Graeme Souness felt compelled enough to phone talkSPORT on Friday to defend his former Liverpool team-mates Alan Hansen and Mark Lawrenson against Martin Keown.
Souness, the three-time European Cup winner with Liverpool, was so incensed by comments from Keown that he phoned the radio show to confront the former Arsenal man.
Keown was speaking about rule changes in football in relation to VAR when he brought up the banning of back-passes to the goalkeeper. It was 1992 when the rule was introduced and Keown name-checked Liverpool’s centre-back pairing of Alan Hansen and Mark Lawrenson.
“The backpass rule changed the game massively,” Keown said on talkSPORT . “Think about Liverpool and Hansen and Lawrenson just rolling it back to the keeper.
“He just kept picking it up, [Bruce] Grobbelaar, the goalkeeper would just pick it up every time you got near it.”
Souness though, who was listening, was so annoyed by the comments that he immediately phoned the show to take Keown to task.
Here is the full transcript of the live debate:
Souness: “I nearly crashed my car, Martin, after what you said.
“I understand there have been improvements to the game, without a shadow of a doubt, but I totally disagree with you in terms of Alan Hansen and Mark Lawrenson.
“You could’ve picked any other partnership that was playing football at that time and called them out on what they would do by going back to the goalkeeper at every opportunity when put under pressure.
“But you’ve named the best two footballing centre-halves that arguably this country has ever seen!
“Alan Hansen, there’s never been a better footballing centre-half. I played with him, Martin, and I can tell you, Lawro wasn’t far behind him.”
Keown: “They were two great players, Graeme, there is absolutely no doubt.
“I remember playing against Liverpool in the FA Cup for Aston Villa, we were in the second division, it was top vs top, just before Christmas back in the day, 1987.
“They went in front and those two, they were masterful in possession, but they kept going back to the keeper! Which the rules allowed.”
Souness: “You could’ve picked anyone other than those two! They were the least guilty of turning out and going back all the time.
“If the game was tight, of course they would do that, but in terms of footballing centre-halves, there wasn’t anyone better!”
Keown: “I wasn’t saying it in a demeaning way about those two, they were the best ball-playing defenders of our time.”
Souness: “Well, you should’ve said that.”
Keown: “It was being said in the context of rule changes, it was a throwaway comment.”
Souness: “But you picked the wrong ones!”
Keown: “Not really, because they managed the game beautifully. They could’ve attacked, they could’ve picked any pass they wanted, but they went back to the goalkeeper. You’ll have to aske them why they did that, but that was Liverpool at that time.”
Souness : “Martin, I played with them for about 300 games! I know how good they were. You couldn’t get the ball off them, they were midfield players in disguise, that’s how technically good they were.
“The last thing they would do is go back because every part of their training was geared to go forward.
“You made it sound, for somebody who’s not seen them play, like they couldn’t play. That’s how it sounded. You could not have picked a worse two to give an example of.”
Keown: “There was context. If we want to reiterate how good they were, they were the finest two centre-backs I’ve played against. Paul McGrath might’ve pipped them.
“I actually thought Lawrenson, due to his pace, might’ve been better than Hansen.
“I’m well-versed on those two players, Graeme, as a youngster coming through, I’d watch them.
‘Get the tape out from that game against Villa’
“But if they needed to manage games, they would put it in row Z if they needed to. If it needed to go back to the goalkeeper, they’d do that.
“Get the tape out from that game against Villa and see how many times they go back to the goalkeeper! It was stunning.
“When I hear Adrian Durham on the radio, I want to ring him myself, so well done to you for ringing and having it out with me.”
Souness: “Give me 30 more seconds. Any aspiring centre-half, I would suggest they look at the 1984 European Cup final and watch Hansen and Lawrenson as a partnership.
“They were playing against three World Cup winners and never gave them a sniff. You see every part of how you should defend and what you should do when you’ve got the ball.”
Keown: “If they were playing today, they’d find a way not to go back to the goalkeeper and be successful. If you look at today, it’s only Virgil van Dijk who can question them as the all-time best centre-backs for Liverpool.”
Souness: “I’m telling you, they were so gifted. You could put Hansen in a telephone box with a ball and you wouldn’t get it off him, that’s how good he was.”