The Best Bits of the Premier League: 6-10
From air-rifle 'bants' to Benitez's facts by way of car roof drunken high-jinks
6 - Best most remarkable yet somehow inevitable
How was Ashley Cole to know that the high-powered air rifle he found in a box and waved at the work experience kid was loaded? How could anyone have known? Hey, it’s just ‘bants’, it happens. You need to lighten up.
7 - Best VFM import
Many players have taken the Premier League gravy train for a ride but few have straddled it with the glee of Winston Bogarde. The Dutch defender joined Chelsea on a free transfer from Barcelona in August 2000 - he had been set to sign for Bobby Robson’s Newcastle but had his head turned by the four-year, £40,000-a-week plus bonuses being offered by an unwitting Gianluca Vialli. By the time Bogarde left at the bitter end of his contract, having resisted numerous attempts to move him on, he’d played 11 times, mainly coming off the bench when the proper players were being rested. Later, in his autobiography, tastefully titled This Black Man Bows for No One, he looked back on his time in football. “The world should be grateful Winston Bogarde made it as a footballer. “If I had not succeeded as a player, I would have become a criminal – a big one.” Some would say that his time at Chelsea proved the two careers are not mutually exclusive.
8 - Best drunken hi-jinks
Delia Smith getting shitfaced on sherry and imploring the Norwich City faithful to “make some fucking noise”, or words to that effect, registers highly here, and certainly has more charm than the day fresh-faced drinkers John Terry and Frank Lampard drunkenly abused American tourists as the Twin Towers fell. But the finest episode involving football folk banjaxed on booze saw Stuart McCall celebrating Bradford City’s improbable escape from relegation in 2000 by clambering onto the roof of a parked car to milk the applause. Alas, he fell straight onto his face and landed flat on the concrete floor - but sprang straight back to his feet without spilling a drop. What a pro.
9 - Best managerial meltdown
Kevin Keegan’s Monday Night mind-dump in front of the Sky Cameras remains a defining moment of the Premier League’s 20 years, but that was a hot-head in a post-match funk being taken advantage of by the cameras. More disturbing - by virtue of it being thoroughly pre-planned - was Rafa Benitez using a press conference to present a massive dossier on Manchester United’s indiscretions, presented to the cameras in January 2009 to highlight the numerous ways Sir Ferguson and United had bent and broke FA rules to gain an advantage. At the time, Liverpool were top of the league. “I do not want to play mind games too early,” claimed Benitez, as he swung a gold pocket watch from side to side. But the games had begun and as with Keegan 13 years earlier, Ferguson would have the last laugh. United went on win the title by four points and a year later, Benitez was gone. Less dossier, more the world’s longest suicide note.
10 - Best off-the-cuff transfer request
For a time, Pascal Chimbonda was too good a player to be constantly running backwards at Wigan, so it was inevitable he’d want to move on to a bigger, better club. That day came on the final afternoon of the season in 2006, when he asked for a move in quite spectacular style. “I’ve no problem with players asking for a transfer,” said his manager Paul Jewell. “I’m a big boy and I know it happens – but it was the manner in which it was done that upset me.” That manner: no sooner had the final whistle blown, away at Arsenal, Chimbonda pulled out a transfer request and a letter of thanks as he walked off the pitch. Handing both to Jewell, he then sprinted for the changing rooms, where we assume his cases were packed, one with clothes, the other banknotes. We should at least credit him for waiving his loyalty bonus, although we don’t know he did for sure (see 20).