The scariest football players of all time - from Man Utd legend to former Everton hardman

With Hallowe’en just around the corner, prepare to be frightened by a rundown of the most terrifying players ever to grace a football field.
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With Hallowe’en on the horizon, we’ve decided to distract you from all from the middle-aged drunkards in unimaginative off-the-shelf fancy dress and marauding parties of young children terrorising entire urban conurbations by running through a brief list of some of the scariest football players in the history of the game.

These are the players that you’d fake an injury to avoid playing against, certain in the knowledge that they’d give you a real one anyway. These are the shouters, the screamers, the psychopaths, the guys that played as though collecting enough red cards would unlock a Steam achievement. These are the footballers you should dress up as if you really want to frighten people…

Vinnie Jones

How much of Jones’ hardman image was a carefully-maintained façade? Perhaps some of it – he certainly made the most of his reputation, especially after he moved to Hollywood – but there’s no doubt that he genuinely loved the thuggish side of the sport that was still very much a part of the fabric of English football in the Nineties.

Vinnie Jones, in his late-career spell at QPR, says hello to Steve Claridge.Vinnie Jones, in his late-career spell at QPR, says hello to Steve Claridge.
Vinnie Jones, in his late-career spell at QPR, says hello to Steve Claridge.

Just ask Paul Gascoigne whether Jones was acting all along after the Wimbledon midfielder decided to take his man-marking job on the England man a bit too far, clamping his hand down hard on Gazza’s private parts to prevent him from getting away and generating one of football’s most iconic images in the process. Gascoigne, to his credit, took the testicular entanglement in his stride, sending Jones a rose afterwards.

The Gascoigne incident wasn’t the only time Jones went too far with a tackle, either – he practically snapped Liverpool’s Steve McMahon in half during the 1988 FA Cup final, and received the fastest yellow card in history when he barged through a Coventry City just two seconds into a match in 1990. That particular challenge wouldn’t even make his top 100, though. He might have played up to it a bit, but he really did kick lumps out of everyone who came near him.

Gennaro Gattuso

The living embodiment of Napoleon syndrome, a small man lashing out at the world with every breath he took. Sadly for a great many players he faced during his time at Rangers, AC Milan and others, his favourite way to vent his frustrations was to hack lumps out of anyone wearing the wrong colour football shirt.

Gattuso’s temper got him into trouble quite a few times. In 2011, he was suspended for five matches after headbutting Tottenham Hotspur coach Joe Jordan before proceeding to try and throttle him. Earlier in his career, he saw red for a backhanded slap across the face of Zlatan Ibrahimovic. To be fair, quite a lot of us would have wanted to do that, but he didn’t earn the nickname ‘Snarl’ for no reason. Not someone you wanted to wind up.

Nigel de Jong

The former Netherlands and Manchester City defensive midfielder never shirked a tackle, and often decided to go right past “not shirking” and into “actively committing acts of seemingly random violence.” Playing opposite De Jong was like being asked to stand next to a bomb when you couldn’t see the timer.

Manchester United’s Anderson feels the effects of a Nijel de Jong reducer.Manchester United’s Anderson feels the effects of a Nijel de Jong reducer.
Manchester United’s Anderson feels the effects of a Nijel de Jong reducer.

His most famous loss of self-control came in the 2010 World Cup final, when he went flying through the air, studs showing, to crash into Xabi Alonso’s chest with a kick that Bruce Lee would have been proud of. Somehow, he only received a yellow card. On another occasion he broke both bones in Hatem Ben Arfa’s leg when the Frenchman was playing for Newcastle United – and it wasn’t even given as a free-kick. Not only someone liable to severely injure you, but also liable to get away with it.

Norman Hunter

Owner of one of the most iconic nicknames in English football, Norman ‘Bites Yer Legs’ Hunter was so famously hard that when his team physio at Leeds United was told that Hunter had broken a leg, the response was to ask whose it was.

In truth, Hunter was a gentleman off the field and only occasionally lost his temper on it – but that probably wasn’t of too much consolation to the many victims of his decidedly robust challenges, or to the recently-departed and much-missed Franny Lee, who got flattened by a brutal challenge in a league game in 1975 after Hunter became incensed over an alleged dive. The pair promptly got into a fist fight and were both sent off. The apex player in an era when English football prized physical aggression above all else, but also good enough to earn 28 England caps and win the World Cup as a member of the 1966 squad.

Gerardo Bedoya

A combative defensive midfielder who played more than 550 matches in South America and won the Copa América with Colombia in 2001, Bedoya will always be remembered less for his achievements on the field that the world record he set – 46 red cards, more than anybody else in the game’s history.

Most of those were for scything late challenges or crunching misplaced tackles, but occasionally Bodeya did drift into actual violence – while playing for Independiente Santa Fe in the Bogotá Derby in 2012, he got his 41st red for elbowing Millonarios player Jhonny Ramírez – and then kicking him in the head when he went down. Not a player you could trust to stay composed in the heat of the moment, put it that way. He was, inevitably, nicknamed ‘The Beast’, along with only several dozen other players.


One of the greatest centre-backs of all time and one of the most frustrating to play against – because not only was he likely to find a way to crack your shins into pieces, but he was also going to try and get you sent off for it instead.

Pepe exchanges some pleasantries with Thomas Müller during the 2014 World Cup.Pepe exchanges some pleasantries with Thomas Müller during the 2014 World Cup.
Pepe exchanges some pleasantries with Thomas Müller during the 2014 World Cup.

Few players have earned such a hard-as-nails reputation while diving so much, and it was always a coin toss as to whether he’d elbow you in the head or roll around on the ground, screaming and pretending you’d done it to him. On a few occasions, he basically tried to do both at once. He’s stamped on Lionel Messi’s hand, punched Getafe’s Juan Albín in the back of the head and even once headbutted Thomas Müller while the German was sitting down on the floor. Mind you, he’s also won just about every trophy going, so we suppose it was effective.

Duncan Ferguson

If you’re ever given the choice between walking into a horror movie and going toe-to-toe with Duncan Ferguson, the best course of action would be to ask for Jigsaw’s phone number and tell him you’d like to play a game. He’s the only British player to serve time for an on-field incident for a reason.

His brief spell in prison came about after he headbutted Raith Rovers defender John McStay while playing for Rangers – at the age of just 23, it was already his fourth conviction for a violent offence. His time in the can didn’t seem to cool him off any, either – the man appropriately nicknamed ‘Duncan Disorderly’ was once sent off ten minutes after coming on as a substitute for Everton for elbowing Bolton’s Hermann Hreiðarsson, beating his own record of 20 minutes which he achieved by doing exactly the same thing to Kostas Kostantinidis, who played for… Bolton. Maybe he just really hated Bolton for some reason, not that he seemed to be much softer with people from anywhere else.

Roy Keane ‘apologises' after his infamous tackle on Alf-Inge Haaland.Roy Keane ‘apologises' after his infamous tackle on Alf-Inge Haaland.
Roy Keane ‘apologises' after his infamous tackle on Alf-Inge Haaland.

Roy Keane

Of course, we had to include Keane. One of the angriest men ever to lace up a pair of football boots, Keane has never had any time whatsoever for… well, anything, really, except perhaps his dog. He certainly didn’t have time for Gareth Southgate when he stamped on him during an FA Cup semi-final in 1995, or for Sir Alex Ferguson, who he fell out with on a very permanent basis, or for Jack Charlton, or Mick McCarthy, or Patrick Vieira, or Manchester United’s own fans, who he publicly criticised in his infamous “prawn sandwich brigade” rant.

But the person he least had time for was Alf-Inge Haaland, whose career he deliberately ended in 2001 with a sickening two-footed lunge that was completely pre-meditated and done as revenge after a much less malicious challenge by Haaland had damaged Keane’s cruciate ligaments a few years before. For some reason, a lot of people rather like Keane for his grumpiness and his obvious excellence as a footballer – but, lest we forget, he’s really not a very nice man, or at least not a very laid-back one. On the plus side – easy Hallowe’en costume. Just put a dead badger upside down on your chin and pour some fake blood down your shin pads. Everyone will know who you are.

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