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A look at the Premier League’s Top Hard Men

September 09, 2015

- Grant Whittington

If you listen to older fans, the description of football as a contact sport is becoming increasingly inaccurate. With tackles from behind now largely outlawed and any form of aggressive, studs-up tackle likely to result in a player dismissal regardless of intent, it is increasingly difficult for clubs to deploy enforcing footballers or adopt any form of aggressive style.

Purists will argue that this is the point, as football should always be a game where ball retention and technical skills are able to thrive without physical intimidation. Others will claim that the so-called hard men of the Premier League have added considerable depth and character to the top-flight, as well as being involved in a host of the top flight’s most memorable moments. Even now, popular bookmakers such as Betfair regularly offer odds on players being sent off.

With this in mind, here are three of the Premier League’s most renowned hard men…

Roy Keane (Manchester United)

Roy Keane is arguably the league’s most famous hard man, not least because he provided a crossover between different eras in top-flight football. While he emerged at a time when aggression and ferocious tackles were part and parcel of the top-flight game, he was forced to adapt as referring guidelines became increasingly stringent. He struggled to curb his natural aggression, however, enjoying some famous clashes with Gareth Southgate, Patrick Viera and Alan Shearer over the years. His rivalry with Alfe-Inge Haaland was particularly notorious, ending with one of the most brutal tackles and acts of retribution in British football history.

Duncan Ferguson (Everton)

Though more reserved than Keane, Everton idol Duncan Ferguson was arguably even tougher than the abrasive Irishman. Ferguson took no prisoners as a player, even serving prison time during his time with Rangers for head-butting Jock McStay during an SPL league game. He clashed with multiple players in the English game, famously grabbing Tottenham midfielder Steffen Freund by the throat after a relatively innocuous collision. He also famously broke the arm of a burglar who broke into his Merseyside home, cementing his legacy as a tough and uncompromising icon.

Vinnie Jones (Wimbledon)

While Vinnie Jones has portrayed a number of hard men successfully in Hollywood, few of these have been as ferocious as the player who was the mainstay of Wimbledon’s midfield during the infamous ‘Crazy Gang’ years.

Part of the successful 1988 FA Cup winning side, Jones formed an uncompromising midfield partnership with Dennis Wise and unleashed some devastating tackles in his time. He also holds the record for the fastest ever booking in a professional match, after clattering into Dane Whitehouse after just three seconds of an FA Cup tie.

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