The eleventh My Dislikable XI, but number 9 in the series (I am an accountant - murky practices with numbers is fine!) comes rom Chris Smith - co-editor of Newcastle United site Leazes Terrace. A fine selection it is too and one that I have put in red & white stripes. Chris was relaxed as to what kit they wore, I just thought with Cattermole in the XI and Steve Bruce managing them it was appropriate.
Goalkeeper Jens Lehmann
The infamous German 'keeper is so adept and persistent at acting like an utter prat I really don't know whether to dislike him or admire his effort.
I mean, it must take some serious commitment to go to the extent of waging a personal hate campaign against a team mate, as he did with Manuel Almunia. A strange strategy in the end as it could be argued if Jens concentrated as hard on belittling and winding up his opponents (opponents in his case being anyone other than Jens Lehmann) and instead concentrated on the football happening in front of him he might have actually made a genuinely top class ‘keeper, rather than one in a line of let downs.
Right Back Stephen Carr
One of the more subtle dislikes in my footballing world - Carr became instantly dislikeable upon his move to Newcastle for being generally sh#t at defending, in a defence that was already well catered for with inability. However, his frequent insistence on screaming until his face turned blue at a very young James Milner was mainly what made me take a dislike to the man - more so as the majority of time Carr was in the wrong. A Mediocre player with the attitude of a man playing a faultless game. Thoroughly dislikable.
Left Back Ben Thatcher
Claims the other fullback berth for this act of brutal thuggery. Practicing the traits of a still-drunk nutcase from the Tyneside Sunday leagues has no business at all in the sport of football.
Centre Back Marco Materazzi
Normally, any player that manages to kick Craig Bellamy in open play, and eventually get the Welsh motor mouth sent off because of it, would be overlooked for disliking. But Materazzi's underhand ways stretched far away from players that deserved such treatment - his crowning 'glory' being goading the legendary Zinedine Zidane into assault during his final game (2006 World Cup final no less, as you will remember).
When not physically or verbally goading the opposition into physical attack, Marco regularly resorted to the good old fashioned crunching tackled - a 'man' with scant disregard to an opponent’s physical well-being. A dirty, cheat.
Centre Back Neil Ruddock (C)
Handed the captains armband for my dislikable XI as being, by some distance, the biggest ball ache of the lot. Not content with being one of the finest examples of the traditional 'kick the man first, and the ball second' defenders, 'Razor' has since extended his arrogance and annoyance factor to a variety of off the field antics – usually manifested by a string of egotistical ‘hard-man’ statements of non-intent.
His crowning achievement since leaving football being a fleeting string of appearances on Soccer AM (says it all), visiting various clubs to take up run of the mill jobs, claiming he could ‘do anything’ – simultaneously belittling the people unlucky enough to have his company forced upon him for a day. Forgettable as a footballer, and even duller as ‘celebrity’.
Right Midfield Morten Gamst Pedersen
Briefly labelled ‘the Nordic David Beckham’ - after a few storming seasons of goal of the month contenders it seemed as though Blackburn had found themselves a real gem. Sure, even in those days he was showing a keenness to hit the floor at minimal contact but it was easy to forget that when he was smashing the resulting free-kick into the back of the net from 25 yards.
However, having arguably reached his peak in 2006, the ego of (now just) ‘Gamst’ started to flare beyond his capabilities and form stumbled as a result, eventually ending up as he is now contributing the odd goal every now and then in between diving more often than a submarine – this being his finest effort. He now spends his spare time on posting cookery videos on his expensively assembled blog: http://gamst.co.uk/.
Left Midfield Damien Duff
One of many players tainted by the name-your-wage era of Freddy Shepherd's Newcastle United, Duff's disliking comes largely through little fault of his own. Signing Duff at a knock-down £5m after he had just completed a silverware laden spell with Chelsea seemed like excellent business, but was done so at a time when Newcastle were woefully short of strikers (Alan Shearer having just retired and Michael Owen on permanent England duty) but furnished with an exciting young winger by the name of Charles N’Zogbia, who had already shown his ability at the top level. Duff proceeded to butt young N’Zogbia out of all contention for left midfield, scandalously pushing him into a wasted left back berth despite Duff’s constant stream of mediocre and disinterested performances. Contributing a goal every 14 games for his reputed 70k a week (a goal ratio bettered by N’Zgobia at Newcastle despite playing a large proportion of games at left back), Duff regularly looked as threatening as a Village Fayre – and left a legacy of financial waste and a huge contribution to the loss of Charles N’Zogbia (finished off by Joe Kinnear). Damaging and disliked.
Central Midfield Jack Wilshire
England's finest young football, a teenager well on the way to becoming a multi-millionaire with the world at his feet...and doesn't he half look angry about it all. Although not wanting to single out Wilshire for demonstrating the same disparaging attitude which many other young footballers do, he does manage to do it to an extraordinary level. What are you getting all upset about lad? You've bloody got it all, you've won - just calm the hell down...
Central Midfield Lee Cattermole
I've always been astonished at how Cattermole managed to make it into the professional game - I could perhaps take it as solid evidence that even in the 21st century there are no safe guards in place to prevent genuine nutters entering the game. For the interests of having genuine reasons for disliking players, I was trying avoid the current Sunderland squad – but Cattermole is impossible to overlook.
He is someone who I have had a personal dislike for ever since, when at Wigan, he needlessly clattered into then Newcastle player, Habib Beye, leaving our full-back injured for months. Like Ruddock earlier, Cattermole religiously practices the 'kick the man first, and the ball second' strategy, and managed to excel himself through this adoption by being sent off in two of his first three appearances last season (after being made captain no less). A coward and a thug – thoroughly disliked.
Centre Forward Michael Owen
A candidate for one of the worst human beings to exist on the right side of the law. A great shame as well, as a young Owen demonstrated all the attributes to be a fondly remembered footballer - a positive and sporting attitude on the pitch and professionalism off it. But since his ill fated move to Newcastle, the striker's greed and self interest have spiralled wildly out of control, to the point he now finds himself a token gesture at Manchester United (whilst still genuinely believing he is so much more than that) and taking great pride in gloating to the common man about his love for his insignificant role. A pathetic excuse of a man who makes a mockery of every person who would have given their lives to play football, and also to those who have been unfortunate enough to have had to retire from the game through the injury.
Centre Forward Dennis Bergkamp
Sublime, classy, silky skilled, genius of the pitch...but it was his occasional (and I'll stress rare) tendency for unsporting behaviour that left a bitter memory of the Dutch genius. Again, it’s personal (is that not the point of this?) – stemming back to two separate incidents in the early 2000’s.
Firstly was a less well documented stamp on Nicos Dabizas at Highbury, during an FA Cup replay – at the start of a fast break which saw Arsenal score their third of the day (in fairness, it would have made no difference to the final result).
The second was far more memorable incident where Bergkamp decided take an innocuous free-kick, early – toe poking the ball off Newcastle winger Laurent Robert with the clear intention of having him booked, and subsequently sent off. Debate what you like about the latter incident, but it was something a player with his boundless ability did not need to do and wholly unsporting – as good as waving an imaginary card in the referees face. I never quite had the same respect for him after that.
Manager Steve Bruce
Now, Bruce would seem an obvious choice given our allegiances and his current employment - but the current Sunderland manager has been thoroughly dislikeable ever since he made the step up to management through a combination of arrogance and disloyalty. His first four managerial appointments saw hm oversee a miserly combined total of 147 games.
His illogical defence of Lee Cattermole after a particular atrocious challenge on Habib Beye (as mentioned earlier) also showed a true lack of ‘spine’ and even further moved him away from any chance of attaining respect. His assumption also that he would have the ability to walk into the Newcastle job (despite the post being often vacant) but never bothering to apply, essentially looking to be begged to join got a number of people’s back’s up on Tyneside, perhaps eventually taking the post at Sunderland with a little spite in mind (certainly no issue of loyalty, or origin). Having said that, his current post has managed to move him from figure of dislike, to one of entertaining ridicule – this last season managing to find himself in the position of being disliked by all Newcastle fans and a sizeable proportion of Sunderland fans also. Now that takes some doing...