Former Liverpool manager Graeme Souness says he does not regret calling football “a man’s game” after Chelsea’s explosive Premier League clash against Tottenham despite a furious reaction to his comments.
Souness said he was glad that referee Anthony Taylor allowed the players to engage in a series of aggressive tackles during the feisty 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.
Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel and his Tottenham counterpart Antonio Conte were both sent off after an angry exchange on the touchline.
Souness, 69, who was a tough-tackling midfielder, relished the physical nature of the London derby, saying: “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.”
But the ex-Liverpool and Scotland player’s views, expressed in his role as a television pundit, triggered a backlash from current and former female England players.
The Lionesses’ historic Euro 2022 triumph last month has boosted the popularity of the women’s game in England.
Eni Aluko, capped 102 times by the Lionesses, and Beth England, part of the squad that won the Euros, both criticised Souness on social media.
Chelsea forward England said Souness’s comments were a “disgraceful thing to say after the summer this country has just seen”.
Aluko, now the sporting director of Angel City FC in the United States, wrote: “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.”
However, Souness, asked by Talksport on Monday if he regretted his comments, was unrepentant.
“Not a word of it,” 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.
“My comments yesterday were saying we’ve got our game back. That is the kind of football I remember playing in.”