Talismans of 'Tude: The 20 Biggest Attitude Problems in English Football
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The English Premier League is back again. And besides the goals, the amazing comebacks and the horse race for the title, this season should be no less exciting when it comes to players bringing swagger onto the pitch.
Perhaps what we love most about "the beautiful game" is its flamboyance and colorful cast of characters, that not only make the highlight reel, but also make trouble in the process.
Here's a look at the the EPL's top players who are also the biggest talismans of 'tude in soccer today.
20. Cesc Fabregas: The Ungrateful Would-Be Captain
Fabregas pining for Catalonia. Just go already.
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Sure, Cesc Fabregas is an exceptional player and probably a better teammate. But Fabregas, hinting that he'd rather be back is Spain, has be insensitive to Arsenal fans in the process. And now he's off to Barcelona, maybe for the better.
Fabregas has been linked with a move to Barcelona for over a year and had recently been left off the Arsenal world tour because of a hamstring problem. Luckily though, Fabregas didn't injure himself trying to take off that Barcelona shirt last summer.
Perhaps Arsenal aren't capable of winning the Champions League, at least not as easily as Barça would be. True, especially when you have your top player looking south every minute.
19. Emmanuel Eboue: "I Could Go, You Know"
Eboue, hands moving like his mouth is
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Although Emmanuel Aboue has basically cleaned up his act at Arsenal in recent years and has become a respectable team player, he spent the first few years hinting that he could go—at anytime—to a bigger club that is more appreciative of his talents.
Some fans in North London have long thought that if he really wants to play for Man United he should shunt off and go there.
Still, Eboue's speed and creativity with the ball has remained, while his fickle temperament has eased in recent years. But for those of us who sit at a desk as a part of our paychecks, it might be nice to see a player, like Eboue, appreciate his role—and his time—in one of football's better clubs...and the best league.
18. Mario Balotelli: Growing Up, Hopefully
Balotelli, the prince of Italy
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Mario Balotelli is not a bad guy, although he fulfills the stereotype of the under-worked, over-inflated soccer ego. Even Man City fans would concede that Balotelli talks too much in relation to his scoring and doesn't exactly act like a vested team player.
Often maturity comes as a player settles in with his club, provided he makes it at least a year or two. City brought in Balotelli under the impression that he would be a huge contributor to the goal count and would act as a deadly weapon against the competition.
So far, Balotelli's biggest weapon is his mouth...and it is prone to misfire.
17. Craig Bellamy: Turning Tude into Occasional Brillliance
Bellamy's latest vacation, in Cardiff
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Bellamy has been quite the journeyman for a talented striker who actually scores goals. Even in his 30s.
With the exception of his one-year stint at Liverpool, Bellamy has usually been a positive impact on his club, netting consistently for Blackburn, West Ham, Celtic and Newcastle United, albeit never without an unnecessary scuffle or some frivolous red cards.
Bellamy is a difficult player who burns bridges. The baffling thing is how easily he builds new ones.
16. Roy Keane: Life Is Different in Management
Big mouth strikes (out) again.
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Roy Keane may have found that his ire as the long-time captain and enforcer at Manchester United, a well-developed, multidimensional and dominant football club, may not translate so well to a start-up club in either the Premiership or English football's second tier. Keane's hard knocks at both Sunderland and Ipswich Town have shown us this.
Still, Keane knows his football. If he can transform his attitude he can motivate his players to more productive results in in the future...that is, if he ends up managing a club again some time soon.
Plus, he may just find himself landing his dream job at the helm of United, in the event that (someday) Sir Alex Ferguson retires.
15. Charlie N'Zogbia: Good, but Too Vocal
Splitting hairs, really.
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For a slightly-above-average player, Charlie N'Zogbia has done a lot of moaning about his position and where he thinks his place in the team should be.
After storming out of Newcastle disingenuously after Joe Kinnear allegedly mispronounced his name as "insomnia", N'Zogbia has gained a decent role at Wigan. However, he has never regained the up-and-coming form he had at the Toon.
N'Zogbia is a enigmatic player who is capable of more, should he lighten up and find a way to become a true team player and not just settle for being the talented "future star" on the pitch, awaiting a big transfer opportunity.
14. Wayne Rooney: Shut Up and Play
Rooney, on a (very) good day.
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When Rooney is concentrating on the right things and at the top of his game, he's brilliant.
When he's not in the same mind-set as the rest of the team, he doesn't score goals. The last two World Cup forays are a perfect example of that. For both United and England, Rooney is much more naturally talented than Andy Cole ever was. Rooney should be scoring more goals instead of scoring red cards. He also gets distracted by and angry at the media, when he should focus on the performing as the top notch goal scorer he is.
Unfortunately, it may just be that Rooney's time as an international is but a footnote in the records books. This is too bad for England fans, who dreamt that Rooney would help bring back the World Cup trophy. But his play with Manchester United, all in all, has been stellar. Here, again, attitude is everything.
13. Didier Drogba: Oscar Caliber Actor, Olympic Style Diver
Not really injured, ever
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Chelsea ace Didier Drogba has never struggled with injury. But if you watched the highlight reels you'd think he either had a target on his back or was training as an extra in a film about murder victims being shot by snipers.
Sure, strikers carry the ball a lot, and as a result they take a lot of contact. Yet Drogba has a knack for attempting to draw the foul like an NBA point guard.
Good thing Drogba does score goals. Otherwise he'd soon enough be remembered as Chelsea's own flopping and floundering Francis Jeffers.
12. Roman Pavlyuchenko: Ambling Through North London
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Pavlyuchenko is perhaps over-rated as a result of his pedigree and is an on-again/off-again offensive force for Tottenham.
It's likely that many a spectator at White Hart Lane thought that Pavlyuchenko would be Spurs' answer to Berbatov (at Manchester United) or Fernando Torres' scoring arsenal at Liverpool. It seems, though, that Pavlyuchenko is an extremely gifted and expensive role player to have on your roster when he isn't producing goals or play-making for his teammates.
This one may be nothing more than a mismatch between player and club. But Pavlyuchenko's drive and concentration doesn't seem to be all there.
11. Carlos Tevez: You Want to Leave and You're Not Fooling Anyone
His hair stylist must share his enthusiasm
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You can't really begrudge an Argentine who hates cold weather, doesn't speak English well and who plays a million miles away from his kids to be happy about his locale.
Tevez has served Manchester City very, very well in two seasons, scoring a ton of goals and helping City win an FA Cup and a place in the Champions League. But Tevez could better serve Man City if he would be honest and consistent, for once, about what he really wants as a player and a professional.
One minute he's off, the next he loves City and would never leave. Either way, this episode of Manchester's longest running soap opera, Coronation Street, has gotten old. City should see the opportunity to sell a valuable and unhappy player and Tevez should stop changing his story. Period.
10: Robbie Van Persie: The Zlatan Ibrahimović of the EPL
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Robin van Persie had a great year last year with Arsenal, scoring 18 league goals and adding a lot more to club's fortunes all around.
But like a Dennis Bergkamp without the years behind him, van Persie has an arrogance that isn't so much inspiring but peevish and annoying. Like his counterpart striker in the Italian League, Zlatan Ibrahimović, van Persie has a habit of making every single minor success on the pitch an occasion for worship and a national parade.
When not scoring as consistently this Dutchman has, in the past, become sloppy, self-centered and a liability for his team. Van Persie could do well to temper his cockiness and just play football.
9. Joey Barton: A Reformed Thug
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The one really good thing about Joey Barton is that he is in touch with who he is. He's a tried and true thug and he knows it. Still, his time in prison seems to have shaped him into a slightly better citizen off the pitch, if not a more gentle and clinical player on the pitch.
After a bust up a few years ago with Newcastle legend Alan Shearer, his coach at the time, Newcastle United is a changed place. Fans are reluctantly accepting the hand the club has been dealt and the players they are stuck with.
Oddly, Barton has risen to the occasion and become somewhat of a leader and level head for the Toon. Yet only time will tell if he can keep his stuff together, both for his team and his own future ventures.
8: Titus Bramble, Thick as the Thames
Bramble, getting dusted as usual
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Titus Bramble has almost everything going for him. He's big, strong, nimble and fast for a central defender, and impossibly impervious to injury and age.
The main problem with Bramble as a professional footballer is that he plays like a complete bonehead. He's notorious for making mistakes and gifting opposing teams, particularly mastering the special technique of accidentally giving strikers the ball right outside the box.
Worse yet, his decade plus of experience in the Premier League seems to have made him no more sensible or competent as a defender. If it weren't for his size and strength, I'd say Titus Bramble wouldn't be capable of defending a jar of candy from a group of children, much less his goalkeeper's net.
7. Mick McCarthy, Mr. Mope
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Mick McCarthy and Wolverhampton have skidded along by the skin of their teeth longer than many could have predicted. Last day results and the fact that there were many bad teams in the English Premier League saved Wolves from going down in the end.
With limited resources, perhaps McCarthy has made gold out of muck in Middle England. But his managerial style and scant enthusiasm on the sideline—plus an inability to bring quality players to The Molineux—seems to point to the fact that at some point soon, Wolves will have another very hard season and will be sent down to the Championship to play teams of lesser caliber.
Maybe I'm wrong, but if I played for a moper like Mick McCarthy, I wouldn't be inspired too much to win anything.
4. Emmanuel Adebayor: Complain Your Way to Spain
Adebayor in cooler temperaments
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After a brilliant two seasons as a goal machine at Arsenal and a decent campaign at Manchester City, the best way to form a bond with your new manager, Roberto Mancini, is not to criticize him and then talk about a trade deal. And then complain...and complain some more.
So he's had a nice set of stats and made his way to Real Madrid for the short term. Emmanuel Adebayor's problem is not a lack of chemistry with his team or playing at too small a club. What is holding Adebayor back from his breakthrough to greatness is his primadonna attitude.
Adebayor has all the athleticism, talent and natural gifts in the world to become a legendary striker aside the likes of Cryuff, Mueller, Eusebio and possibly Pele. One wonders if he'll ever be mature enough to see it.
3. Stephen Ireland: Pouting Gets You Nowhere, Son
Once a smile, now a scowl
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Man City supporters have long memories and show much affection for their players, even past ones, if they have ever contributed anything of value to the club. Stephen Ireland's moping pushes it, though.
At barely age 23, Stephen Ireland stormed off from his role within Ireland's national team after a bit of success, albeit a challenging stint. After the changes of leadership and influx of top talent saw him largely sidelined as a support player for Man City, it seems he's let his fewer minutes of play not only poison his attitude but bring down his level of contribution all around. A move to Aston Villa and Newcastle saw similar poor form from this former rising star.
At some point players like Ireland need to make peace with the past and move on. Yet this Irishman may find himself lucky to be sulking on the bench in League Two if he's not careful.
2. Lee Bowyer: Making Joey Barton Look Like Gandhi
Lee Bowyer, second from left, thugging it with teammate Dyer.
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We all know that athletes have egos and that the scuffle is part of life. And though Lee Bowyer isn't in the EPL anymore—having just signed with Ipswich after Brum City's relegation—he's definitely made his mark.
One day in April 2005, during a game against Aston Villa, Bowyer lashed out and punched teammate Kieron Dyer inexplicably. It is pretty rare for a professional to start a fight with his teammate during a home match in front of a crowd of 55,000. But this wasn't Bowyer's first altercation, nor his first brush with authority. Still, it got him suspended...and then some.
As a sports enthusiast and lover of football, I don't take it lightly. I consider Lee Bowyer little more than a wasted talent and a disgrace to "the beautiful game."
1. Mike Ashley: Newcastle's Albatross
The Toon Army might suggest he Ashley hang himself with that scarf.
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It's daunting to come up with an explanation of how a self-made millionaire and business success like Mike Ashley could become the worst owner in world football.
While Newcastle wasn't exactly stable under flippant chairman Freddie Sheppard, Ashley's ownership has seen five managerial changes in barely six years.
Since 2003, Newcastle United as seen the arrival and departure eight managers: Robson, Souness, Roeder, Allardyce, Keegan, Kinnear, Shearer and Hughton. Continuing this ratty tradition of ill-timed change hasn't helped.
After having his life threatened and then trying to sell the club, Ashley decided last season to prolong his own tenure of toxic mediocrity at St James Park by resuming his helm and hiring Alan Pardew as the ninth boss in a decade. Ashley's next firing shouldn't be a surprise whenever it happens, nor should Newcastle's unfortunate relegation to the lower leagues.
Under Mike Ashley, Newcastle United has really become "Newcastle Untied," a fragile shell of its former self.
It is sad to say that this once world-class club has been reduced to a merry-go-round of bad management tactics, and a textbook case for students of sports business on how not to run a football club. Unless, of course, failure is your goal.