Liverpool FC: The 5 Worst Transfers of the Graeme Souness Era
As a change to the usual articles which seem to focus on recent years, I have decided to examine Liverpool's failures, in the transfer market over the last 20 years under each different individual manager.
First up is Graeme Souness.
As any Liverpool fan will know, Souness was a fantastic player for the club, arguably one of our best ever. Signed by Bob Paisley from Middlesbrough in January 1978 for a fee of £350,000, Souness joined fellow Scots Alan Hansen and Kenny Dalglish in Bob Paisley's reshaped team following triumph in the previous seasons European Cup. It turned out to be a very shrewd piece of business by Paisley as soon would become the driving force in one of the all time great Liverpool teams.
Souness was named club captain at the beginning of the 1981/82 season and would go on to lift many trophies over the next three seasons before departing for Sampdoria.
His final game for the club came in the European Cup final when Liverpool defeated AS Roma in a penalty shootout best remembered for the antics of goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar.
Souness's Liverpool career ended in 1984 after 358 appearances and 56 goals. During his time at club he won five League titles, three European Cups and four League Cups.
Following his time with Sampdoria, Souness would go on to become Player/Manager of Glasgow Rangers where he had a lot of success, winning three League titles and four Scottish Cups before resigning in April of 1991 to accept an offer to become manager of Liverpool.
Unfortunately for Souness, and for Liverpool, his stint as manager did not yield the same success as his playing days. He left the club by mutual consent in January 1994 after Liverpool had suffered an embarrassing defeat at home to Bristol City in the third round of the FA Cup. During his time at Liverpool he managed to win only one trophy, the 1992 FA Cup. There are many reasons why Souness failed so spectacularly as manager of Liverpool, but in my opinion, his track record in the transfer market is the most prominent of them.
No. 5: Paul Stewart
Stewart scoring in the 1991 FA Cup Final
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Stewart arrived at Anfield in July 1992 after Liverpool agreed to pay Tottenham Hotspur a fee of £2.3 million. At the time it was believed to be a good signing and a statement of intent by the reigning FA Cup holders. Stewart was 28 and in his prime. He'd put together a solid career at Blackpool and then Manchester City and was coming off a couple of great seasons for Spurs during which he scored in 1991 FA Cup Final (pictured above) and broken into the England set-up. He came with a reputation as a goalscoring midfielder with an impressive ratio of one goal in every three games throughout his career.
Things didn't start well as he was injured in preseason and when he returned he simply couldn't find any sort of form. He managed only one goal in 24 league games as Liverpool struggled through the first ever FA Carling Premiership season and finished sixth. The only bright spot for Stewart in this season were his two goals in a home tie against the mighty Apollon Limassol of Cyprus in the European Cup Winners Cup.
With the arrival of Nigel Clough in the summer of 1993 and the rise to prominence of Robbie Fowler, Stewart found games hard to come by and played only 8 times in the '93-'94 season.
With Roy Evans replacing Souness at the helm in January of 1994, Stewart's days were numbered. He was loaned out to Crystal Palace, Wolves and Burnley without managing to impress enough to secure a permanent switch. A loan spell with Sunderland proved more fruitful and in March of 1996 he completed a free transfer to the Black Cats thus ending a very disappointing spell on Merseyside.
While Stewart was hugely disappointing during his time at Liverpool, it should be pointed out in his defence that he had spent his entire career prior to joining Liverpool as a midfielder, but Graeme Souness attempted to shoehorn him into a second striker role to which he was not suited. Stewart had made his name as a midfielder similar to Frank Lampard, a box to box player who timed his runs into the box very well and could finish with aplomb. He was never given a chance to play in that sort of role at Liverpool and because of that was destined for failure.
No. 4: Dean Saunders
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Bought from recently relegated Derby County for the sum of £2.9 million in the summer of 1991, Dean Saunders arrived at Liverpool expected to form a formidable strike partnership with Ian Rush, a player he was very familiar with having established himself as a regular in the Welsh National Team alongside Rush. Unfortunately this partnership never really clicked into gear for Liverpool as Rush suffered an injury plagued season and the service to the frontmen was never quite good enough.
Saunders himself actually had a pretty good season scoring 10 league goals among a total of 23 in all competitions, including four in a UEFA Cup tie against Kuusysi Lahti. He also played a big role in Liverpool's successful FA Cup campaign of that season.
Saunders began the 92/93 seasons in good form, scoring two goals in the seasons opening games before being sold to Aston Villa for £2.5million on September 1st of 1992.
Saunders makes this list, not because of his own performance, but purely because of the actions of Graeme Souness. He bought a player who had a good first season in a struggling side and impressed a lot of people and gave Liverpool fans reason for hope for the following season when a fully fit Ian Rush would return, and then sold that same player at a loss to replace him in the team with Paul Stewart who wasn't even a striker. There was no reason he couldn't accommodate both Saunders and Stewart in a formation that might have also saved Stewart from an appearance on this list.
Souness deserves some credit for signing Saunders in the first place, but should be roundly criticised for selling him.
No.3: Nigel Clough
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Son of legendary manager Brian Clough, Nigel arrived at Liverpool in the summer of 1993 from Nottingham Forest for £2.75 million. At the time, the signing didn't seem to make much sense. He didn't fill a need for Liverpool and while he had a decent goalscoring record of 101 goals in 311 games for Forest nobody was ever really sure whether he was a midfielder, or a striker.
He had come through the ranks at Forest and was originally being touted as a possible England international at a young age and during his first couple of seasons he looked like he might actually become a quality player as teams neglected to adequately pick him during games.
However, as opposition managers began to notice him and employ tactics to curtail him in matches, he began to get found out. He lacked the pace and natural finishing ability to be a striker, and didn't have the work-rate, toughness or passing ability to play in central midfield. He was seen as a "tweener" and it was felt he could do his best work in a position between midfield and attack.
Upon arriving at Liverpool it was assumed he would slide straight into the team in the second striker role in which Paul Stewart had failed to impress the season before. Given the legendary No. 7 jersey Liverpool fans began to put their original doubts aside and looked forward to seeing what Clough would bring to the team.
Unfortunately, that turned out to be very little. He started with a bang, three goals in his first two games in the famous red jersey. Then the drought set in. Clough managed only one more goal before the turn of the year and gradually lost his place to soon-to-be Anfield Idol Robbie Fowler.
He never regained his place in the team and was promptly deemed a flop as fans realized that their original feelings about his signing had been correct. After managing just 12 appearances in the previous 18 months, Clough was sold to Manchester City in January 1996 for £1.5 million.
Despite his failings, Clough will forever be remembered for his two goals at the Kop End in Liverpool's famous comeback from 3-0 down to draw 3-3 against bitter rivals Manchester United.
No. 2: Julian Dicks
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In what was seen by many as a surprise signing, Souness spent £3.0million, a fee which included important squad players David Burrows and Mike Marsh, to bring West Ham hard-man Julian Dicks to Liverpool in the summer of 1993.
Liverpool fans were immediately unhappy with this signing. Dicks was seen as a thug who preferred to kick people rather than tackle them. With Souness having already signed Neil Ruddock shortly before Dicks' arrival, fans were worried that Souness was moving too far away from "The Liverpool Way" and was instead assembling a team of hatchet men. This may actually have been the case as Souness also pursued Leeds midfielder David Batty that summer. Thankfully he was unsuccessful in that pursuit.
Dicks knew he wasn't a popular signing but announced that he would use his performances to gain the support of the Anfield faithful. Unfortunately the only thing Dicks gained that season was weight. During the course of the season he managed to add 19 lbs to a body which wasn't slender to begin with and he was sent back to West Ham after only one season where the only two things of note that he managed were to score the last ever goal in front of the old Kop before it was demolished to be replaced by an all-seater stand, and to cause £17,000 worth of damage to a dressing room and bath at Liverpool's training ground following a bust up with Souness.
No.1: Torben Piechnik
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In September of 1992, to the bemusement of the majority of Liverpool fans who had never heard of him, Torben Piechnik arrived at Liverpool for a fee of £650,000 from FC Cophenhagen to the delight of Graeme Souness. Souness really talked Piechnik up. He told the Liverpool faithful that this was the man to finally replace to the legendary Alan Hansen, who had retired the previous year, as the leader of the defence. He told them that he had got a bargain by signing an international central defender in his prime.
What he neglected to mention was that Piechnik wasn't actually any good at football. A lot of Liverpool fans won't remember Piechnik, and those that do generally tend to block out the memories, but for those who are interested, think of Sotirios Kyrgiakos, now take away his heading ability. That was Torben Piechnik. He had not one single strong point to his game.
Other than the ability to commit an incredible number of fouls (such as the rugby tackle on Marc Van Basten above) during a 90 minute game of football. Piechnik managed just 17 games for Liverpool and induced countless groans from the Liverpool fans before being packed off to AGF Aarhus in June 1994.
Arguably the worst player to ever play for Liverpool and in my opinion, certainly the worst signing of the Souness era.
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So there you have it, my list of the five worst transfers made by Graeme Souness during his miserable spell at Liverpool.
Next time, I will be counting down the five worst signings made by his successor, Roy Evans.
Thanks for reading, hope you've enjoyed reading.