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Graeme Souness defends Rangers and Celtic for Sydney Super Cup move and says fans need to ‘get over it’

Celtic and Rangers fans and shareholders have been joined together by their resistance to the decision by the clubs to play a friendly in Australia later this year but former Ibrox manager Graeme Souness believes that it’s high time the Glasgow giants were thinking outside the box when it comes to finding new revenue streams.

He argues that they need to work harder to close the financial gap between themselves and the TV-fuelled riches of the top clubs north of the border, pointing out that radical changes are needed when international players at Celtic can earn more by moving to Championship side Bournemouth.

The Down Under derby has been pencilled in for the Sydney Olympic Stadium in November (during the Premiership’s World Cup finals induced winter break) and Souness backs it all the way.

“In commercial terms it all makes sense,” he said. “Money makes the world go round, especially in football, and that’s never been more the case than right now.

“You have to get out there and chase the bucks, making yourself [as rich] as you can. Neither Rangers nor Celtic don’t get much money by comparison to very small teams in the English Premier League.

“I was a season ticket holder at Bournemouth because I lived down there. They have a 10,000 capacity yet they’re getting 25 times the money Rangers get.

“The purists say don’t go [to Australia]. Why? Because it’s just not right. But you want to see better players playing for your club and it’s about finding a market where they can generate interest in Rangers [and Celtic] that can be monetised.

“That can end up with better players on the pitch. End of story.”

Souness has no time for the traditionalists who argue that the rivals should never meet anywhere other than at Parkhead, Ibrox or Hampden.

“It’s hard for some to accept but when people abroad are asked about Scottish football they have two words: Rangers and Celtic,” he said. “Get over it.

“From a playing side, it’s not ideal going all the way out there but it’s during the [winter] break and there’s enough time to recover when they get back.

“It’s about spreading the name and spreading Scottish football. Improving the profile. You might get Australian broadcasters showing more Scottish games. That’s the world we live in.

“There’s a big opportunity down there. I’m all for it. I live and work in England and I see the money in the Premier League and how it’s helped.

“You look at Bournemouth. They sign Ryan Christie from Celtic – and he’s probably on more money now. Celtic get 60,000 fans every week, his team gets 10,000 and can pay more.”

Rangers face Red Star Belgrade in the first leg of their round of 16 Europa League tie on Thursday and Souness believes they can go on to win the competition after demolishing favourites Borussia Dortmund in the play-offs.

“[They] now should have enough confidence to go anywhere,” he said. “They should fear nothing and no-one now.

“Look at Barcelona: it’s their name which conjures up great things but this isn’t the Barcelona of Xavi, Iniesta and Messi so Rangers should have no fear if they end up meeting them in the final.

“Yeah, they were disappointing in the league game [the 2-2 draw with Motherwell] after Dortmund but that can happen.

“We’ve all been there but they should take a lot of confidence from turning over one of the best teams in Europe – and doing it with a bit of style.

“Prior to Dortmund, other teams would have fancied some of them: that’s not the case now.

“I think people [elsewhere] will look at the Dortmund result and sit up and take notice of our league. The teams in Scotland should be thanking Rangers, instead of the usual jealousy.”

Rangers’ last European final saw them miss out on the UEFA Cup when they lost 2-0 to Zenit St Petersburg in Manchester, with a gruelling 68-match campaign blamed for them falling at the last fence in that completion and in the league, where they were pipped by Celtic in the last round of fixtures.

Souness, though, is of the opinion that fatigue cannot be used as an excuse. In 1983/84, his final season as a Liverpool player, they had to contend with 67 games but still won the Championship, the European Cup and the League Cup so he knows that battling successfully on two fronts is achievable as long as injuries are avoided.

“The confidence you get from winning big games kicks you on,” he said. “If you gave me the choice between the league or Europe, I couldn’t pick one because I’d want both.

“You don’t want to get knocked out and your season falls apart: you can’t think like that. You want to go on a run [because] winning games breeds confidence to take into the next matches. As for running out of steam, personally 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. There’s rotating and resting players: that’s planting the seed and it’s not how I would work.

“The demands of the modern game? Really? We won the league at Liverpool one year with 14 players. The demands were there then, too.”

Graeme Souness was speaking on behalf of DEBRA, the charitable foundation which is attempting to find a cure for – and help people suffering from – Epidermolysis Bullosa, the life-limiting skin condition which causes blistering lesions to form on the skin and the internal organs of children. in its worst form, children die as a result of EB in infancy. Souness will host a fund-raising Football Legends dinner in Glasgow on March 13.

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