Friday, November 28, 2008

'Footy's Top Ten' Hardest Men - Part Two!

Part One of my guide to 'Footy's Top Ten Hardest Men' featured Duncan Ferguson, Claudio Gentile, Billy Whitehurst & Dave Mackay.

Now in Part Two, I shall nominate three more candidates who in my opinion are suitably worthy of inclusion in this inventory.

Next up, Frank Barson (Barnsley, Aston Villa, Manchester United and Watford). Famed for his brutality even in the 1920's, when footballers were less squeamish about physical contact than they are today, Barson was perhaps the first great hard man & was probably the most controversial footballer of his day.

An imperious specimen of masculinity notorious for his own inventive take on the physical side of football, he certainly looked the part: Barrel-chested, thighs like tree trunks, fists permanently half-clenched, a broken, twisted nose and his hair tightly greased back.

Barson could play though - he once scored a header from 30 yards for Manchester United against his former club Aston Villa, but inevitably he was remembered for an unprecedented degree of disciplinary trouble.

Once banned for seven months for a sickening challenge in a match against Fulham, Barson was frequently escorted out of grounds by the police to protect him from mobs of angry opposition fans.
After one especially zesty display for Barnsley, he had to be smuggled out of Goodison Park to avoid a group of home fans who wanted to discuss with him his on-field behaviour!

Some stories suggest he brought a gun into the manager's office to accelerate discussions over a pay rise, & he unashamedly spoke of his friendship with the Fowler brothers, who were later hanged for murder.

He marked his last professional appearance at the age of 39, by being sent-off against Accrington Stanley on Boxing Day 1930.

Barson won his first and only international cap for for England against Wales. England lost 2-1 and Barson was never recalled to the side. His reputation for dirty play probably was an important factor in this decision.

Barson died in September 1968 aged 77.

In Norman Hunter, (Leeds, Bristol City & Barnsley) the Leeds United side of the early 1970's probably possessed the dirtiest player of that era.

No mean feat in one of the most cynical sides in English football history, that also contained the likes of Billy Bremner, Johnny Giles, Jack Charlton & Allan Clarke.

Initially an inside forward, Hunter was moulded by Leeds into a central defender who made the No.6 shirt his own in 14 years with the club he joined at the age of 15.

His fellow professionals made him their Player of the Year in 1974 - the award's inaugural presentation.

It was against Derby, at the old Baseball Ground in the 1975-76 season, that Hunter secured his place in football's annals of infamy, with an epic punch-up with Francis Lee that resulted in both players being sent off.
Lee infuriated Hunter by winning a penalty via his well honed trick of taking a dive. When Hunter put a right hook on Lee he couldn't have been prepared for the City man's response, a whirring, blurring, wind milling assault that floored Hunter.

In 1973 Leeds lost to AC Milan in the now defunct European Cup Winners Cup. This match is one of a series of matches involving Italian Clubs that are regarded as being 'fixed', by Dezso Solti, a Hungarian refugee, who, according to the testimony of a number of officials, was responsible for bribing referees. Hunter was sent-off in this match for retaliation.

In his years of playing, Hunter acquired a reputation as a dirty player, apparently happy to use methods not within the laws of the game to curtail the effect of opposition strikers. As such, he was often referred to by supporters, journalists and sports commentators as Norman 'Bites Yer Legs' Hunter, a nickname which stuck with him throughout the duration of his career.

Leeds' trainer Les Cocker was once told by Hunter that he had gone home with a broken leg. 'Whose leg is it?' Les asked him.

Andoni Goikoetxea (Athletic Madrid & Athletic Bilbao). 'The Butcher of Bilbao' was plainly at least one prawn short of a paella, and delighted in reducing star names to flotsam & jetsam.

Opposing forwards lived in fear of receiving the ball with their back to goal.

Pride of place in the living room of El Sod (right) is a glass case, containing one football boot. The boot he had used to break Diego Maradona's left ankle & destroy his ankle ligaments with in 1983.
That 'psycho tackle' put the Argentine star out of football for a substantial length of time. 'Crack! It was like the chop of an axe from behind,' Maradona recalled. 'My leg went numb, I knew everything was ruined.'

Goikoetxea was given a 16-match ban for the incident.
When Maradona recovered he sparked a fight between the teams in retribution.

Following his ban, Goikoetxea then crocked another Barcelona ace, the German Bernd Schuster, leaving him with a nasty knee injury.

Goikoetxea played 39 times for Spain, making his debut against Holland in February 1983. He represented Spain at both the 1984 European Football Championships & the 1986 FIFA World Cup.

Part Three of 'Footy's Top Ten Hardest Men' will follow soon.

1 comment:

Starkplug said...

This is an awesome top ten list.
You should post this to my buddy's site People can also vote on the list if they don't agree on the rankings.