Where Have All The Hard Men Gone?

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Stare down in the tunnel, crunching the tackle midway through the first half, square up to the ref in the second, red card. The life of a football hard man was a simple one, but it’s a life no more. Football’s true hard men are a dying…no, an extinct breed and it’s a crying shame.
Now before you start throwing around names like Kompany, Vidic, Skrtel or even Viera, let’s just stop right there. While these players will back down for no one, they don’t have that ability to instill fear in the opposing team. Players on their way to play at the City might wonder how they’d get past Kompany, but players preparing to face a Roy Keane-led United would wonder how the Irishman might hurt them today.

In fact, Keane was probably the last of the hard men in the Premier League. You know, that hard as nails type of player that probably scared his own teammates as much as he did the other team. Now, this might sound like we’re all melancholy for a career-ending tackle, but it’s not like that at all, we’re not that kind of website.

But the truth is that when Keane left for the Celtic, it was the end of a hard man era that included some quite delightful chaps. And yes, we’ll admit it, we do miss the unpredictability of having a player that’s a bit of a madman running around quite literally snapping at everyone in his vicinity.

We’re talking about players like Neil Ruddock, who famously broke both of Andy Coles ankles in a reserve match, and Duncan Ferguson, who went to prison for his rough play on the pitch.

Then there was Vinnie Jones who was, of course, the epitome of a footballing hard man. Not the world’s greatest footballer, but a man who loved his tackles (although evidently not Gazza’s). Jones was intimidating as can be and if someone revealed that he only remained in a job by being too scary to sack or sell, we’d totally believe it. He had that psycho look about him alright.

And speaking of psychos, we have to mention Stuart Pearce. But to tar Pearce with the same brush as Jones would be an insult to the gods of football. As far as talent was concerned, Pearce was on another planet as arguably the best fullback of his generation.

Pearce was the kind of player that never looked for trouble, but at the same time, he was hard as nails. I suppose this makes his nickname of ‘Psycho’ all the more fitting; albeit strangely unnerving. And for one that was so obviously a raging ball of fury, you have to wonder how he managed to control his temper. We really want to think that it was something like Kevin Hart and Usain Bolt keeping their cool in a massive bath of ice, but somehow I don’t think that was Psycho’s style. Gary Lineker once said that in all his time playing both against and with Pearce, he never once saw him smile. And we believe him.

But what is it with football these days that we have no more Julian Dicks or ‘Razor’ Ruddock characters? Could it be that football in England has finally progressed to a level where talent, as in actual footballing talent, takes precedence over a ‘do or die’ attitude? We’d like to think it has and that we now see the beautiful game in its true form. That is to say, played with finesse and class and a bit of flair thrown in for good measure instead of lumping it up at the pitch while the defenders take out the nearest man to the ball.

It’s now clear to us that the unusual beast that is the talented, hard man is increasingly difficult to come by. Perhaps even only reaching the pinnacle of the game once in a generation. With Keane and Pearce retired now, although we love the sublime skills of De Bruyne and Coutinho, we’re aching for an unpredictable ball of fury to make those 0-0 draws worth watching on ‘Match of the Day’ again. We live in hope.

Read 2624 times Last modified on Tuesday, 21 November 2017 18:03
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