10 of the worst...Fouls

July 19, 2005
By Steve Wilson
(Archive)

Kevin Gray: Huddersfield Town v Bradford, February 1997

It may not be Rangers-Celtic but there burns a certain malevolent rivalry between these two West Yorkshire sides. More so since the most expensive 'tackle' in English football history.

Gordon Watson, who had little truck using his own considerable muscle to get the better of the diminutive Paul Reid before hand, found a less forgiving opponent in Gray whose wild, reckless sliding challenge broke Watson's leg in five places. Gray was booked whilst Watson needed the help of several men to make good his exit. The incident was viewed by all present as retribution for the Bradford striker's earlier misdemeanour.

Except by Gray, of course, who argued his motives had been pure: 'I was totally focused on the ball but Gordon nicked the ball away at the last minute with the result of me colliding with his leg, unfortunately,' he said. But nobody believed him, least of all pundit Jimmy Hill who, speaking at the court case brought against Gray and Huddersfield, described the challenge as 'clearly in the category of the worst challenge that I have ever seen in my numerous years in association football,' and 'appalling and completely unacceptable'.

Damages against Gray and Huddersfield totalling £909,000 were awarded but 18 months and five operations later Watson returned to first team action.

Alan Shearer: Newcastle United - Leicester City, April 1998

Never afraid to put himself about a bit, Shearer has such a reputation and standing in the game that critics often suggest he is let off too leniently when he does cross the line.

This unseemly incident would make a key piece of compelling evidence for their prosecution. The England captain had his shirt tugged by Neil Lennon as the two competed for a ball, they fell and then Shearer's boot made a close acquaintance with the prone Lennon's face as he got to his feet again.

Accident or design? The TV pictures looked pretty conclusive. Shearer, involved in the breaking of Ramos Vega's nose earlier in the season, had stamped on Lennon's face. Now he was for it, surely, but the big man wasn't worried.

'I was brought down by Neil Lennon and we both fell clumsily,' Shearer explained afterwards.

'As I tried to get to my feet I had to really tug my left foot free and the momentum of doing this looked on television liked a kick.' Right you are. 'It certainly wasn't and the fact that Neil is virtually unmarked [Lennon walked off with blood dripping from his face] confirms this. If I did accidentally catch him, I certainly did not mean to. I would never try and deliberately hurt a fellow professional.'

And that, apparently, was more than enough for the FA who found the Newcastle man innocent of all charges just days ahead of a Cup final meeting with Manchester United. Hmmm…

Richard Carpenter: Cardiff City - Reading, December 1999

Football is not always about seven figure-salaries, fast cars and bling jewellery for everyone in the game. Just ask Chris Casper.

A member of the all-conquering Manchester United youth team that boasted the talents of David Beckham, the Neville brothers, Paul Scholes and Nicky Butt, his later career took him on an altogether different, and more painful, journey.

Discarded by the Old Trafford club, Casper found his way to Reading and, in late 1999 a game against Cardiff City. An agricultural foul by Richard Carpenter in the match left him with a broken fibula and tibia, as well as severe knee and ankle ligament damage.

Unable to play any meaningful football again, a bitter four year battle for compensation finally resulted in Cardiff and Carpenter's insurers coughing up what was believed to be a sum in excess of £800,000.

Lee Bowyer: Leeds United - Tottenham Hotspur, February 2000

This particularly ugly game was already x-rated before the two sides squared up to each other in a mass brawl that left both clubs £150,000 out of pocket once the FA had slapped their already cut and bruised wrists.

Perhaps misguidedly trying to defuse the tensions, referee Dermot Gallagher failed to produce a single red card after everyone bar the keepers had had a go at their opposite number. I say misguided as afterwards Alan Smith had an elbow-first dig at Spurs bad boy Mauricio Taricco; Ian Harte stamped on Chris Perry; and Perry punched Harte back before the 90 minutes were up.

But what could have sparked this nasty, powder keg of an atmosphere into open war? What innocuous event did the participants take such umbrage at? Just what on earth possessed Perry and Tim Sherwood to front up against the entire Leeds United team?

Lee Bowyer's two-footed, studs-up, all-out assault on the chest of Stephen Clemence that's what. All makes sense now, eh?

Roy Keane: Manchester United - Manchester City, April 2001

With the championship safely wrapped up for another season you might have imagined Manchester United would approach their City derby in a less intense, even frivolous state of mind. Not so Roy Keane.

In a previous encounter with Alf Inge Haaland, whilst he played for Leeds, Keane had attempted to scythe down the Norwegian and had in the process knackered his own knee. So with a degree of poetic justice hanging over the incident Haaland drove home the point with some voracious finger pointing over his prostrate and severely hurt assailant. Not, it turns out, a very clever thing to do.

Having waited four years for revenge, Keane went in savagely high on Haaland and was promptly sent off. He later explained himself in his autobiography: 'I'd waited long enough. I f***ing hit him hard,' said a frank if scary Keane 'The ball was there (I think). Take that, you c***. And don't ever stand over me again sneering about fake injuries.'

He very nearly didn't stand again at all.

Georges Santos: Sheffield United - West Bromwich Albion, March 2002

In the 'Battle of Bramall Lane,' as the dust up in the Steel City was rather predictably dubbed soon after, Santos had his work cut out to stand apart from a pugnacious crowd, but that he did.

As is often the way there was previous. Andy Johnson (the one with luxuriant hair) had broken Santos' jaw in an earlier meeting and he had plenty of time to mull over what he might do by way of retribution whilst he sat on the bench.

Barely a minute after his introduction, Santos leap full-blooded, high into his target and the phrase 'he can have no complaints about that' was never more apt as Santos, not for the first time that afternoon, saw red.

With Simon Tracey already sent off the game descended into anarchy as Patrick Suffo was dismissed in the middle of a punch up involving the vast majority of outfield players that followed Santos's act of settling an old score. Which meant that when a couple of United players were injured (all subs had been used) the game was abandoned as the Blades were only six men.

Bad blood still exists between the two sides to this day.

Lee Bowyer: Leeds United - Málaga, December 2002

Not a great night for Leeds United this one. Not only did they meekly bow out of the UEFA competition with a performance that was at once woeful and full of spite but a fan was arrested trying to confront manager Terry Venables; the luckless Michael Bridges suffered an injury that threatened his injury-ravaged career; Gary Kelly and Jason Wilcox squared up to each other and, surprise, surprise, Lee Bowyer's innate ability to attract controversy made one of its more unwelcome cameos.

A violent hack at the legs of Gerardo a minute after Malaga had taken the lead got the pair in a tangle and gave the much - and appropriately - derided Bowyer his cue to stamp on the Spaniard's head. Nice.

Bowyer only received a booking but his punishment was to prove a long drawn-out process. Banned for six matches by UEFA, an admistrative error led to the sanction still being in place after he had been offloaded to Newcastle who then had to play six games before their new signing became eligible, effectively doubling the ban.

Couldn't happen to a nicer fellow.

Steven Gerrard: Liverpool - Everton, December 2002

With the clock ticking down in a particularly scrappy and untidy Merseyside derby neither side had managed to score. But Steven Gerrard clearly wanted to give those watching something to remember the encounter by and so launched a flying, two-footed lunge on Gary Naysmith.

'I'm never going to try to hurt a fellow professional and although I did go in with my studs showing and two feet, I have tried to pull out at the last minute,' he said. In fact, he said this a number of times to Sky TV cameras immediately after the game. Gerrard Houllier, too, saw little wrong with his captain planting twenty studs in the groin of a prostrate opponent.

'You have those sorts of things in derbies and if the FA decide to act, then they have to do that in every game and for every tackle,' the Frenchman observed. No action was taken against Gerrard at the time but a letter bearing the words 'three-match ban' soon arrived at Anfield intended for the over-exuberant midfield tyro.

Jamie Redknapp Tottenham - Everton October 2004

'Anyone who knows me knows that I'm not that sort of player,' said Redknapp in the aftermath of his studs up assault on Tim Cahill. He may well have been right, but the fact that the Spurs player chose to step out of character at that particular moment in time only served to make the incident even more galling for Cahill.

Less that two years after rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament in the same joint, an injury that sidelined him for seven months, the Australian feared the worst when Redknapp spitefully planted the full force of the underside of his boots squarely on his opponent's knee.

Inexplicably, with referee Graham Poll stood in close attendance, the foul was deemed worthy of merely a yellow card - the same punishment meted out to Cahill three weeks previously for removing his shirt in celebration after scoring against Manchester City that resulted in a sending off, an irony not lost on the player or his manager.

Redknapp, who was quick to apologise, was retrospectively banned for three matches on a violent conduct charge and the damage to Cahill's knee was, thankfully, not as bad as it might have been.

Javi Navarro Sevilla - Real Mallorca March 2005

The referee's report of the foul which left Venezuelan Juan Fernando Arango with a broken bone in his face, and hospitalised for three days, described it as 'knocking down an opponent while disputing a ball.'

A statement on the Mallorca website, however, characterised it differently: 'We consider that the action in which our player was injured, goes beyond all acceptable norms of football. [Navarro] used violence which exceeds what is able to be considered normal in defence of his club's interests. The club deplores this form of playing sport which puts the health or even the life of sportsmen at risk.'

The collision between the two players occurred just before half-time in a Spanish league match and left Arango unconscious after Navarro had led into a 50-50 with his elbow raised; an accident according to the offender. Arango also suffered convulsions while on the ground after the incident and Mallorca's club doctor, Joan Pericas, later revealed that the player temporarily stopped breathing.

All in a day's work for your modern football hard man.

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