Rangers legend unveils English Channel challenge as emotional reason behind Sky Sports departure

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Graeme Souness fought to hold back tears as he unveiled the English Channel challenge he will take on inspired by a 14-year-old girl this summer.

Rangers legend Graeme Souness will swim the English Channel later this year as he unveiled his emotional reason for quitting Sky Sports earlier this year.

The former Gers player and manager struggled to keep back the tears as he appeared on BBC Breakfast on Monday morning to announce the challenge alongside 14-year-old Isla Girst.

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Souness met Isla four years ago and the duo have struck up a friendship with the teenager, who lives with rare skin disorder Epidermolysis bullosa. People living with the illness, also known as 'butterfly skin', are often bandaged head to toe and must have the dressings changed multiple times a week in a painful process.

Souness will swim the 21 miles of the Channel on June 18 this year alongside Isla's dad Andy.

The Rangers legend said: "Isla is the most unique human being I ever met, and she does this to me every time [make emotional], she's an inspiration to me even at my age.

"Football does its bit for charity. Players are much maligned, much criticised, but football does its bit. Throughout my life, I've had the good fortune to spend time with people who have not been very well. I knew nothing about this disease. This disease is the cruellest."

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The star, with tissue in hand, then had to take a moment to compose himself as he struggled to speak while overcome with emotion.

He continued: "Excuse me, I knew this would happen. It's the cruellest, nastiest disease out there that I know of.

Graeme Souness enjoyed a successful spell as Rangers boss (Image: Getty Images)Graeme Souness enjoyed a successful spell as Rangers boss (Image: Getty Images)
Graeme Souness enjoyed a successful spell as Rangers boss (Image: Getty Images)

"For someone so young to be so brave, Ayla is aware of the impact this has on her mum and dad and she helps them. This is a very special young lady you're in the company of and she gets me in tears every time I'm in her company."

Souness and Andy will raise money for Debra's "A Life Free of Pain" appeal, which strives to pay to clinically test drug treatments that could improve the quality of life for people with Dystrophic Recessive Epidermolysis Bullosa. The football legend hopes to raise at least £1.1 million as a nod to the number 11 he wore on the football field.

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The Great Ormond Street Hospital explains the condition can cause "extremely fragile, often with extensive blistering and wounds". People like Isla, who live with butterfly skin, are often wrapped head to toe in bandages which are painfully changed multiple times a week.

Earlier this year, Souness announced his departure from SkySports as he had 'a lot of things coming up'.

The star said: "I'm going to miss you guys, the guys behind the scenes, our make-up girl, I'll miss you all.

"You know, for me, I decided that football management wasn't for me any more. I had the wrong temperament for it, the wrong personality.

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"And then I was given the opportunity to do this and it's been magnificent. It's just been the most fantastic time for me, because I love football, I care about football and I worry about it going forward.

"But in Sky's hands it's in good hands, safe hands, and I think over the years we've created a Premier League with great detail and I think we look after football very well

"And it's great right now to be amongst friends and nothing goes on forever, but I've got a lot of things coming up, I'm involved in my DEBRA charity and on the 27th of this month I'll announce the challenge I'm getting involved in."

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