A Hollywood star thanks to appearances in Gone In Sixty Seconds and Snatch, Vinnie Jones has been typecast as a hard man in movies. But his footballing career in the 80s and 90s proved that in his case, art was imitating life.
Vinnie’s playing career spanned 16 years and included playing for teams like Leeds, Chelsea and Sheffield United. Most notably, however, Vinnie was the captain of the ‘Crazy Gang’ at Wimbledon.
A team that couldn’t stay out of the media for all the wrong reasons, but no publicity was bad publicity. Rising four divisions up the football league and winning the FA Cup, beating Liverpool in the 1988 final. The more than often trod the line between controlled aggression and illegality, infamous for their intimidation of other teams. All this was personified by Vinnie Jones.
Known for pinning up his own teammates against a wall because they weren’t trying hard enough and notorious for crunching tackles. Any player on the opposing team and possibly on his own team, was rightfully scared of the ‘Butcher’.
A warrior amongst a group of fighters, the amount of respect and fear Jones’ teammates had for him, reveals the potency of his effect on the field. And elevates him above other footballing hard-men.
Indeed he wasn’t just a hard man. Despite the opposition view of him as the anti-hero and fans opinion of him as a pantomime villain, teammates respected Jones, as did managers.
“People might think, ‘Vinnie (Jones) or whoever must have been hard work. But that just wasn’t the case.”
This tackle on Liverpool’s Steve McMahon, not the only interchange between the two, was indicative of Vinnie Jones approach.
“If you’re going to go over the top on me, you’ve got to put me out the game. Otherwise I’m going to be coming back for you. Wether its the next five minutes, the next ten minutes or the next game next season.”
Sent-off 13 times throughout his career and with the accolade of the quickest yellow card ever – four seconds – Vinnie was the embodiment of intimidation.
Around the turn of 1990, cameras weren’t in every corner of the ground, there wasn’t a fourth official and referees had a much higher tolerance of challenges. Thus the physical element of the game was more important than it is now. Strength wasn’t being able to hold a player off, it was being able to give and receive two-footed challenges.
Vinnie could certainly do this. Often criticised for career-threatening tackles both with and after the ball, Vinnie trod a fine line between fighting and football. A line, however, that propelled Wimbledon to FA Cup glory and the dizzying heights of the first division. Along with saving Sheffield United. Seven points adrift at Christmas in 1990, then avoided dropping down to the second division after signing Vinnie.
“He was no Bryan Robson nor Paul Gascoigne but he had ability, He has been one of the characters of his football generation and people will be talking about Vinnie Jones for a number of years.”
A thuggish yet talismanic centre-midfield player whose no nonsense and aggressive approach won games for his teams.
Vinnie Jones is the ultimate hard-man.