In honour of Stuart Pearce, we look at five of the biggest nutters in football, including Leeds, West Ham, Everton and Manchester United legends.Pearce was born on this day in 1962, and the Nottingham Forest legend built a reputation as ‘Psycho’ amongst fans of English football for his emotionally charge on-field displays. Coming from an era when the pampered lifestyle of youth footballers was non-existent, Pearce made a name for himself in non-league football, before his transfer to Coventry and then Forest, where he is still lauded as a hero – despite his poor managerial spell this campaign. He is just one of many nutters in footballing history, and we look at some others to have followed a similar path to Psycho
Vinnie Jones – Wimbledon, Chelsea, Leeds United
Vinnie Jones, or Vincent Peter Jones, is a retired footballer, who is also known as an actor. He was born in 1965 in Watford, Hertfordshire, England. He began his playing career at Wealdstone in 1984 and in 1986 had a spell at Holmsund. Then he signed a £10,000-deal with Wimbledon, with whom he won the 1988 FA Cup Final. In 1989 Jones moved to Leeds United and spent there a season, but then to fans’ surprise he lost his spot. In 1992/91 he played for Sheffield United and the following season he spent with Chelsea. After that Jones re-joined Wimbledon and played for them until 1998. In 1998/99 he was a player-coach at QPR. He earned his first cap for the Wales national team on 14 December 1994 in a 0-3 loss to Bulgaria and all in all made nine appearances for the national squad.
NOTE: The ultimate hard-man in football, Jones was often found flying into tackles on the pitch, before retiring from the game to be the hard-man in Hollywood. He holds the record for the fastest ever Premier League yellow card – three seconds into a game – and then, of course, there is the famous picture with Paul Gascoigne.
Paul Gascoigne – Tottenham, Rangers, Newcastle
Paul John Gascoigne (born 27 May 1967) is a former England international footballer and football manager. He is also known by his nickname, Gazza. He earned 57 caps during his England career and has been described by the National Football Museum as "the most naturally gifted English midfielder of his generation".Born and raised in Gateshead, the midfielder signed schoolboy terms with Newcastle United, before turning professional with the top tier (pre-Premier League creation) club in 1985. Three years later he was sold on to Tottenham Hotspur for a £2.2 million fee.
NOTE: Speaking of Gazza, he is on this list in his own right, although more for his off-field antics than what he did on the pitch. A mesmerising player, and one of the most naturally gifted footballers of all time, Gazza was often found letting his talent go to waste by pranking teammates, walking out to an FA Cup Final in slippers, and being an all-round joker.
Duncan Ferguson – Rangers, Everton, Newcastle
When a desperate Mike Walker recruited two Rangers players for a month's loan in October 1994 in a bid to arrest an alarming run of games without a win that had sent Everton tumbling to the bottom of the Premiership, most Evertonians knew more about midfielder Ian Durrant than towering striker Duncan Ferguson. However, a month later, after Walker had been sent packing and Joe Royle had assumed control of the Goodison hotseat, it was Ferguson to whom the new manager turned to form the bedrock of his fledgling tenure. The 6' 4" Scot was signed for £4m and Everton folklore was about to be augmented by the Duncan Ferguson saga.
NOTE: Everton legend Ferguson followed the vein of Jones, being the on-field hard-man, whilst also showing his strength off the field of play. A holder of four convictions for assault, he once left a man in hospital when his house was burgled, and was often found showing that aggression when taking to games with the Toffees.
Paolo Di Canio – Celtic, Sheffield Wednesday, West Ham
Paolo Di Canio (born 9 July 1968) is an Italian former professional footballer. He made over 500 league appearances and scored over one hundred goals in the course of his playing career before moving into management. During his playing days he primarily played as a forward but could also play as an attacking midfielder. Di Canio began his career in the Italian Serie A, playing for Lazio, Juventus, Napoli and A.C. Milan, before a brief spell with the Scottish club Celtic. He subsequently spent seven years in the English Premier League with Sheffield Wednesday, West Ham United and Charlton Athletic. He returned to Italy in 2004, playing for Lazio and Cisco Roma before retiring in 2008.
NOTE: Once received an 11-game ban for pushing over a referee, and was fined in his homeland of Italy for twice giving the Roman salute to Roma fans whilst a Lazio player. A self confessed Mussolini fan, his fascist leanings do not endear him with great ease to a number of fans.
Eric Cantona – Leeds, Manchester United
Manchester United legend Eric Cantona has had another ‘seagull’ moment. The enigmatic star went down in football history when in January 1995 he kung-fu kicked a heckling Crystal Palace fan after he had been sent off at Selhurst Park. After successfully appealing a two-week prison sentence for the attack, Cantona stunned the assembled press by simply saying ‘when seagulls follow the trawler it is because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea.’
NOTE: The famous crowd kicking incident was just one of Cantona’s various approaches to the game of football, with his violent on-field demeanour conflicting with his philosophical approach off pitch. A man who used his character as a leader on the pitch, he certainly proved his slightly deranged attitude off it.