Few would argue that there have been many villains in the beautiful game over the years. Some worse than others, some are just hard men. All of these players have either been a cult hero or a great for both club and in some cases country. Good behaviour though, on or off the pitch, did not come easy for this bunch and in some cases it still doesn’t. Red cards and fights were the norm and put them into a team together, very few would want to come up against them.
So just for a bit of fun, not to be taken seriously, here is this writer’s pick for a Football Villains XI, complete with manager and substitutes. They line up in a 4-2-4 formation.
Part one looks at the manager, goalkeeper and defence.
Manager – Alan Pardew
The current Crystal Palace manager is currently having a quiet time of it after several years of controversies at previous clubs such as Newcastle United and West Ham United. These include headbutting Hull City player David Meyler (he was banned for a total of seven games and fined a total of £160,000 for this incident), pushing an official after disagreeing with a decision and verbally abusing the Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini (as recently as last week). Add these to other various minor controversies and also that its surely only a matter of time before he does something else deemed controversial, that he earns himself a place as the boss of this side.
Goalkeeper – Rene Higuita
The inventor of the scorpion kick, Higuita was an eccentric goalkeeper who often took risks when they were completely unnecessary. He also liked to score goals too. At the end of his career he had scored over 40 goals for club and country. However it’s his off the field controversies that earn him a place as this teams No.1. In 1993 he was imprisoned after being involved in kidnapping. His time in prison meant he was unable to go to the 1994 World Cup with his national side, Columbia. Higuita has also tested positive for cocaine and was an acquaintance of a Columbian drug lord, allegedly using his influence on several occasions.
Right Back – Gary Neville
Although the ex-Manchester United legend and England international right back was not really a villain off the pitch, he certainly was on the pitch to many supporters, just ask any Liverpool fan. His 40 yard run to celebrate Manchester United’s last gasp winner in front of the Liverpool fans has certainly stuck in many minds. Him being a one-club man and the captain of the team many supporters love to hate doesn’t help his cause either. He is also a man of strong opinions and in some eyes he has an arrogance about him. This has been the case throughout his playing career and now in his media career. Love him or loathe him and a pantomime villain he may be, he has earned his place in this team.
Centre Back – John Terry
Terry, like certain other individuals are almost certain to be in any team of villains. This one is no different and few would argue. If Terry isn’t having an affair with a teammate’s wife, he’s mocking Americans or in one case racially abusing an opposition player. The latter incident cost Terry thousands in fines, a ban, the England captaincy, distress to the family of the player he abused and ultimately (along with other incidents) cost the then England manager, Fabio Capello, his job. A legend he may be inside Stamford Bridge but outside you would be hard pressed to find a football supporter outside of Chelsea who is a fan.
Centre Back – Kevin Muscat
Australian Muscat was once described as “the most hated man in football”. Sent off 12 times during his career with most coming as a result of seriously injuring another player. Following a tackle on former Charlton Athletic player Lee Holmes, which resulted in several operations and the threat that the leg may need to be amputated, a lawsuit resulted in Muscat paying £250,000 plus costs. Several times he caused mass brawls on the pitch due to bad challenges. He had a tendency to stamp on the opposition and grab players by the throat too. After leaving Britain and returning to Australia he was the first A-League player to appear before a FFA (Football Federation Australia) disciplinary committee due to violent conduct. During his career Muscat received a total of 123 yellow cards and 12 red cards. In 2013 Muscat was named as football’s dirtiest player by Spanish football website ‘El Gol Digital’.
Left Back – Mark Dennis
The ex-QPR, Southampton and Crystal Palace left back was not a man to be messed with during the late 1970’s and 1980’s. He was given the nickname “psycho” long before Stuart Pearce took the title. He was sent off a total of 12 times in his career, while for the 11th red card in 1987 he was handed a 53-day ban for elbowing Ossie Ardiles in the face. He was then sent off for the 12th time for spitting at an opposition player in a reserve fixture. His club at the time QPR off-loaded him on the quiet. His top flight career was pretty much over.
Part two will look at the midfield, forwards and substitutes.