say 'we will do it for him', Hoe was a special man."

Fagan added his name to the elite list of managers who led Liverpool to European Cup glory in 1984, as his side beat Roma in victory famous for Bruce Grobbelaar's spaghetti leg antics in the penalty shoot-out.

Souness.jpeg
Graeme Souness. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Yet when Souness remembers Liverpool's greatest European Cup final wins, he pinpoints the 1981 victory against Real Madrid.

"None of the finals I played in were good games," he reflects. "The first one against Bruges they didn't want to take us on at Wembley. Kenny Dalglish got our winning goal and it was great to win the competition for the first time.

"The second one against Real Madrid....people have short memories but Spanish football used to be ridiculously cynical, they came after us and wanted to kick us off the park, the third one was a tactical affair against an Italian team. None of them were classics, but the records confirm we won all three and that's all that matters."

Souness went on to a salute Jurgen Klopp's impact at Anfield, as he suggested the club's owners deserve credit for getting their man in swift fashion after they sacked Brendan Rodgers in October 2015.

"Klopp has always seemed like a perfect fit for Liverpool," added Souness. "He wears his heart on his sleeve and in what is an emotional club, they people there will like what they see from Klopp.

"His relationship with his players appears to be fantastic and that is not always easy to do in the game these days, given the dynamic between players and managers in the modern game.

"Then you see how the fans react to him and it is genuine affection. Some managers go out of their way to court the fans and try to get them on side, but Liverpool fans can see through that and they love Klopp's honesty in good and bad times.

"The board could have waited a little longer and stuck by Brendan Rodgers, but they wanted to make the change quickly to ensure Klopp was not taken by someone else and it has proved to be the correct decision."

Souness insists Liverpool's Champions League success can be the catalyst for a succession of trophies at Anfield, even though he admits the presence of treble-winners Manchester City in English football will be an obstacle they will struggle to overcome.

"Manchester City have proved they are right up there with the best teams we have seen and to get 198 points over two seasons is astonishing," adds Souness.

"Can Liverpool repeat what they did in the Premier League this season and maybe go even better to overtake City? It's hard to see and if you are Jurgen Klopp, you have to hope they come down a level or two, but I don't see that happening.

"City will get close to 100 points again next season and if you want to win the Premier League, you have to reach those levels."

Online Editors

The Throw-In: Selection dilemma for Dublin and All-Ireland ladies football final preview

In association with Bord Gáis Energy

Also in Sport