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Kettles, chlamydia and karate: the bad boys of football

Image credit: Action Images
Image credit: Action Images
Image credit: Action Images

Mamadou Sakho, owner of a weird, ginger mohawk and occasional participant in doping, was sent home from Liverpool’s pre-season US tour this week by his manager, Jurgen Klopp. It is understood that Mamadou showed up late for the departure flight – and presumably behaved like an absolute scallywag – before being given his marching orders.

In a media environment where the spotlight widens ever larger on individual sportsmen, do we scrutinize too heavily? Take a look at some of these absolute rebels and you’ll probably disagree. Jack Grealish getting hammered with the lads in Tenerife, or Jack Wilshere having a cheeky cigarette wane in comparison to these, some of football’s worst offenders.

A quick YouTube search of Pepe’s worst tackles would be sufficient proof of this maniac’s general attitude to healthy competition. Never one to shy away from opportunities to treat his opponent’s like punchbags, Pepe has a long record of using his feet as assault weapons. He stamped on Juan Albin’s face, kicked Lyon’s Cissokho in the head, stomped on Messi’s hand and, after fouling Getafe’s Javi Casquero, booted the prone man repeatedly in frustration. All these incidents happened in the same 2008-09 season. In fairness, we’ve all been there when you can’t get served in Flares, right? Pepe once stated, “I am not violent.” He also lies.

One part Twitter philosopher, two parts grievous bodily harm, Joey Barton has made more headlines than I’ve made poor decisions the night before a 9am lecture (I’m yet to attend a single one). To Pepe’s credit, his misconduct occurs almost exclusively on the field of play. Barton prefers a more open approach to common assault. He’s been charged twice with violence, serving 77 days for a fight in Liverpool’s city centre and a four-month suspended sentence for knocking teammate Ousmane Dabo unconscious in training. Without knowing personally how annoying Ousmane Dabo is, I’d say Joey possibly has some anger issues. The FA has also charged him twice more for punching a player in the stomach and attacking three Manchester City players at once in the final game of the 2011-12 season. He admitted to being an alcoholic, and is alleged to have used both racial and homophobic remarks in separate games. Barton stubbed out a lit cigar in a youth player’s eye while at Manchester City in 2004, although the guy did set Barton’s shirt on fire “as a joke”. All very healthy banter. He also once called Thiago Silva an “overweight ladyboy” on Twitter. He has since grown out his hair and stopped attacking people indiscriminately.

Taking you way back to 1972, Frank Worthington was more Lothario than criminal. A genuine talent in the 1970s, Worthington was a notorious womanizer and played the game so well, a legend has since blossomed in regards to a failed move to Liverpool in 1972. Frank failed the medical examination due to, so the story goes, a case of chlamydia. It was confirmed later the reality was simply high blood pressure, brought on by a wild lifestyle. He was advised to take a break and return for a second medical. Worthington, instead, returned to Mallorca, contracted a STD for real and failed his medical again. His autobiography, elegantly named One Hump or Two, suggests Frank regrets nothing.

In 1991, the Torquay team were preparing for the play-offs, Tommy Tynan among them. The team, abiding by that good old English penchant for alcoholism, decided on a drinking game as a means of bonding. Tynan ended up with a cut eye after a fight broke out (as most drinking games conclude). Never one to forgive and forget, Tynan sneaked into the perpetrator’s room later that night and beat him with a small travel kettle by the bed. Torquay did actually go on to win the playoffs, confirming the notion that beating your friends with kettles does in fact bring you all closer together.

Admittedly a decent footballer, Luis Suárez gained notoriety after actively saving a game-winning Ghanaian goal with his hand in the 2010 World Cup, before proclaiming that the “Hand of God now belongs to me”. Suárez has bitten three opponents in-play, and has missed a combined 45 games as result of his apparent desire for human flesh. Used racial slurs against Patrice Evra, then claimed he meant it to be “conciliatory and friendly”. He has since sought professional help to deal with his “biting impulses” and claims to be on the “right path”. Good to see he’s finally getting the help that no sane person should really need!

Enigmatic, controversial and timelessly cool, Eric Cantona’s ‘best worst’ decisions are still fondly remembered. King Eric’s temper dates back to his early days at Auxerre, when he punched his own goalkeeper in the face. Later on, Cantona was dropped from the French national team for calling his manager “a bag of sh*t”. His best known act of defiance remains the martial arts-inspired assault on a fan in a game against Crystal Palace. After being sent off, Cantona was making his way to the tunnel, to the heavy abuse of Palace supporters. As you do, Cantona suddenly launched a full blown, aerial karate kick into one of the more overzealous in the crowd who had adopted a racial approach to his insults. Cantona later reflected that the kick brought a “great feeling” and a memory he is “happy for the fans to treasure…but it was a mistake.” A bad boy of football in the best sense of the word.

Last, John Terry. He knows what he did; Wayne Bridge knows what he did; Wayne Bridge’s girlfriend knows what he did. We all know what he did…