The Sun recently had an article on the top 10 hard men of football. I thought the list was interesting, but I disagreed with several of their choices, including their choice of Graeme Souness as their #1 hardman.
To be included on my hardman list a player needed to not only be feared by their opponents, they had to have actual soccer skills. That is why someone like Vinnie Jones is not on the list!
My top five soccer hardmen.
No 5: Norman Hunter
Probably the dirtiest player in the Leeds side in the early 70s. That was no mean feat in one of the most cynical sides in English football history and a team that contained Jack Charlton, Billy Bremner, Johnny Giles and Allan Clarke. Nicknamed ‘Bite Yer Legs’.
No 4: Romeo Benetti
If Serie A in the 70s was renowned for its uncompromising football, then midfielder Benetti was its leading light. An opponent once said of him: “He was a right beast. Didn’t matter whether he was standing up, crouching or lying flat on his face, if you got close he’d always manage to clatter you.”
No 3: Ron Harris
The Chelsea defender was nicknamed ‘Chopper’ — and not because of anything going on in his shorts. Harris came into his own in the 1970 FA Cup final replay against Leeds — two of the most bruising games ever seen. His assault on Eddie Gray in the second game was one of the reasons the Blues won the trophy.
No 2: Andoni Goicoechea
The ‘Butcher of Bilbao’ did for Diego Maradona with a horror tackle from behind that put the Argentina star out for months. Goicoechea then crocked another Barca ace — Bernd Schuster — leaving him with a nasty knee injury. Opposing forwards lived in fear of receiving the ball with their back to goal.
No 1: Duncan Ferguson
Big Dunc showed why he is soccer’s hardest player when in 2001, Ferguson was the victim of a burglary attempt by two men at his home. Ferguson confronted the pair and was able to detain one of them who subsequently spent three days in hospital.
Opponents also felt the wrath of Ferguson’s famous temper. His most infamous on–field assault while playing for Rangers when Dunc head-butted Raith Rovers defender John McStay. For this attack Ferguson was punished with a three month sentence in Prison.
Who is on your soccer hardmen list?