Football is often branded as the beautiful game, but occasionally players come along that bring that assertion into disrepute. The Premier League is notorious for its physicality, tough tacklers are as equally adored by fans as goalscorers.
With such little time allowed on the ball in the English game, any dallying with possession is likely to be met with a swift, crunching tackle that enrages the opposition yet delights the home crowd. Here’s a list of ten players from the Premier League era that opposition fans love to loathe..
- Patrick Viera
An article on the bad boys of the Premier League can’t pass without the mentioning of Patrick Viera. The stats speak for themselves. With 8 red cards to his name and 77 yellows, Viera is officially the dirtiest player in the history of the Premier League. Viera spent nine largely successful years at Arsenal, but his early time at the club was soured by predominantly negative press coverage. Six red cards in the space of two years in the late nineties ensured he was labelled as a thug by many sections of the media. But Viera toned down the longer he stayed at Arsenal, and by the time he left Arsenal in 2005 he was rightly regarded as a Premier League legend.
- Paul Scholes
For all Paul Scholes’ ability on the ball, he really should leave lunging into tackles to someone else. Within 13 minutes of Manchester United’s opening league game at Everton, the midfielder had already worked his way into the referees notebook for a trademark late tackle on former teammate Darren Gibson. It is strange that one of the all time Premier League greats has still not managed to learn how to take the ball off an opposition player legally, and time is now against Scholes if he to perfect this side of the game
- Robbie Savage
The true pantomime villain of the Premier League era, Savage is the sort of player who you love if he plays for your side, but utterly despise if he is with the opposition. Remarkably, Savage was only dismissed twice in his playing career, and only one of these was earned in the Premier League. Despite not seeing red as often as you’d expect, Savage remains the 5th most cautioned player of Premier League history, and certainly goes down as one of the Premier League’s all time controversial figures.
- Joey Barton
Having signed for Marseille at the end of last month there will be no Joey Barton troubling referees notebooks this season. It is often Barton’s temper that has let him down, highlighted by his final day antics at former club Manchester City that earned him a 12-match ban and so nearly cost his side a place in the Premier League. His departure from the Premier League isn’t likely to be met with any voices of disappointment in the English game.
- Roy Keane
Roy Keane represented a typical Premier League midfielder, with a tough tackling, no nonsense approach to the game. Keane was a player who would always strike fear into any opposition player and was dismissed seven times in his Premier League career. Perhaps in today’s game, that number would have been higher as a tougher stance is now taken on two footed tackles, especially when the feet are raised off the ground. His admittance of deliberately trying to injure Alf Inge Haaland in a Manchester derby was enough to cement Keane’s place in the list of all time Premier League bad boys.
- Lee Cattermole
Cattermole is considered by many to be a new version of Roy Keane. There is no questioning his commitment, but at times he oversteps the mark and often becomes a hindrance to his team. With six red cards to his name already in what is still a relatively short career, Cattermole, 24, could yet end up with the unwanted record of the Premier League player with the most red cards.
- Lee Bowyer
There was never controversy too far away from Lee Bowyer during his days as a Premier League midfielder. His time at Leeds was littered with controversial incidents, both on and off the pitch, and a bust up with fellow teammate Kieron Dyer whilst at Newcastle earned both players a straight red card. It was perhaps Bowyer’s reputation that prevented him from ever making his mark at international level, because he certainly had the quality.
- Duncan Ferguson
Ferguson earned his reputation as one of the hard men of the early Premier League era at Goodison Park. With eight red cards, he sits joint top of the list of players with the most red cards in Premier League history, alongside Patrick Viera and Richard Dunne. He was, and still is, regarded as an idol at Everton, partially for his goals, but equally due to his unrivaled ability to get in the faces of the opposition. In 1994 this was literally the case as, whilst playing for Rangers, he was jailed for three months for headbutting John McStay of Raith Rovers.
- Vinnie Jones
Vinnie Jones holds the distinguished record of having gained the quickest booking in the Premier League era, taking just three seconds to gain the attention of the referee whilst playing for Chelsea in 1992. A career total of 12 red cards saw him quickly earn the “hard man” image, and he formed part of the infamous “crazy gang” during his days at Wimbledon.
- Kevin Davies
Davies is in elite company. Along with the aforementioned Lee Bowyer, these are the only two players throughout the history of the Premier League to have passed the milestone of obtaining 100 bookings. Davies’ yellow cards rarely pave the way for a sending off however, just two in his career highlight this.
But the achievement of surpassing a ton of bookings is enough to get himself onto this list of the Premier League’s more unsavoury icons.