The Vultures Are In The Trees At Gallowgate

Last updated : 23 January 2006 By Footy Mad - Editor
The war of nerves being played out between Graeme Souness and Freddy Shepherd at St James' Park appears to be coming to a head.
Their unpleasant battle of wills entered a new and critical phase for Souness, who is odds-on to be relieved of his duties as Newcastle manager before the weekend.
For the first time this season, angry supporters who want Souness sacked turned their attention to the chairman with chants of "Shepherd, Shepherd sort it out" and it could force his hand over a manager who has clearly lost his trust.
Given that Shepherd is a Geordie who would be loath to become unpopular with the Toon Army, it is likely the sudden shift in direction of protests will encourage him to investigate new ways of ousting Souness - perhaps with a by-mutual-consent-type departure - thus ending a turbulent 17-month reign following the pair's verbal jousting in the build-up to this game.
An unhappy Shepherd wants Souness to walk away but, much to his chagrin, that will surely not happen. Souness has repeatedly vowed not to resign but his pay-master does not have the estimated £5 million at his disposal to get rid of the Scot and his back-up team.
The harsh financial reality is that the club committed £17 million to buy Michael Owen and their bankers are unwilling to increase the overdraft. It also means that Souness cannot recruit new players to offset injury problems.
Given the absence of any public support for his manager yesterday, it is fair to assume that Shepherd is devising a plan to fire Souness et al, who are guiding Newcastle towards relegation trouble. "We've got to get up the table or we'll be in a dogfight," Newcastle captain Alan Shearer said.
Souness expressed his -customary defiance as police officers on horseback were breaking up a demonstration by supporters chanting "Souness out", "taxi for Souness", and "one Bobby Robson".

Graeme Souness is unlikely to survive the next 24 hours as Newcastle's manager after Saturday's 1-0 home defeat to Blackburn. A club insider said last night: "The feeling is it was probably one defeat too many for Graeme."
When asked yesterday if he was about to dismiss Souness, Newcastle's chairman Freddy Shepherd did not comment. But it is understood he is poised to put Glenn Roeder, the academy director, in charge of the first team as a caretaker. He would be assisted by Newcastle's captain Alan Shearer.

GRAEME SOUNESS WAS IN THE media hall at St James’ Park, talking about priorities; family first, then work. He was facing darkened windows, which prevent curious supporters from gazing in, but do not deflect noise. As he spoke to journalists composing obituaries for his career, vowing to battle on “until someone tells me different”, chants of “Souness out” threatened to suffocate his words.
While several hundred Newcastle United fans mutinied outside, Souness accepted a cuppa from Kath Cassidy, the stadium’s long-serving tea lady. He embraced her, inquired about her health and, when his press conference petered out, chatted to her in private about illness and medication. In the circumstances — a decent man flailing in untenable conditions — it is a gesture worth noting.
After Saturday’s defeat by Blackburn Rovers, Tyneside delivered its judgment. At a club where instability is ingrained, where there are more trophy signings than trophies, where misfortune has ripped apart a small squad, where foundations have been laid in quicksand and self-preservation is the culture, scapegoats are not obvious, but a culprit has been found.
The perception is that Souness is finished at Newcastle, a perception that has become entrenched since they went out of the Carling Cup with a whimper against Wigan Athletic in November. Afterwards, a local newspaper with close ties to the chairman, Freddy Shepherd, ran a story headlined “Souness on the brink”. The Scot was furious, but there could be only political consequences to his fractured relationship with the Evening Chronicle.