Newcastle opt for the steel of Souness

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Graeme Souness will walk into St James' Park next Monday after Newcastle United named the authoritarian Scot as the man who will try to turn their season around.

The 51-year-old former midfield hard man takes over from Sir Bobby Robson, the grand old gentleman of the English game, who was "relieved of his duties" last week following a poor start to the season.

One of his first tasks will be to get to grips with declining standards of discipline at the club evident since Kieron Dyer, the England midfielder, refused to play on the right against Middlesbrough on the opening day of the season.

If he is to end a 35-year trophy drought at the north-east club, beneficiary of some of the most passionate and numerous support in world football, he will also need to rectify longstanding defensive shortcomings. These contributed to a 4-2 defeat at Aston Villa in Robson's last match in charge.

Souness left his post at Blackburn in Monday in what appeared an amicable parting of the ways after more than four years. The Lancashire club said a "satisfactory level of compensation" had been reached. It was now focusing on finding a successor. Meantime, Tony Parkes has yet again been named as caretaker.

Souness's week of gardening leave is designed to prevent a situation whereby the first match in which he took charge would be against his former club. Blackburn visit St James' on Saturday for a game in which both sides will be striving for their first Premiership win of the season. Blackburn lie 19th to Newcastle's 17th.

The Wales boss Mark Hughes, a former Blackburn player, had on Monday night emerged as early favourite to take over at Ewood Park. But in what was being seen as an open race, other well-known figures such as Gordon Strachan, the former Southampton manager, and Gérard Houllier, like Souness a former Liverpool boss, were also mentioned, as was Alan Shearer, the Newcastle and former Blackburn striker. Rising managerial stars Paul Jewell of Wigan and Mike Newell of Luton, another former Blackburn striker, are also viewed as possible replacements.

Souness, who landed Blackburn a trophy in the shape of the 2002 League Cup, is widely held to have mellowed since undergoing a triple heart bypass operation in 1992. But his approach remains outspoken and uncompromising.

His appointment came as a surprise with recent speculation centring on Steve Bruce, the Birmingham manager, and former England boss Terry Venables. His first match in charge will be the visit of the Israeli side BNEI Sakhnin for a Uefa Cup tie on September 16.

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