OxStu’s Footballing Five-for-Friday: Britain’s Hardest Footballers

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With fifth week coming on, OxStu Sport introduces you to some players who would never shy away from the fifth-week blues. These men were proper hardmen when such things really existed.

 

Roy Keane

Keane was a leader and an inspiration to the best team Sir Alex Ferguson created while he was at United, but he was also a maniac. Now a TV pundit, even jovial Adrian Chiles is still occasionally on the receiving end of one of Keane’s steely glares. Famous Keane spats included the Irishman (5ft 10in) telling Patrick Viera (6ft 4in) to “pick on someone your own size” after the Frenchman confronted Gary Neville in the Highbury tunnel, and the rant on MUTV which eventually led to his United exit, in which he slated a number of his fellow teammates, including Rio Ferdinand: “Just because you are paid £120,000-a-week and play well for 20 minutes against Tottenham, you think you are a superstar.”

Maddest Moment: Ending Alfie Haaland’s career with a bone-crunching challenge. Describing the moment in his autobiography, Keane said:”I’d waited long enough. I f****** hit him hard. The ball was there (I think). Take that you c***. And don’t ever stand over me sneering about fake injuries.”

 

John Hartson

Hartson - www.dailymail.co.u

The player Sir Alex Ferguson decided not to sign because of his aggressive reputation, Hartson was suspended from the Luton youth team aged 16 for stealing a bank card from the son of a couple with whom he was lodging. The Welshman averaged a red card every 26 Premier League games in appearances for Arsenal, West Ham, Wimbledon, Coventry, and West Brom, and also racked up the cards for Celtic. In 1998 he was red carded for striking another player, and was sent off again 7 matches later. In 1999 he was red carded for elbowing another player, while Hartson was sent off twice between 1999 and 2000 for using foul and abusive language towards referees.

Maddest Moment: “If my head had been a ball, it would have been in the top corner of the net” – so said West Ham’s Eyal Berkovic after Hartson had kicked him in the face in a training ground incident in September 1998.

 

 

Duncan Ferguson

While most players on this list managed to keep their hardmen credentials on the pitch, Ferguson was a formidable figure in his everyday life as well, as two burglars found out when they tried to rob the Scotsman’s house in 2001. Ferguson confronted the pair and was able to detain one of them who subsequently spent three days in hospital. In addition to that, the former Dundee, Rangers, Everton, and Newcastle striker has four convictions for assault, including a £200 fine for punching and kicking a supporter on crutches.

Maddest Moment: Ferguson received a three-month prison sentence in 1994 for an on–field headbutt on Raith Rovers defender John McStay while playing for Rangers.

 

Vinnie Jones

Jones - www.bbc.co.uk

In another life, the actor and Celebrity Big Brother contestant was a feared central-midfielder, and pivotal member of Wimbledon’s “Crazy Gang”. He was sent off 12 times in his career, as well as holding the record for the quickest ever booking in a football match, being booked after just three seconds in a Premier League tie between Chelsea and Sheffield United in 1992. Jones reveled in his hard-man image, claiming that “I’ve taken violence off the terracing and onto the pitch.”

Maddest Moment: In a 1987 match between Wimbledon and Newcaslte, Jones was caught on camera grabbing Paul Gascoigne by his testicles. It did not create lasting animosity between the two, though, as Jones helped fund Gascoigne’s rehab stint in America alongside the likes of Chris Evans, Gary Lineker and Piers Morgan.

 

Stuart Pearce

The recently sacked manager of England Under-21s was a much respected professional, establishing a reputation as an uncompromising left back who played hard but fair. Throughout his career, he was given the nickname of “Psycho” for his unforgiving style of play. This was initially a tag afforded to him only by Forest fans, though later it was adopted by England supporters too, while former England Team mate Matthew Le Tissier has since described him as his scariest opponent in his book Taking Le Tiss.

Maddest Moment: In a 1999 match against Watford, Pearce injured his leg in an on-field collision. Undaunted, he continued to play the match. Afterwards, it was revealed that Pearce’s leg had been broken – he was 37. For good measure, he broke the same limb later on in the same season, refused to be stretchered off, hobbled off the pitch, and still recovered.

 

PHOTOS // ataleoftwomes.blogspot.com  www.dailymail.co.uk  www.bbc.co.uk

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