Next Goal Wins goes directly to Jail. Do not pass go. Do not collect £200. We take a look at footballers who have continued beyond the footballing disciplinary committee, a rogues gallery who have found they are not above the arm of the law.
Football has long since provided talented individuals who have courted trouble both on and off the pitch. Despite all the riches and attention bestowed on them, for reasons only known to themselves, they have ended up falling foul of the law and have spent time ‘at her majesty’s pleasure’. Our Jailbird 11 have had glittering careers, scooping domestic and European silverware including 16 English League titles, 14 FA Cups, 4 League Cups, 2 European Cups and let’s not forget the 11 Charity Shields. We have car theft, counterfeiting, drink driving and assault amongst the crimes our team have committed. Below are our Pro’s & Con’s, a jailbird 11.
Rene Higuita Kidnapping and Extortion – 7 months
Rene Higuita was nothing less than eccentric, affectionately known as ‘el loco’, which translated is the crazy one. He is famed for inventing the scorpion kick, an unconventional clearance whereby the goalkeeper leaps forward and clears the ball with his legs, which are now above his head. An international goalkeeper who was not just a shot stopper but also a goalscorer, netting 8 times in 68 appearances. Higuita was sentenced to 7 months imprisonment back in 1993 after being involved in a kidnapping plot. His crime was acting as a go between for drug barons Pablo Escobar and Carlos Molina, helping arrange the ransom and secure the release of Molina’s daughter. He was paid for his services, a crime which in Columbia, is a punishable with a jail sentence.
Tony Adams Drink Driving – 4 months
Tony Adams has many distinctions. He was the first man to captain a side to the League Cup & FA Cup double in the same season. At 21, he was one of Arsenal’s youngest captains and he was responsible for one of the most iconic sights on a football field. Yes, the step forward, raise arm, shout offside and turn to applaud linesman, as portrayed in Nick Hornby’s film “Fever Pitch.” He was part of George Graham’s famous back four which was the back bone of two league titles during Graham’s management. Adams was also a regular international but amongst his undeniable talent, he had a flaw, he was an alcoholic. Many famous stories exist of how he trained and even played under the influence but his alcoholism will be remembered his drink driving and more to the point demolishing a wall at 75mph in Rayleigh in May 1990. When found, he was four times over the legal limit. In his book “addicted” he admitted to being offered a drink by the old couple whose wall he had demolished and his first thought was brandy. His punishment was 4 months at her majesty’s pleasure although he was released after 2 months. He did not publicly admit to being an alcoholic until 1996, coinciding with the arrival of Arsene Wenger at Arsenal, an event which played a major part in his recovery.
Stig Tofting Aggravated Assault – 3 months
Danish international Stig Tofting could be described as somewhat of an nomad. His career was spent flitting back and forward between Denmark and Germany, before he ended up in the premiership playing for Bolton Wanderers. It was during his time at Bolton that he represented Denmark in the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea. He was considered a hard man and had a troubled disciplinary record however, he had vowed to clean up his act prior to the world cup. He achieved this on the pitch but it was his off-field antics which landed him in hot water. Out celebrating with his team-mates at Cafe Ketchup, he head-butted the owner before punching one of the chef’s. Whilst the crime carried a maximum term of 18 months he was sentenced to only 4 months when the case arrived at court. This effectively ended his time with Bolton as they let him go as soon as the sentence had been served.
Ian Wright Failing to tax or insure cars – 14 days
Goal legend Ian Wright MBE, did not arrive into professional football until he was 22. He had an immensely successful career at Crystal Palace, Arsenal, West Ham, Celtic & Burnley notching 239 goals in 501 appearances before hanging up his boots and heading off into the world of TV & media. However, life before Ian became famous was not quite as straight forward as he ran into trouble with the law at an early age. In 1982, aged 19, he owned two cars. Not many 19 year olds achieved this but Ian was happy to be different. So different he failed to insure or tax either of them and when caught on being ended up behind bars for two weeks.
Joey Barton Assault & affray – 6 months
Joey Barton courts controversy. He has done ever since he arrived in the ManCity first team in 2002. His career and life since then have been littered with altercations, incidents and disciplinary issues. By 2007 Joey was a man who could easily be described as “off the rails” and an incident then only served to confirm this. At 5.30am 27 December in Liverpool City Centre, fuelled by ten pints and five bottles of lager, Joey, his brother and cousin got into what was described as a heated discussion with a group of youths. The discussion ended with Joey being caught on CCTV knocking one of the group to the floor and hitting him four or five times. Moments later he attacked another 16 year old punching him over 20 times leaving him unconscious with broken teeth. Barton was sentenced to six months but served only 74 days. On his release he returned to Newcastle’s first team, claiming he had conquered his demons and alcoholism and that he was now reformed. You can make your own mind up on that one.
Mickey Thomas Counterfeiting – 18 months
Mickey Thomas had an illustrious career spanning over 21 years. By the time he was 22, the Welsh Wizard was helping Wrexham reach the quarter final of the European Cup Winners Cup. He soon joined Manchester United before going on to play for a host of clubs including Everton, Brighton, Stoke and Chelsea. He ended his career back at Wrexham and it was here that he helped the fourth division team achieve one of their finest moments, when they made a mockery of their lowly league position by knocking Arsenal, then League Champions, out of the FA Cup. Unfortunately greed struck and Thomas started laundering counterfeit money through Wrexham’s trainees, regularly passing them fake £10 and £20 notes. Soon local police became suspicious and found Thomas at the centre of the crime. Thomas said being jailed for the scam was not the lowest point of his career, that came when he found his cell-mate had killed two people and cut off their heads.
Peter Storey Car Theft – 2 years, Counterfeiting – 3 years, Smuggling Pornographic Movies & Disorderly behaviour – 28 days
Easily the most prolific of our jailbirds, Peter Storey was an integral part of Asrenal’s double winning team of 1970/71 before becoming a regular England international. He left Arsenal in 1977 finishing his career playing for Fulham but within 2 years of hanging up his boots, Peter had swapped football for a life of crime. His first offence, running a brothel, led to only a suspended sentence and a hefty fine. Next time around he was not so lucky, being sentenced for two years for car theft. This was followed with a 3 year stretch after he was found guilty of of coin counterfeiting. He claimed in his book “True Storey” that he tried to clean up his ways at this point but he soon relapsed into his old ways, serving two more terms, each of 28 days, the first for smuggling pornographic material and the second for disorderly behaviour.
George Best Drink Driving & Assault – 8 weeks
George Best was arguably football’s first celebrity superstar. Spotted by Manchester United at the age of 15, by 18 he had helped them take the 1964 league title. The following year during a European Cup Quarter-Final against Benfica a Portuguese journalist nicknamed him the “fifth beatle”. In 1968, he was part of the United team which became the first English club to win the European Cup, arguably the pinnacle of his career. So much could be written about Best, his talent, his charm, his wayward behaviour, his complex character. Towards the end of his playing career, with his marriage in tatters, alcoholism took over and he was arrested for drink driving coupled with assaulting the police officer who was trying to arrest him. He was jailed for 8 weeks and despite appealing, spent Christmas 1984 in Pentonville Prison. Best’s life was unsurprisingly cut short, dying aged 59, heavy drinking ultimately taking its toll. What was a surprise however was this was his only spell in jail.
Duncan Ferguson Assault – 3 months
Duncan Ferguson was a footballer who could handle himself. Just ask the two men who broke intoFerguson’s house. One just managed to escape but the other not so lucky and was hospitalised after what could only be described as rough treatment at the hands of the Scottish footballer. Ferguson started his career with Dundee United before moving to Rangers. He then moved to England where he played for both Everton & Newcastle. It was whilst playing for Rangers that he head-butted Raith Rovers player John McStay. Amazingly the referee missed the incident so Ferguson was neither booked or sent-off. However the Scottish Football Association had to take action after reviewing video footage. Given Ferguson was on probation at the time, the 3 month sentence could not be seen as a surprise and Ferguson became the first British international player to be jailed for assaulting a fellow professional on the field of play.
Jan Molby Reckless Driving – 3 months
Jan Molby was an integral part of the Liverpool team of the eighties. He arrived in 1984 and quickly established himself as a defensive midfield player who had a knack of scoring penalties. He is spoken of as the finest passer of the ball to have pulled on the red shirt. This could be in reference to the fact he needed to be, as he is also spoken of as rarely leaving the centre circle, an unkind reference to his size. Molby’s contribution to the double winning team of 85/86 was a return of 21 goals from 58 games. Very impressive from a player who apparently lacked mobility. His low-point came when in October 1988 he was found guilty of reckless driving, a charge he could hardly deny given he overturned his car at the door of a nightclub. On his release fans mocked him, claiming he looked leaner and trimmer than when before he was jailed. He returned to Liverpool’s first team and continued his good form before continuing in football management.
Jermaine Pennant Drink driving & driving whilst disqualified – 90 days
Jermaine Pennant became Britain’s most expensive youth player when Arsenal signed him from NottsCounty for £2m in 1999. The price tag seemed to weigh heavy on his head as he failed to live up to the hype for the North London club and spells at Watford, Leeds and Birmingham followed. In February 2004 Pennant was banned from driving for sixteen months and in January 2005 he was then arrested after crashing his car into a lamp-post. During questioning it is reported he gave his name as Ashley Cole, but soon confessed and was convicted of drink driving and driving whilst disqualified. He was sentenced to ninety days in prison although was subsequently released after 30 days and became the first professional to have to wear an electronic tag as part of his parole. Pennant has had numerous brushes with the law since but has yet to hear the slam of the door of a cell closing on him.
So there we have it, our team of 11, professional, yet criminal players. All who during their prime could force their way into a top flight club, but all who had a flawed other side, one which led to time ‘at her majesty’s pleasure’.
Remember next goal wins.