Date: 26th November 2005 at 1:12pm
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Graeme Souness wants the press – and fans – to lay off Jean-Alain Boumsong, saying he will defend his player who apparently has many off-field problems.

The former Auxerre player is under the cosh and ex-Toon coach Mark Lawrenson is the latest to get on the Frenchman’s case.

Souness: ‘He has had things going on in his personal life with a life-threatening problem for a person very dear to him and very close to him.

‘I am not asking people to be kind to him just because of that but to accept he has a hell of a lot on his mind. The fact he is coming to work every day tells you everything you have to know about him.’

BUT …. has sentiment any part in today’s game? Only last week the Sunderland manager said he didn’t want the Mackems to give Kevin Phillips a good reception on his return to the Stadium of Light with Aston Villa.

As it happens, they didn’t listen and … guess what … Phillips opened the scoring!