Hard man for hard task as Blackburn go for Souness


After an unsuccessful five-year dalliance with coaches, Blackburn Rovers yesterday appointed a 22-carat, tea cup-throwing manager to put them back on the right track.

The former Liverpool and Rangers manager Graeme Souness, who has had four other jobs since, had spent three days negotiating his personal terms and transfer strategies, and apparently only signed on the dotted line after an 11th-hour difference of opinion over the length of his contract.

An astute man with a sound business acumen, the 46-year-old held out for - and got - a three-year deal which is expected to bring him £20,000 a week.

So the much-travelled Scot returns to English football as not just one of the best-paid Nationwide League managers, but one of the country's biggest managerial earners, picking up more than Everton's Walter Smith, Coventry City's Gordon Strachan and even Newcastle United's Bobby Robson.

Souness is also believed to have negotiated a bonus of £500,000, which will be payable if Rovers are returned to the Premiership.

Souness, who takes over from Rovers' perennial caretaker manager Tony Parkes, is an impatient man. He will assess his squad swiftly and dispassionately, and can be expected to dismantle and reassemble with such speed that some players will find themselves at new clubs before the first piece of crockery has hit the dressing-room floor.

Parkes was yesterday named as Blackburn's assistant manager, although the arrival of Souness' long-time friend Phil Boersma will probably not be long delayed.

The rumour merchants are already in full swing. They will tell you that Souness' first target may well be the gifted Liverpool striker Titi Camara. Certainly, Walker will have to be at his most generous if he is to satisfy a man who has, during his spells with Rangers, Liverpool, Southampton, Torino, Galatasaray and Benfica, developed a fondness for investing someone else` money.

Wales manager Mark Hughes yesterday launched another chapter in his playing career, joining Everton's English Premiership collection of "golden oldies".

The 36-year-old Wales manager and Southampton striker was unveiled at the Merseyside club's training ground yesterday - and his arrival will increase the average age of a squad which already boasts several veterans.

Dave Watson is 38 and Richard Gough is 37, while John Collins is 32.

There is no fee involved and Hughes, who has signed a 14-month contract taking him through until the end of next season, is expected to make his debut against Coventry at Highfield Road this evening.

Everton manager Walter Smith decided to move for the former Manchester United and Chelsea star because of an injury crisis surrounding his strikers.

Both Kevin Campbell and Francis Jeffers are sidelined at the moment, leaving Smith short of numbers up front.

Leeds goalkeeper Nigel Martyn will not face punishment from the Football Association for kicking out at Bradford's Jorge Cadete during Sunday's Premiership clash at Valley Parade. Martyn reacted angrily to a challenge from Cadete during Leeds's 2-1 victory, aiming a kick at the Portuguese striker.

The incident went unpunished by referee Paul Durkin and, after studying video evidence, the FA have decided a misconduct charge is not warranted.

South Africa have the infrastructure and enthusiasm to host the 2006 World Cup, FIFA inspectors said yesterday.

"We were most favourably impressed. . . the whole thing really was excellent," team leader Alan Rothenberg said at the end of the inspectors' six-day assessment tour of South Africa.