The footballing hard men – ‘Bite Yer Legs’, ‘Chopper’, ‘The Beast of (Insert foreign club name here)’ – lost relics from an age when players got the bus home after a game, opened pubs within seconds of their retirement and smoked fags with impunity.
They’d make up for any technical deficiencies they might have possessed by doing more raking than Titchmarsh, more tripping than a Grateful Dead concert, more mental and physical anguish than an evening spent watching Peter Andre: My Life on ITV2.
They’d get their retaliation in early, put the reducer on their victim and then receive a mild lecture from the referee before being released back into the footballing community to continue their wicked ways.
These days, it’s almost laughably easy to get sent off. And even if the referee misses a particularly nasty foul at the time, there’s always the spectre of retrospective action hanging over the dirtier player.
So the following list in no way refers to the players’ machismo or inherent hardness. It just means they’re extra specially good at getting caught, which is why they’ve made it onto the bookies list of contenders for the worst disciplined player.
Here’s a few from that list to admire/despise/pity/bet on:
Brazil – cue stereotypical montages of street games, beach games, girls in thongs and Pele, all to the strains of some hip-wiggling Samba soundtrack.
Brazilian international Lucas – cue atypical montage of mis-timed Liverpool lunges, extra time fights with angry Paraguayans and a straight red in the 2008 Olympic semi-final, all to the strains of some mind-melting death metal melange.
Liverpool might be one of the prettier passing sides in the Premiership, but their first-choice defensive midfielder is never frightened to get ugly to aid Brendan Rodgers’ attempts at the beautiful game. And he’s not Joe Allen, so he’s going to get lots of games for Liverpool this season.
Gary who now?
He might not be a household name just yet, but Cardiff’s midfield enforcer has the whole season ahead of him to change all that. Gary Alexis Medel Soto is his full name and he’s from Chile. Gary is not your typical Chilean name and it turns out he’s named after Gary Lineker.
Oh the irony. Our big-eared national footballing/crisp-flogging treasure was famed for his exemplary disciplinary record. Gary Alexis Medel Soto is not. He’s known back home as ‘the Chilean Gattuso’ because, and I quote, ‘of his strong performance and short temper’.
If Cardiff are going to survive in the Premiership this season, they’re going to have to fight for every point. Expect Gary to be at the head of the fighty queue.
The physically imposing and hard tackling midfielder is a rarity in the Newcastle first team – he’s not French. Instead, he’s from The Ivory Coast, which is an old French colony so that’s just about acceptable. Alas, that’s about all that many consider acceptable about Tiote. Especially referees.
Tiote picked up an impressive 14 yellow cards in his first season on The Toon. After two seasons, he’d managed 25 cautions in 50 appearances. That’s a yellow card every two games for the more mathematically challenged among you. In early 2011, Tiote signed a six and a half year deal to stay at Newcastle. That should keep the men in black busy for a long while yet.
Not so far away resides Sunderland’s Lee Cattermole – a player once so highly rated that even Arsene Wenger was willing to overlook the fact that he wasn’t foreign and think about signing him.
He’s still at Sunderland, but started at Middlesbrough, making his debut in a 2-2 draw with Newcastle that prompted his then manager Steve McClaren to declare: “When we needed people to stand up and be counted, it took a 17-year-old to bring everyone together.”
As any fool knows, when a football manager talks about people ‘standing up and being counted’, it means people ‘standing up and kicking other people over.’ To date, Cattermole has stood up through 215 appearances and been counted for 69 yellow and 7 red cards.
And now that Paolo Di Canio, who seemed to hate Cattermole, has left the building, he should be practising his dark arts at The Stadium of Light rather more often again.
Bit of an outside punt, this one.
He’s one of the few players Jose Mourinho picks without having to think about it or discuss it with his adoring media. So he’ll get games this season. Lots of games. He’s spent six seasons at Stamford Bridge learning at the feet of the Voldemort of defenders – John Terry.
And Frank Lampard has described him thus: “You only have to look at him to see what a beast he is…he is a man you want on your side.” “A man you want on your side’ is usually translated from football into English as ‘I want him on my side so he can kick the opposition, not me”.