Graeme Souness spent five years at the heart of one of the world’s fiercest sporting rivalries, but witnessing the pain of a young girl with an incurable skin disease has inspired him to unite the blue and green halves of Glasgow.
On Sunday, the Rangers legend will join current Celtic manager Neil Lennon, former Hoops’ head coach Martin O’Neill and ex-Rangers boss Walter Smith to raise urgently needed research funding for Debra UK.
The charity supports people suffering from Epidermolysis Bullosa (EB), a potentially fatal and incurable skin condition that causes constant pain due to unstoppable internal and external blistering.
Souness will welcome 500 guests to the Doubletree Hilton hotel in Glasgow in a bid to raise £500,000 for two research projects for people living with EB.
He told the PA news agency that he was inspired to get involved by a meeting with a young girl with the condition.
He said: “I’ve had a privileged lifetime of meeting people in hospitals and going to charity dinners, but nothing grabbed me like the young girl that night who was an EB sufferer.
“There’s some horrible diseases out there but this is the one you wouldn’t want. The ones who have it really bad never have peace from it. It’s there when you wake up and there until you manage to sleep. In the worst cases they have bandages changed three times a week and have to have morphine or ketamine to relieve the pain.”
Souness said football players can use their role to raise awareness of such problems.
“I thought the Old Firm could unite to raise awareness for this horrible, cruel disease,” he said.
“Football players are often criticised for doing this wrong or that, but the majority of footballers get involved in some charity work.”
Professor Gareth Inman, of the Cancer Research UK Beatson Institute and the Institute of Cancer Sciences at the University of Glasgow, said the work the charity dinner will help fund is vital.
“My team and I are really eager to get started,” he said.
There is an estimated 5,000 people suffering from EB in the UK and half a million worldwide.
Meanwhile, Souness, who now lives in England, said he has “tremendous memories” from his time in Glasgow – but does not miss the pressure cooker atmosphere.
He said: “I’ve got the T-shirt and the video. It was a great five years but that’s a young man’s game.”
Souness also won three European Cups with Liverpool, but he said it is too early to make comparisons between his team and the current squad steamrolling its way to the English Premier League title.
Prior to taking the helm at Rangers, Souness played in Italy for Sampdoria, but he feels young Scottish players have no need to follow in his footsteps.
“I think now the attractive league to play in is the English league,” he said.
“The vast majority of top players want to play in the Premier League: if you can’t play at Barcelona or Real Madrid you want to play in the Premier League.”
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