Football’s Top 10 Troublemakers
In most areas of life being labeled a troublemaker is a bad thing. Not so in football. The players below have clashed with their bosses, taken drugs and attacked their teammates, yet have still been offered lucrative contracts: begging the question does it pay to be a pain in the arse?
Interestingly, the biggest troublemakers often appear to be the biggest talents. No doubt this is why managers and chairman have repeatedly been willing to extend these players “another chance”, but at what point does a player stop being worth the trouble?
Take a look below at the list of players and their rolls of shame and decide for yourself.
10. John Hartson
Hartson was cut from the cloth of the classic big, strong British centre-forward. He started his career at Luton Town and then moved to the capital where he played for Arsenal, West Ham and Wimbledon. He played his best football at Celtic where he notched 88 goals in five seasons and claimed various winner’s medals.
October, 1998 – Hartson’s no none-sense approach meant that he saw red on many occasions but none quite as emphatic as the time when he volleyed his West Ham teammate, Eyal Berkovic, full throttle in the head. Certainly not a persistent troublemaker but the fact that this attack was caught on camera, allowing everyone to see the heinous kick again and again, means he sneaks onto the list at number 10.
What Next? – Not much. Hartson retired in 2008 and now works as part of Setanta’s coverage of the Scottish Premier League.
9. Jermaine Pennant
Big things were expected of Jermaine Pennant when at just 15 he was signed by Arsenal for £2 million. Although he showed glimpses of talent, that helped earn him 24 England U21 caps, he has ultimately never lived up to the hype and has spent much of his career as a wanderer: playing on loan at four different clubs.
April, 2003 – Rumours of Pennant’s lack of discipline and motivation surfaced but it all came to a head when when he was sent home from England U21s duty for breaking curfew.
January, 2005 – Wenger lost patience and he was sent out on loan. Pennant was eventually signed by Birmingham and it was during this time that he crashed his car and was convicted of drink driving, while already serving a ban. Pennant spent the 30 days of a 90 day sentence in prison and was forced to wear an electronic tag throughout his parole period. Even while on the pitch: the first player to do so in the Premiership.
What Next? – Pennant appeared to put the past behind him and won the Champions League with Liverpool. But inconsistency has struck again and he gone back to the road: currently on loan at Portsmouth.
8. Rio Ferdinand
Rio was a product of the successful West Ham youth academy and spent five years at the club before moving to Leeds United in 2000. Two years later, after a fantastic World Cup for England in 2002, Rio joined Man Utd for a transfer fee of over £30 million.
September, 1997 – Rio might be a rock of stability nowadays but in the early part of his career he repeatedly courted controversy. In 1997, following the news that he had been called up to the England squad, Rio went out to celebrate, got caught drink driving and was banned from making his debut against Moldova.
June, 2000 -Three years later and Rio made the headlines when, along with Frank Lampard and Kieron Dyer, he made a sex tape while on holiday in Ayia Napa. Said tape fell into the hands of the tabloids and the boys were condemned as the new breed of morally bankrupt, mega-rich, football stars.
October, 2003 – Another three years and another mistake. This time Rio “forgot” to attend a mandatory drug test which resulted in him being handed an 8 month ban and missing out on playing for England at Euro 2004.
What Next? – Rio’s a family man now and has appeared to put the trouble making behind him… although the infamous Manchester United Christmas party in 2007, that resulted in Jonny Evans being accused of rape, was alleged to have been organised by Rio.
7. William Gallas
The French international came to the Premiership from Marseilles back in 2001 and has since made over 230 appearances for Chelsea and Arsenal and scored over 20 goals.
September, 2006 – After moving to Arsenal form Chelsea on deadline day it later emerged that Gallas had virtually blackmailed his way out of the club: refusing to go on an American pre-season tour and allegedly threatening to score own goals if he was made to play.
February, 2008 – While playing as captain in a game Arsenal desperately needed to win, Gallas threw a temper tantrum on the pitch when Birmingham were given a last minute penalty that allowed them to earn a draw. At the end of the game, when the rest of the team headed for the dressing room, Gallas sat stubbornly on the pitch.
November, 2008 – Gallas broke the unwritten rule of not airing your dirty laundry in public when he spoke out about what he thought was a lack of courage in his younger teammates; in particular, although not explicitly, Cesc Fabregas.
What Next? The recent outburst cost him the Arsenal captain’s armband and doubts have been cast over his future at the club. Unsurprising really, Gallas’ very public brand of trouble making could, in some ways, be deemed more disruptive to a team than someone who goes round punching people.
6. David Beckham
David Beckham was born in London but started his football career up North when he chose to sign for Man Utd instead of his local Tottenham side. He went on to score 62 Premiership goals and Captain England.
January, 1998 – Sir Goldenballs, a troublemaker… surely not? But how could his gargantuan fame not amount to trouble making? It all started at the beginning of 1998 when Becks proposed to Posh spice and the Beckham brand was born.
February, 2003 – Conflict had been building between Ferguson and Becks as the player’s off the field commitments began to affect his commitment to the team. The nail in the coffin came after an FA Cup defeat to Arsenal: Fergie kicked out at a boot that struck Becks and cut his head open. That summer he left for Real Madrid.
January, 2007 – The publicity bandwagon did not stop at Madrid and claims of an affair in 2004 meant that Beckham continued to monopolize the front pages. Madrid were not that bothered, they were still making lots of money, but then hard man Capello turned up and had no time for Beckham’s fame and fortune. He opened the door for Becks to leave by stating Beckham had played his last game for Madrid.
What Next? – True to Becks never-say-die attitude he responded by earning a recall into Capello’s Madrid side and spearheaded them to a league championship. These days Beckham has put his icon status on hiatus as he attempts to convert the US to soccer and overcome his aging legs to keep playing for England.
5. Lee Bowyer
Bowyer has played for five clubs during his career, including Leeds United, West Ham and Newcastle United, and scored over 50 goals. Despite impressing many managers in the Premiership, Boywer has only one senior England cap to his name.
March, 1995 – Consistently in hot water, Bowyer failed a drugs test for cannabis use while a youth team player at Charlton Athletic and got into trouble before he had played a senior game.
January, 2000 – At Leeds United he was charged with causing grievous bodily harm with intent and affray following an incident involving Jonathon Woodgate and an Asian student in Leeds. The charge was later dropped and during the period of the trial Bowyer played the best football of his life, but the controversy cost him any chance of an England career.
April, 2005 – Playing for Newcastle United, Bowyer started an on the pitch brawl with fellow geordie teammate, Kieron Dyer. He was sent off, fined by the club and then later by Northumbria Police.
What Next? – Bowyer recently signed for Birmingham City on loan. He has kept his head down since 2005 but history tells us not to expect it to last.
4. Stan Collymore
Collymore began his professional football career at non-league Stafford Rangers before Crystal Palace took a chance on him in 1990. Then began his ascent up the football league until he signed for Liverpool in 1995 for a then British record transfer fee of £8.5 million. Despite this, Collymore only ever managed to earn three England caps.
June, 1998 – Stan the man had moments of genius on the pitch but all too often it was overshadowed by what people perceived as a poor attitude and some calamitous mistakes. The first major incident came while Glenn Hoddle’s England were playing in the World Cup in France. Stan was watching the game in a bar in Paris with his girlfriend, Ulrika Jonsson. They got into a fight and he was seen punching her.
February, 2000 – Two years later, while Stan was at Leicester, he was involved in an incident at the La Manga golf resort where he was reported to be the ringleader in a drunken night of excess that ended with a fire extinguisher being let off in the bar and the Leicester team being asked to leave.
February, 2004 – Although technically after Collymore had retired, the infamous dogging incident deserves a mention as it is still something that comes to mind when you think of the great players that never was.
What Next? – These days Collymore is a reformed man and works as a football pundit, a columnist and even starred alongside Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct !
3. Craig Bellamy
Welsh-born Bellamy’s first club was Norwich City where he scored 32 goals in 84 games before moving to Coventry and starting a path that would see him play for eight different clubs (and counting).
March, 2004 – It was not until he reached Newcastle that the trouble making fireworks started in Bellamy’s career. He was cautioned for common assault after allegedly attacking a woman outside a geordie nightclub in 2002 and Bobby Robson labeled him the “gobbiest player” he ever worked with. But it was the throwing of a chair at Newcastle first team coach, John Carver, in 2004 that would set the precedent for Bellamy’s problems dealing with teammates.
January, 2005 – In an interview after Newcastle had played Arsenal, Graeme Souness stated that Bellamy had been dropped from the game because of the player’s reluctance to play on the right side of midfield. So started a war of words that saw Bellamy accused of threatening to feign injury and eventually being loaned out to Celtic. Later, while at Blackburn, it has been reported that Bellamy sent a gloating text to Alan Shearer when Newcastle were knocked out of the FA Cup that only aggravted his relationship with the toon.
February, 2007 – Bellamy’s most high profile offence came while playing for Liverpool during a team training session in Portugal. It is rumoured a row over karaoke singing got out of hand and Bellamy attacked teammate Jon Arne Riise with a golf club. The absence of a caddy means we do not know Bellamy’s choice of club but the incident resulted in him being given the nickname: the nutter with the putter.
What Next? Bellamy has just signed for the richest club in the world… although plans to take him on a trip to Dubai are being evaluated with caution by the senior Man City staff.
2. Paul Gascoigne
One of Newcastle’s most famous exports, Gazza left his hometown club in 1988 to sign for Tottenham. He went on to play in Italy, Scotland, even China and was the star of England’s World Cup tournament in 1990.
1996 – More often mischievous than malicious, Gazza’s trouble making is just as famous as his exceptional talent. His career was a roller coaster of highs and lows that saw him battle against alcohol, injury and a restlessness that lead Gazza to consistently create trouble for himself and those around him. 1996 might be seen as the beginning of the end: first came the ‘dentist chair’ controversy prior to England’s Euro 96 campaign, followed by a stunning display in the tournament but ending with an well publicised attack on his wife, Sheryl.
1998 – The year started with the infamous flute playing celebration while playing for Rangers in an old firm match. Although Gazza was almost certainly not trying to offend every Catholic in Scotland with his Sectarian gesture, the incident resulted in him receiving death threats from the IRA for six months. Then came the crushing news that Gazza had been left out of the England squad for World Cup 98… possibly because he was pictured before the announcement stumbling down a street holding a kebab.
2005 – After years of changing clubs and being in and out of rehab, Gazza was appointed manager of Kettering Town. 39 days after taking charge Gazza walked out with the Kettering chairman accusing Gazza of being under the influence of alcohol before, during and after several first team games and training sessions.
What Next? – Gazza is currently in rehab again after being sectioned for a period in 2008. His playing days are behind him but how great would it be if Gazza could take up his crown of clown prince in the world of football management?
1. Joey Barton
Outspoken, impulsive and and unrestrained, troublemaker may be a misleading word to describe Joey Barton… Thug might be more appropriate. However, Barton can also play and he managed to rack up 130 appearances while at Man City and even one England cap.
December, 2004 - His career in carnage can be traced back to Christmas of 2004 when Barton stubbed a lit cigar in the eye of youth teammate Jamie Tandy.
July, 2005 – Seven months later and Barton is sent home from City’s pre-season tour in Thailand after clashing with a 15 year old Everton fan, and teammate Richard Dunne, in a bar.
May, 2007 – After criticising the England players who released autobiographies following the 2006 World Cup (“I had a crap World Cup, buy my book”) and then claiming that Man City had made some “substandard” signings, Barton brought an end to his time in Manchester by putting teammate, Ousmane Dabo, in hospital with a vicious attack.
May, 2008 – A year later, with Barton now playing for Newcastle United, he was sentenced to six months in jail for an assault incident in Liverpool city centre. He admitted to being addicted to alcohol and claimed he wanted to achieve total abstinence.
What Next? – Just three months after his conviction he was back playing football at St. James Park. Under new manager Joe Kinnear who knows what will happen next? The smart money says more controversy will follow: Joey Barton does not make trouble… he is trouble.