Graeme Souness draws Rangers blank on Red Star cauldron as he tells Ibrox stars to ‘deal with it’

It’s one of the most notorious atmospheres in Europe. The walk down the Marakana tunnel is seen as about as intimidating as it gets.

At least to some.

Graeme Souness never did scare easily, mind you.

And while most former players might play along and chuck a few platitudes about what Rangers are going to face when they go to Belgrade, their former manager has never been a man to conform.

Souness doesn’t recall it being too much to worry about when he was there as Gers gaffer in 1990 – because he can’t even remember it.

In fairness, the Rangers, Liverpool and Scotland legend has got more of a European back catalog than most to flick through in a dazzling career as one of the best players this country has ever produced.

When he was in charge at Ibrox, they drew the Serbian champs in the European Cup second round and the story goes Walter Smith was dispatched to the Balkans on a spying mission. He got a good look at the likes of Robert Prosinecki, Darko Pancev and Dejan Savicevic and came up with a report that featured just two words.

We’re f*****.

Smith also knew his stuff. Red Star won 3-1 in Belgrade and then drew 1-1 in Glasgow to progress and they went all the way to lifting the trophy.

Souness just can’t place them though.

“It was pouring with rain,” he recalled. “They had that top player, Prosinecki, I think it was.

“They were a good good team. Did we lose 1-0? Three? Yeah, they were a really good side. They won the European Cup that year so they must have been a right good team.

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“They don’t have the same team now as back then though.

“I can’t remember it being bad, so it could not have been that bad. Thetunnel?

“I can’t really remember.”

And Souness knows an intimidating atmosphere when he sees one.

He said: “I can think about three or four occasions when I thought, ‘Oh, this is good.’

Rangers legend Graeme Souness
Rangers legend Graeme Souness

“But the fact it’s not registering with me says it all.

“What ones do I remember? Bucharest. I got involved with one of their players in the first leg. That was good fun.

“Rome Cup Final, in Rome. Planting the flag in Istanbul wasn’t my smartest move.

“But I’m still here.”

Souness doesn’t think Rangers should get too worried about Red Star in their Europa League last 16 clash. They have to come to Ibrox on Thursday before the return in Belgrade the following week but his message from him will be the same as it always was.

He said: “I never worried about fans. I didn’t impact me. I was more worried about the guys I was playing against.

“You’ve got to block yourself off. They can shout and sing and throw what they want, you just need to get on with the job.

“I was lucky to experience a lot. I wasn’t alone. Big players can deal with it.

“Part of the make up of being a big player is you deal with whatever difficulties come along, whether that’s being a goal down, having a man sent off or coping with a hostile atmosphere.

“Kenny (Dalglish) pointed it out in his book but it made me better when I got abuse.”

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Souness didn’t mind getting it from the stands and he never shirked on the pitch either.

He won the lot as a player and manager and is now one of the most respected pundits in the land who holds court on Sky Sports’ biggest games.

The Scotland hero accepts his position is to represent the old school. At a time when buzzwords and phrases are thrown around, Souness calls it as he sees it.

You get the feeling the modern game exasperates him at times. And when it’s suggested Rangers might struggle with the workload if they go deep in Europe while fighting for the league, he scoffs.

“Running out of steam?” He said. “I was never tired as a player.

“You can get emotionally tired if you’ve had a bad result but that actually only lasts minutes.

“In terms of being physically tired, I never felt it. People seem to talk about it more these days.”

Souness is adamant Rangers can go all the way in the Europa League – and win the Premiership. He refuses to pick one over the other but he knows what will be most important to Rangers and the fans.

Souness said: “Our priority was always the league.”

●Graeme Souness was speaking at a visit to the Beatson Institute to see research into Epidermolysis Bullosa, a life threatening skin condition without a cure. For more info go to

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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