Former Scotland captain Graeme Souness has said he has no regrets over describing Chelsea’s draw with Tottenham Hotspur as “a man’s game”.
The 69-year-old was working as a pundit for Sky Sports and analysing the 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge, which was marked by a number of fiery clashes and controversial decisions, and saw the managers of both teams red-carded after an altercation on the touchline.
Souness, who was sitting alongside fellow pundit and 144-times England cap Karen Carney, praised the combative nature of the match and said: “It’s a man’s game all of a sudden again.
“I think we’ve got our football back, as I would enjoy football – men at it, blow for blow, and the referee letting them get on with it.”
Presenter Dave Jones quickly interjected that “It’s a woman’s game as well” but Souness’ comments brought criticism on social media, including from current and former women players.
Beth England, part of the England squad that won Euro 2022 this summer, tweeted “Get in the bin. What a disgraceful thing to say after the summer this country has just seen.”
Former England star Eniola Aluko, now sporting director at Angel City FC, wrote: “Awkward turtles, Graeme Souness talking about “it’s a man’s game again” sat next to an England centurion Karen Carney, two weeks after @Lionesses end a 56 year wait and win European Championships.
“Football is football. Played by women, men, boys and girls. Very simple.”
Despite the controversy, Souness stood by his comments when speaking on Talksport on Monday, though the former player and manager did say that he had not being good about being “careful” with his language.
He said that his comments were intended to highlight the physical nature of the match. Asked by host Jim White if he regretted what he said, Souness responded: “not a word of it”.
“Let me explain,” he said. “I’ve been advocating for years that the referees have such a major part to play in the success of the Premier League.
“We’ve got to be careful what we say today and I’ve not been very good at that, but we were becoming like other leagues.
“The refs were blowing the whistle all the time, the game didn’t flow and it just wasn’t a very good watch. Our game has always been unique, always been more meaty, more in our face, more intense and we’ve got away from that.
“Yesterday in my comments I said we’ve got our game back. That’s the kind of football I remember playing.
“We’ve got to be better for it. The directive to the referees is long overdue, we’ve got our game back.
“I enjoyed two games of football yesterday where men were playing men and they got about themselves and were falling out with each other.
“Okay, I don’t think we should be condoning the thing on the touchline, but I’ve been there. If you are on the touchline and things aren’t going your way and you feel there’s been an injustice. You’ve worked all week for these 90 minutes.”