If someone were to ask you to think of a footballer using the word malicious, which names would come to mind?
Roy Keane, Vinny Jones and Joey Barton perhaps have all made it public knowledge that they have intentionally gone out to physically hurt their opponents.
Roy Keane controversially wrote about his disgraceful tackle on Man City’s Alfe Inge Haaland when he was at rivals United. Royston, as he likes to be called, then stood over the prostrate Haaland shouting profanities in an incident that was to see Haaland’s career come to a premature end.
Royston is not the only thug to have inflicted malicious damage on a fellow professional though. Vincent Jones, was famous for playing the opponent first and the ball as an after thought.
The picture of him grabbing Paul Gascoigne’s Crown Jewels in a match between Wimbledon and Newcastle will go down in football history as the dirtiest and most painful trick ever.
The look on Gazza’s face is priceless and it no doubt played on his mind as he was still crying years later at the world cup in 1990.
If you thought the common football thug was just a thing of the past then look no further than Joseph Barton of Newcastle United.
When at Manchester City Joey Barton went after the title of Premier League’s Baddest with a raft of off-field and training ground incidents.
Not happy with beating up a young Everton teenage fan in Thailand or stubbing out a cigar in the eye of City academy player James Tandy at a club Christmas party, Barton decided he needed more publicity.
During a training session at his time at City, he assaulted team mate Ousmane Dabo in an ‘I’m harder than you moment’ that sent shockwaves around the Premier League.
In a situation that happens twice a day on every training pitch around the world without incident, Barton and Dabo squared up after a hefty challenge.
After some handbags, Dabo turned away thinking the matter was over only to receive the type of attention one would expect to receive in a cage from Brock Lesnar UFC Heavyweight Champion.
And it isn’t only these types of players that are capable of such dastardly deeds, as even the nicest of players off the pitch can lose their heads on or off it.
When Harry Redknapp’s Portsmouth played Manchester City a few years back, the Portsmouth boss had nothing but nice words to say about Ben Thatcher going as far as saying he was a lovely lad.
That didn’t stop the City left back running twenty metres to launch an elbow at the head of Pedro Mendes that caused a seizure hospitalizing the midfielder and sidelining him for weeks.
Fans still wince at the footage of Mendes bouncing off the advertising sideboards in a scene that would not have been out of place outside a nightclub in Burnley.
So there is no surprise today when we hear about the prospect of Dean Ashton suing a current City player for a malicious tackle that proved to be the catalyst for his premature retirement from football.
Its Craig Bellamy at it again isn’t it, I hear you say? After all, he did attack Jon Arne Riise with a golf club when they were both at Liverpool. Bellamy and Ashton were also team mates and rivals at West Ham together and must have had a training spat or two right?
Well no actually, the award this time goes to Shaun ‘Bone Crusher’ Wright-Phillips who injured twenty-six year old Ashton during an England training session in 2006.
The West Ham player suffered a serious ankle injury which forced him to miss the entire 2006-07 Premier League campaign and although he recovered to make an impact in the Hammer’s following season, was never the same player again.
His last appearance for West Ham United was almost a year ago in September 2008 when he was forced back onto the treatment table and after renewed ankle problems has recently announced his retirement from the game.
Now it’s a crying shame that such a talented English footballer has had to retire before his time. God knows how much England could do with a fully fit Alan Shearer type player come next summer.
West Ham could do with him even more at the moment in their plight to get away from the relegation zone and sympathy has to go to both player, club and fans who deserve a bit of luck this century.
Yet every club has an example of a player like this, from Walcott of Arsenal to Johnson of man City. In fact both Colin Bell and Paul Lake had their careers cut short at Man City by vicious tackles but neither pursued the player-versus-player compensation road and that was in a time before footballer millionaires.
Reports in today’s papers are suggesting that Ashton may look to sue Wright-Phillips for a malicious tackle. The FA chief executive Taylor is hopeful that financial compensation via player-versus-player action can be avoided however.
He said: ‘I hope it doesn’t come to that because nobody would think that Shaun Wright-Phillips was a malicious player at all.’
Forget the fact that the claim is ludicrous in itself due to the player involved and the fact that National team insurance should cover the financial aspects.
Just think if Ashton and his representatives went ahead with the claim and won. Where would we be then? If every player were to sue for a mistimed tackle then where would it end?
So sue Royston yes, Vincent yes, Barton hell yes, but Shaun Wright Phillips for being malicious I don’t think so. Retire with dignity Dean, remember the class goals like the header against the Rags that you scored and the small fortune that you made whilst you were at the top.
You can always turn to punditry if Merson can, then so can you.