Drug Running, Money Laundering & Head-Butting A Policeman – Rooney & Balotelli Are Saints Compared To This Lot
With the Premier League season now finished, we take a look back – not at moments like Rooney and Berbatov’s overhead kicks against City and Liverpool, but at the naughty moments that have had the media up in arms – finding out that this country’s league has never had it so tame.
For all of Rooney’s swearing into a camera after banging a hat-trick, elbowing players for no reason and his one-time penchant for sleeping with prostitutes, the fiery Manchester United man is a bit of an amateur when it comes to really raising hell.
Not to be outdone, the blue side of Manchester have their own head case in the form of Mario Balotelli, but even compared to this list of nutcases, his story of having sex with his girlfriend’s best mate whilst his actual girlfriend was asleep in the room next door, before being caught, shrugging his shoulders and chucking them both out – makes him sound a mild-mannered, church going, pink kitten.
Here is the run down the top 10 footballing bad boys to show just how far Rooney would have to fall before he got anywhere near to the bottom of shame barrel, with not a single mention of Gazza or Cantona in sight.
10. Rene Higuita
With a nickname like ‘El Loco’ – Spanish for ‘the nutter’ – it seems as though the keeper had a bit of a name to live up to. Stereotypically, goalkeepers are an eccentric bunch, but Higuita took it to a new level with his well-known flair on the pitch (such as this famous moment) as well as plenty of controversy off of it.
Every self-respecting football bad boy worth his weight in Deep Heat has spent some time behind bars and Higuita was eating Columbian porridge in 1993 after getting his mits dirty in a kidnapping: acting as a go between for drug barons Carlos Molina and Pablo Escobar, securing the safe release of the former’s daughter.
Higuita was collected $64,000 for his part in the negotiations but, funnily enough, profiting from a kidnapping is an offence in Colombia, so he was jailed for seven months.
After being released, he was back to his head-scratching goalkeeping as usual until, he found himself in trouble again in 2004 when tested positive for cocaine representing an Ecuadorian club.
9. Frank McAvennie
Talking of dabbles in Columbian marching powder, former West Ham and Celtic striker McAvennie gets a mention. The Scot – a road-cleaner in his teenage years – admitted to snorting coke while he was still playing, at a time when he earned £5,000 a week (big bucks back then) and was a regular on the London nightclub scene.
It was only when he retired did the problems really begin. He has clocked up two convictions for possessing coke and had £100,000 seized by Customs, and “had no idea” what half of a stash found in a Land-Rover at Dover’s docks was doing in 1996 as he was accused of being involved in “a booze run in Calais” or as they say in other terms, a massive drug deal.
In 2000, he spent a month in Durham prison before appearing in court charged with conspiracy to supply £110,000 worth of ecstasy tablets and in 2009 he was handed a fourth month prison sentence, suspended for two years, after headbutting a man in a brawl outside a bar on the Isle of Man. His arrest meant he had to skip a charity match – the reason for being on the island.
McAvennie has also fought bankruptcy and depression in his spectacular fall from grace, while earlier this year he said his long-suffering wife of 10 years must surely be “due a testimonial”.
He hasn’t been asked to attend anymore charity events.
8. George Best
Stylish, handsome and ludicrously talented, the Northern Irish winger was without doubt one of the greatest players of all time: he was named European footballer of the Year in 1968 after helping Manchester United win the European Cup, and was dubbed the “fifth Beatle” for his glamorous lifestyle.
After that high point, however, as everyone knows, his career started to spiral downward as his battles with alcoholism took over his life.
He punched his second wife Alex in the face on at least two occasions, is alleged to have done the same to at least one other girlfriend in the past, and in 1972 was charged with assault after an incident that left a Manchester nightclub waitress with a fractured nose – though he was acquitted in court with the help of one of his drinking buddies, legendary piss head barrister George Carman.
It wasn’t just violence that Best got involved with: admitting that he stole a wad of cash from a woman’s handbag in a bar in the States to fund a drinking session, and in 1984 he received a three-month prison sentence for drink driving, assaulting a police officer and skipping bail.
7. Peter Storey
Pimp, fraud master and porn baron: other than “Moonshine Producer” what isn’t there former Arsenal ace Peter Storey hasn’t got his 1970’s chops into?
He enjoyed a reputation for being one of the game’s toughest tacklers, known for sliding in two-footed on his opponents and sparking a running joke that he was “a Storey who belonged in the horror section” – a key member of the Gunners’ Double-winning side in 1971.
In 1979, two years after leaving Highbury, things began to “be an inconvenience” for him when handed a six-month suspended prison sentence for running a brothel in East London.
After being released and deciding that the brothel thing may have been a bad idea, he decided to finance a counterfeiting ring in which gold coins were produced and got three years for that. When released, he proclaimed that he was “a changed man, looking to get back into football”.
Storey returned to jail in 1990 for trying to import dick flick videos from Europe which were discovered in his spare tyre.
The ‘colourful’ Storey runs the Jolly Farmers pub in Islington and a small farm in France, where he still lives with his third wife. He published a spill-the-beans autobiography in September last year called “True Storey.”
A film is said to be in the pipeline as well.
The Brazilian nicknamed ‘the animal’ was a devastating talent on the pitch, playing brilliantly for his national side and clubs including Fiorentina, setting the world alight with his dribbling skills and goal scoring ability…… but also well known for sparking brawls amongst team-mates, racially abusing linesmen and continually getting sent off.
Off the pitch, his antics generally revolved around smashing TV cameras, waving the flag as the greatest party animal in sport – playing the drums smashed out of his face in a samba band at a Carnival in Rio when he should have been playing a cup game for Fiorentina.
Although his CV reads as countless nights in dodgy clubs with ladies of questionable reputation (and sexual gender), his most famous chapter came at his son’s first birthday party in 1999, when he hired an entire circus to entertain guests – then, after “being bored” – got the chimpanzee, Pedrinho, drunk on San Miguel.
His lowest point came when he was involved in a car crash in 1995 which killed all three of his female passengers. He was convicted of drink driving and manslaughter and given a four-and-a-half year semi-open prison sentence (which would have allowed him out during the daytime to play football).
He has fought the charge ever since, however, and has only ever spent a few nights behind bars – and quite incredibly tried to join the police upon his retirement in 2008.
5. Diego Maradona
Ah Maradona. Do you know, sometimes great talent brings with it great pressure to deal with the pressures of fame and fortune. Think Pele, Rafael Nadal or Lionel Messi.
At other times, that adulation sends players spinning off the rails as it did with the Argentine God. Maradona was famous for his on-pitch cynicism (as England fans know all too well during the 1986 World Cup), but a genius on the pitch, obviously means that he had to be a piss-headed drug abuser off of it.
As it turns out, he got a 15 month ban for cocaine use while playing at Napoli in the early nineties, just the tip of the cocaine iceberg that stretched back to 1983 – and continued throughout the 1990s. He was sent home from the World Cup in 1994 after testing positive for ephedrine (No idea why – his celebration after scoring his last goal before being carted off looked OK to me…), and in 1998 received a lengthy (but suspended) prison sentence for firing an air rifle at journalists.
He rehabilitated his reputation somewhat with a lively spell as Argentina coach, somehow guiding them to the World Cup in 2010 after apparently having wrecked their chances with some bizarre selections. During that stint he still managed to hit the headlines for the wrong reasons, however, at one stage running over a TV cameraman then getting out of the car and abusing him roundly for putting his leg in the way of his motor.
4. Mickey Thomas
The Welsh star enjoyed a glittering on-pitch career, turning out for sides including Manchester United, Chelsea, Everton and Leeds as well as making 51 appearances for his country.
His legacy however, is playing a major role in the counterfeiting operation that was printing money and allegedly laundering it through the trainees at Wrexham.
“The judge would have given me a fine if he hadn’t been worried that I’d just print the money to pay it,” he joked after being sent down for 18 months in 1993 – passing counterfeit notes that were allegedly laundered through Wrexham’s trainees. After being sentenced he even flashed a £10 note at the assembled media and asked “if anyone had change for the phone”.
It wasn’t the player’s only comical moment in the papers, 1992 was the year he hit the headlines after being stabbed in the arse with a screwdriver by his brother-in-law after being caught shagging his sister-in-law in a country lane.
Not that ever slowed Mick down, he even enjoyed his spell in prison, he shared his cell with a man notorious for beheading cellmates, and was once pictured by the News of the World necking champagne in his bed. You can’t keep a good rouge down, and still trades off his reputation to this day, making a decent living on the after dinner circuit, dropping timeless crackers such as, “Roy Keane was on £50 grand a week. Mind you, so was I until the police found my printing machine.”
3. Joey Barton
The Newcastle midfielder has admitted openly that he has “anger issues” – though describing the 28-year-old’s demons as mere “innocent” anger is as innocent as a nun doing squats in a cucumber field.
His rap sheet runs from stubbing a lit cigar into the eye of a young team-mate at the Manchester City Christmas party, breaking a pedestrian’s leg by running them over in his car in the middle of Liverpool at two o’clock in the morning, hospitalising team-mate Ousmane Dabo during a training ground fight, and being convicted of assault (and sentenced for six months) for attacking a pair of teenagers outside McDonalds.
Barton has calmed down in the last year or so, well, apart from almost ending Xabi Alonso’s career with a horror tackle, flinging a racial insult at Gabriel Agbonlahor and decking Blackburn’s Pedersen during a match.
2. Robin Friday
This lad who played for Reading and Cardiff midfielder was nothing short of a deranged animal, police hating, mental case, drug addict. He didn’t come from the best of backgrounds (growing up included a spell in Borstal) but rose through the ranks of non-league football, shining for Reading, before being slung for drug abuse.
He quickly joined Cardiff, but his stint with the Bluebirds wasn’t a good one – getting caught travelling on a train without a ticket on his first day as Cardiff player, and had to be bailed out by his new manager before he had even laced his boots.
He was a pretty tricky player on the pitch but continued to hit the headlines for the wrong reasons off it, including taking a dump in Mark Lawrenson’s kit bag and tried to destroy a hotel snooker room by flinging balls around the room while standing on the table dressed only in his pants.
His woes continued but his balls grew after leaving the game, serving a spell in Juliet for impersonating a police officer in order to get his hands on other people’s drugs.
Friday died aged 38 of a massive heart-attack allegedly after a heroin overdose. He was later immortalised on the cover of a hit single released by indie band Super Furry Animals called “The man don’t give a fuck.”
1. Gavin Grant
Maradona, Joe Barton and even Edmundo look pretty lame compared to former Millwall player Gavin Grant. The striker shot and killed Leon Labastide in Harlesden, North West London, back in 2004, a murder that was one of a spate of tit-for-tat shootings on the notorious Stonebridge Park Estate.
The court was told at the time that the incident took place in the wake of a burglary which saw three women beaten up and £20,000 of drug money swiped. The incident is thought to have led to a string of 30 shootings in the area.
Although Grant was not a professional footballer at the time of the killing, he signed for Gillingham in 2005 before joining Millwall in 2006. He went on to play for sides including Wycombe Wanderers and Bradford City, but Murder isn’t something you can really hide forever, and he is currently serving a life sentence with a minimum term of 25 years.
Would love to put a pun in of Gavin Grant having a lethal shot on him etc, but thought better…
Actually, how can we have a list like this without the big man…?
A special mention here as you don’t get nicknames like “Duncan Disorderly” and “Ardman” for nothing. The former Rangers and Everton forward is well known for being a slice short of a loaf – having been convicted a total of four times, twice for fighting at cab offices (which included heat-butting a policeman), once for knocking out a fan on crutches at his local pub after being called “A total donkey” at his last game, and most famously, a three-month stretch for head-butting John McStay on the field in 1994 when playing for Rangers.
In 2001, Ferguson was the victim of attempted burglary, but caught two of the three raiders and kept them in “house arrest” which resulted in both the lads being tied up and spending three days in hospital after the police arrived.
Whilst at Everton, in 2005 against Wigan he squared up and punched both Pascal Chimbonda and Paul Scharner on the pitch and in the away dressing room. “Big Dunc” got a seven game ban and notched up a total of eight red cards by the end of the season.
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