Who are the craziest soccer players in the history of the beautiful game? We continue our look into the game’s maddest men and their most absurd antics.
In an effort to fit as much as insanity as possible onto your screen, we’re breaking up our rundown by region. Last week, it was South America, this week: England.
A few parameters: We’ll mostly limit this to on-field antics unless the totality of a player’s off-field antics is too magnificently ridiculous to ignore. And we’ll preference long-term nuttiness over a single moment of losing one’s head, such as Zinedine Zidane’s infamous headbutt at the 2006 World Cup.
With that said, here are the four craziest English soccer stars.
Nottingham Forest’s mercurial defender, Stuart “Psycho” Pearce could really play, as attested to by his 747 caps across a nearly 30-year playing career. A notorious hard man himself, Matt le Tissier called Pearce the “scariest opponent” he ever faced.
Pearce was a noted punk rock enthusiast and brought the punk rock spirit to the pitch. Louise Taylor wrote of Pearce for The Guardian:
“Always a little left field, he sometimes turned up for training in a mud-spattered Volvo jammed with straw bales destined for his girlfriend’s horses and punk rock blaring out of the cassette player.”
Ron “Chopper” Harris
Let’s begin with the fact that Chelsea legend Ron Harris’ nickname is Chopper because of his penchant for cutting down opponents. He started a ludicrous amount of games for Chelsea (795), but his legacy as a dirty player has sullied his, well, legacy.
“Blimey football: it used to be a man’s game, didn’t it?” Harris asked The Telegraph. “And don’t get me started on tackling. I mean, this law about sending off someone if they show their studs in the tackle. Excuse me, if you slide in how are you not going to show your studs? It’s not physically possible.”
Harris’ most legendary tackle came when he destroyed Leeds standout Eddie Gray a few minutes into the 1970 FA Cup final, sending Gray out of action. The man simply loved to go to ground as aggressively as he could.
There’s a line between aggression and outright violence with an intent to harm on the pitch. It’s safe to say Kevin Muscat crossed that line more than anyone on this list. Muscat simply demolished opponents.
He once broke a player’s leg so badly it required four surgeries and nearly had to be amputated. He also caused soccer’s equivalent of a highway pile-up: A 20-plus player melee. Watch the video above. Flying elbows, obscenely late challenges, “the most hated man in football” did it all.
Along with George Best, Paul Gascoigne’s legacy is one of a life ruined by the drink. Gascoigne, fortunately, looks to have come out on the right side of things. Gascoigne’s ridiculous on-pitch antics included giving a referee a card and miming playing a flute for Celtic fans.
He also famously burped into a microphone on live television; a moment of comic genius that hasn’t been appropriately recognized in the world of sport. Diagnosed with bipolar disorder, some of Gascoigne’s off-field darkness can certainly be attributed to that demon affliction, so we focus on his on-field silliness here.