In Pod 16 the subject of football nutters was mentioned, thanks to Harry Redknapp’s quote about Arsenal gaffer Arsene Wenger turning into ‘a nutter’ due to the stress and strain of managing in the Premier League. The Frenchman has usually been the epitome of calmness under pressure during his 14-year tenure with the Gunners, but are there really so-called ‘nutters’ in football? Well, yes…..
For years there have been many plying their trades in leagues across the world and in England we’ve seen a fair few. From hardmen on the pitch to managers tearing their hair out on the touch-line here are ten men who have provided us with some scary, baffling but mainly comical moments when they’ve lost it.
10. ROY McDONOUGH
All of his career was spent in the lower leagues of English football, but Roy McDonough (or Donut as he was known) is someone who will go down in the record books. No player has been sent off more times than McDonough with 21 dismissals throughout his career, 13 of those in the league. He does share that unenviable record with former Leicester City stalwart Steve Walsh.
He had a confrontational style on the pitch and rarely shied away from going in where it hurt. Off the pitch as manager of Colchester, he once reacted to fans of his team attacking those of rivals Wycombe Wanderers by saying “It takes two to fight, one to punch, the other to stand there and be punched.” Enough said.
9. DUNCAN FERGUSON
The Scot was a key figure at Everton during two spells there between 1994 and 2006. He scored many goals for the Toffees and Newcastle United, but is also remembered for his short fuse and hardman persona – before joining Everton he spent three months in prison whilst at Rangers for headbutting Raith Rovers’ John McStay in a match at Ibrox. You wouldn’t mess with him, just ask Steffen Freund and Paul Ince who had friendly exchanges with big Dunc in the Premier League.
8. VINNIE JONES
Vinnie Jones can now be found starring in Hollywood movies but throughout his playing career was often found in the notebook of many a referee. The midfielder was renowned for a hard-man image whilst playing for Leeds, Sheffield United, Chelsea and especially Wimbledon. He enjoyed success with the Crazy Gang with numerous high-placed finishes in the top flight and an FA Cup in 1988.
He was sent off 12 times in his career and holds the record for the fastest yellow card in Premier League history, 3 seconds into a match for Sheffield United against Chelsea for a foul on Dane Whitehouse. The picture above shows a unique way of handling a young Paul Gascoigne in 1988 and four years later he faced a £20,000 fine and lengthy ban for fronting a video called ‘Soccer’s Hard Men’ which showed clips of Jones and other ‘hard men’ in the game – whilst offering advice to budding ‘hard-men.’
Oh to see him go in for a tackle with Cristiano Ronaldo……
7. PAUL GASCOIGNE
One of the best (if not the best) footballers England has produced in the last 25 years. ‘Gazza’ had the world at his feet and despite being successful in spells with Tottenham, Lazio and Rangers plus playing over 50 games for his country, there’s the feeling much of his talent went to waste.
Never the shy and retiring type, Gazza was flamboyant, eccentric and downright mad at times. During a press conference in 1993 he burped into a mic, walked out onto the Wembley pitch ahead of the 1991 FA Cup Final in a pair of slippers and wore giant inflatable breasts during England’s triumphant return from the 1990 World Cup.
6. GRAEME SOUNESS
Graeme Souness’ playing career was spent terrorising the opposition wherever he played. Playing in midfield for Tottenham, Middlesbrough, Sampdoria, Rangers and the great Liverpool teams of the 1970’s & 80’s, the Scot was a classy player but also uncompromising and went in where it hurt, collecting numerous yellow and red cards in the process.
He was sent off 37 minutes into his debut for Rangers thanks to a two-footed tackle on St Johnstone’s George McCluskey which sparked a 22-man brawl between both sets of players. The madness didn’t stop after moving into management either.
In 1996 whilst boss of Galatasaray he masterminded a two-legged Turkish Cup final victory over bitter rivals Fenerbahce. To celebrate the win he ran onto the pitch (in Fenerbahce’s stadium it should be noted) and planted a large Galatasaray flag in the centre circle, nearly causing a riot in the stands.
5. PAOLO DI CANIO
Paolo Di Canio endeared himself to fans on these shores with fantastic skill, passion and spectacular goals. The Italian joined Sheffield Wednesday in 1997 before playing for West Ham and Charlton, however it could be said that sometimes he was an olive short of a pizza. In 1998 whilst at Wednesday he got a red card in a match against Arsenal and shoved referee Paul Alcock to the ground. Di Canio was banned for 11 games and fined £10,000.
Upon leaving the Premier League in 2004, he went back to Italy to rejoin his first club Lazio where he played for four more years before retiring. However he caused much controversy in this spell as on several occasions he gave the controversial Nazi salute to Lazio fans and declared he was an admirer of Mussolini. Not surprisingly he received numerous bans and fines for his behaviour.
4. ERIC CANTONA
An icon of the early years of the Premier League, Eric Cantona was the multi-talented striker who led the line at Manchester United as they began to dominate the English game. He provided fans with fantastic moments on the pitch but also one which was memorable for all the wrong reasons.
In 1995 United were away at Selhurst Park playing Crystal Palace and Cantona was sent off for kicking out at Palace defender Richard Shaw. What happened next attracted criticism and made headlines worldwide, as the temperamental Frenchman launched a kung-fu kick at Palace fan Matthew Simmonds, followed by several punches. Simmons had shouted abuse at Cantona as he left the pitch towards the tunnel but the striker’s retaliation meant he faced a four-month ban, £20,000 fine and 120 hours community service.
At a press conference called after the incident Cantona gave a famous, if somewhat baffling quote; “When the seagulls follow the trailer, it’s because they think sardines will be thrown in the sea. Thank you very much.” He then got up and walked out with the assembled media confused. It’s not hard to see why.
3. ROY KEANE
A true presence on the pitch and the driving force behind Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United, Roy Keane was a player with a huge will to win who intimidated teammates and opposition in equal measure. One of the great box-to-box midfielders, Keane captained United to numerous trophies, but found himself in the limelight on many occasions for other reasons.
As a youngster at Nottingham Forest Keane was knocked to the floor by a punch from manager Brian Clough after being accused of a poor attitude. In 2002 he was sent home from the Republic of Ireland’s World Cup squad after a foul-mouthed bust-up with manager Mick McCarthy and he picked up no less than 13 red cards in his career.
His most notorious incident came during a Manchester derby in 2001. He went in for a tackle with City’s Alf Inge Haaland, who whilst at Leeds in 1996 shouted at Keane as he lay stricken on the floor with a knee injury, accusing the Irishman of faking it. Keane’s tackle was shocking as was his description of the incident in his autobiography: “I f****ing hit him hard. The ball was there (i think) Take that you c**nt. And don’t you ever stand over me again sneering about fake injuries.”
2. DIEGO MARADONA
Without question one of the greatest footballers to ever play the game, the Argentine was streets ahead of his contemporaries during his career, but never far away from controversy. On the pitch he won his country the 1986 World Cup and played for top clubs worldwide including Boca Juniors, Barcelona and Napoli. Off the pitch he battled drug and alcohol problems which saw his weight balloon toward obesity.
He was a colourful figure on the touchline as manager of Argentina in the 2010 World Cup, but a few weeks before the tournament began he drove over the foot of a cameraman as he tried to escape a media scramble and once fired a compressed air-gun rifle at reporters who he claimed were invading his privacy.
Another mad Maradona moment came in the 1994 World Cup and a match against Greece. After scoring a screamer from the edge of the box he ran over to the cameras with the look of a maniac on his face. He was tested for drugs and found to be taking Ephedrine which led to him being sent home early from the finals in disgrace. The celebration never fails to make you laugh though.
1. JOHN SITTON
The ultimate example of a manager losing it. This is almost a real life version of someone smashing their keyboard to pieces, screaming at the screen as their best-laid plans go belly up on Football Manager.
In 1994 John Sitton was appointed manager of Division Two strugglers Leyton Orient and during the 94-95 season appeared in a Channel 4 documentary ‘Orient: Club for a Fiver’ during which his unique management style and choice of language was highlighted.
During half-time of a match against Blackpool which Orient were losing 1-0, Sitton made the incredible move of sacking one of his players, fans favourite Terry Howard, on the spot and during a expletive-laden team talk to his stunned players, offered to fight two of them, with the memorable quote of “You can bring your f***ing dinner, cos by the time I’m done with you you’ll f***ing need it.” Needless to say Orient were relegated by the end of the season and Sitton lost his job.
Are there any other ‘football nutters’ I’ve missed out? Tweet them to twitter.com/steven_toplis or twitter.com/optajokepodcast