Souness would return to Toon 'in a heartbeat'

January 13, 2008

Former Newcastle boss Graeme Souness admits he would return to St James' Park 'in a heartbeat'.

Harry Redknapp yesterday turned down the role following Sam Allardyce's exit - and Newcastle have been told by Portsmouth they will be wasting their time making any more bids for the 60-year-old.

But Souness, who endured a difficult spell from 2004-06 as Magpies boss under Freddy Shepherd, admitted he would be happy to return to Tyneside under new owner Mike Ashley and chairman Chris Mort.

Asked on Sky Sports 1 if he would be interested in going back, Souness said: 'With [there now being] a different chairman, most certainly.'

When pressed on whether he would take the job if it was offered to him, he added: 'In a heartbeat. It is a big club, one of the big clubs out there.

'It has got the potential to be one of the best. But it's not a quick fix, and whoever goes in there is going to need certainly a minimum of three or four years.'

Newcastle spent vast sums on transfers during Souness' tenure - including the signing of Michael Owen from Real Madrid - but the Scot refuted the suggestion he was fully backed by then-chairman Shepherd.

'I would argue that point because at the end of the day my first choice was (Nicolas) Anelka and (Luis) Boa Morte.

'I was told, when I spoke to the people in Turkey, when Anelka was for sale at that time, that he could be bought. But I was told he wasn't for sale and couldn't be bought.

'So instead of us spending the £12million there, we bought Albert Luque for £10million and Michael Owen for £16million.'

Asked whether those were his decisions, Souness said: 'No. I was told Albert Luque would cost £2million.'

Redknapp yesterday decided to stay at Fratton Park, where chief executive Peter Storrie says he has 'a job for life'.

Speaking on Radio Five Live's Sportsweek programme, Storrie said: 'Harry has made it perfectly clear he has made his decision - he wants to stay at Portsmouth.

'That is the end of the matter. He has made it plain it is not about money so Newcastle can continue to offer him what they like.

'We only allowed Harry to have a conversation with them as it brought the matter to a head.

'It is a disruptive time for anyone to have done this in the middle of the transfer window.

'I can understand why Newcastle wanted him as he is one of the best managers in the Premier League.

'But Harry knows he has a job here for as long as he wants it. He can see there is the potential to go forward.'

Former Newcastle owner and chairman Sir John Hall, meanwhile, rates former Liverpool boss Gerard Houllier ahead of Redknapp.

Hall said: 'I am pleased that Harry has dropped out.

'None of the fans I have spoken to were behind him. They did not feel he was any better than Sam.

'I have a high regard for Gerard Houllier and he could do a job at Newcastle. He did well at Lyon.'

But Hall poured cold water on a potential partnership between two Geordie icons Kevin Keegan and Alan Shearer.

'Alan is the most dedicated professional I have ever met,' he said.

'He will probably be a tremendous manager but I do not think he would be prepared to come in yet.

'Kevin has maybe had his time in football and is now doing other things.'

Hall is confident owner Ashley and chairman Mort can turn things around.

Former Bolton boss Allardyce was already in place when they arrived and Hall said: 'I have a certain sympathy for Mike Ashley and Chris Mort.

'Ashley and his team are dedicated to the club. He has just come into the game and it takes time to get into the passion of the club.

'However I cannot understand the timing of Allardyce's departure. I would have let him stay until the end of the season.

'The players let Allardyce down. The displays have been abysmal - probably some of the worst I have seen in 20 years.'

Blackburn boss Mark Hughes has now been installed as bookmakers' favourite for the Newcastle job.

But ahead of his side's match against Bolton, the former Wales manager told Sky Sports 1: 'All this speculation has been going on for quite some time, but my focus today is obviously on getting a result for Blackburn Rovers, as it always is.

'I don't really want to be talking about speculation that has nothing to do with me. It's a case of getting the lads focused and that's what we're trying to do.'