World Football: Ranking the 25 Worst 'Tackles' of All Time (With Video)

Greg LottContributor IFebruary 9, 2011

World Football: Ranking the 25 Worst 'Tackles' of All Time (With Video)

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    8 Jul 1982:  Battiston of France is stretchered off after a tackle by Harald Schumacher of West Germany during the 1982 World Cup semi-final match at Sanchez Pizjuan in Seville, Spain. The match ended in a 3-3 draw.  \ Mandatory Credit: Steve  Powell/Alls
    Steve Powell/Getty Images

    Fundamentally football is down to skill, talent and ability. Yet there is an far more abhorrent practice that underpins the essence of the game itself. Sadly thuggery, and it’s practitioners are as much a part of football as the maelstrom of tricks and goals that make the game so aesthetically fulfilling. Whilst normally contained within the guise of a tackle this practice, on occasion transcends boundaries between the football pitch and real life; occasions that shake the moral fibre of the game to its core.

    Some of the following 25 events are the later and some simply the former. Some, could be validated as ’mistimed’, some quite conclusively cannot. Many have resulted in simply horrific injuries, some too hideous to even show. One thing they all have in common, however, is that they have no place in football. Like a blight on the horizon they have served to undermine the honourable, ’fair play’ that world football today, as ever, should be symbiotic with. It isn't and here’s why:

    25 examples, ranked, to the best of my ability. There are more no doubt, a brief such as this makes exemptions almost an inevitability. One thing I hope you will agree on though is that all 25 have no place in football, now or forever. So without further ado..... the videos.

    Footnote: Not for the squeamish, please believe me... 

    My computer wouldn't let me include the video in the media slot because of a slow uploading interface, all videos are therefore included at the bottom of the slide, sorry for the inconvenience. 

25: Chris Kamara, For Stoke City V West Ham United, August 1989

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    Undated:  Chris Kamara of Sheffield United in action. Mandatory Credit: Mike Hewitt/Allsport
    Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

    The pundit everyone loves to love, for one day back in August 1989 was the thug everyone loved to hate. The fiery Stoke stars high lunge, from behind, on United's Frank McAvennie broke the strikers leg. Kamara was sent off, but the lunge was to have far worse repercussions on the Scot, who didn't start a league game until the opening day of the following season, an entire calender year.

24: Kevin Gray, For Huddersfield Town V Bradford City, February 1997

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    26 Sep 1998:  Kevin Gray of Huddersfield Town in action during the Nationwide division one game against Bolton Wanderers at the Reebok Stadium, Bolton, England. Bolton won 3-0. \ Mandatory Credit: Alex Livesey /Allsport
    Alex Livesey/Getty Images

    Gray, after a tackle that left Bradford striker Gordon Watson with a double leg fracture that requires 6 operations, is sued for negligence. Watson wins and £900,000 for the loss of earnings and medical care costs make this one expensive tackle.

23: Francesco Totti, For Roma V Inter Milan, May 2010

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    ROME, ITALY - FEBRUARY 02:  Francesco Totti of AS Roma looks on during the Serie A match between AS Roma and Brescia Calcio at Stadio Olimpico on February 2, 2011 in Rome, Italy.  (Photo by Paolo Bruno/Getty Images)
    Paolo Bruno/Getty Images

    Roma captain Totti in obvious exasperation at his lack of progress in halting Inter's boy wonder Mario Ballotelli's run at goal, simply does the next best thing. Totti swings a leg as if striking the ball but instead punts Ballotelli viciously and in the calf. Oh yes he meant it. Oh Francesco.

22: Axel Witsel, For Standard Liege V Anderlecht August 2009

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    BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - OCTOBER 15:  Axel Witsel of Belgium lines up for the National Anthems prior to the FIFA 2010 World Cup Group 5 Qualifier between Belgium and Spain at the King Baudouin Stadium on October 15, 2008 in Brussels, Belgium.  (Photo by Mike H
    Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

    I hadn't heard of or seen this tackle before i did my research for this article. I'm still quite suprised that the awful challenge came from the slightly built Witsel, who to me is far more synonomous with his talent and skill with the ball than his hooligan's instinct. Then again everyone can be inclined to a relapse, this was Witsel's, and it's awful. Recipient Marcin Wasilewski recieved a badly broken leg and Witsel was instantly sent from the pitch for the studs high tackle.

21: Zinedine Zidane, For France V Italy, July 2006

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    BERLIN - JULY 09:  Fabio Cannavaro (R) of Italy gestures towards Zinedine Zidane #10 (L) of France, whilst Marco Materazzi of Italy lies injured, after being headbutted  in the chest by Zinedine Zidane of France during the FIFA World Cup Germany 2006 Fina
    Michael Steele/Getty Images

    The career of the most brilliant footballer whose majesty i have ever had the pleasure of witnessing went out with a bang, or a butt.

    The 2006 World Cup final; a final that Zidane had almost single handedly taken France to became known as Zidane's final, but not for the reasons you might of thought.

    Off the ball whilst running back after a failed France attack Zidane exchanged words with Italy defender Marco Materazzi. To this day no-one knows exactly what was said, but I think it's safe to say Zidane wasn't best pleased; well unless he headbutts in his spare time.......

    The headbutt itself was more akin to ending a fight than a football match, but that it did as Zidane was unceremonously sent off and France went on to lose the match and the World Cup trophy.

    Such is the measure of the man, though, nobody blames him, Zidane is and was a legend, just one that seldomly lets his head do the talking.

20: Lee Bowyer, For Newcastle V Kieron Dyer (Also Newcastle), April 2005

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    NEWCASTLE, ENGLAND - APRIL 7:  Kieron Dyer is replaced on the field by Lee Bowyer as manager Graeme Souness looks on  during the UEFA Cup Quarter Final first leg between Newcastle United and Sporting Lisbon at St James Park on April 7, 2005 in Newcastle,
    Stu Forster/Getty Images

    Team mates should be thus right? Mates? Apparently no-one told Lee Bowyer and Kieron Dyer in April 2005 during their sides 3-0 home loss to Aston Villa.

    After Villa's third goal had been scored Dyer exchanged words with Bowyer, who took exception and rather than explain his grievances to his team mate, let his fists speak the words his mouth could not pronounce.

    Dyer and Bowyer later apologised for their action, however, interestingly they pointedly refused to apologise to each other and were not team mates for much longer.

19: Benjamin Massing, For Cameroon V Argentina, June 1990

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    Argentinian footballer Claudio Caniggia is closely followed by the Cameroon player Benjamin Massing during their match at the 1990 World Cup in the Giuseppe Meazza stadium, Milan, 8th June 1990. (Photo by Getty Images)
    Getty Images/Getty Images

     Cameroon have three bites of the Claudion Caniggia shaped cherry, as the Argentine speeds down the right wing in a 1990 match between the two sides. The first two tackles are skillfully avoided by a combination of speed skill and bad tackling. The third contrary to his name, Massing doesn't miss, although he probably, in hindsight, would of wished that he had as he is unceremoniously sent off for his troubles.

18: Martin Taylor, For Birmingham V Arsenal, Febuary 2008

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    BIRMINGHAM, UNITED KINGDOM - FEBRUARY 23:  Martin Taylor of Birmingham is sent off after a tackle on Eduardo during the Barclays Premier League match between Birmingham City and Arsenal at St Andrews on February 23, 2008 in Birmingham, England.  (Photo by
    Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

    Probably the best example of the horrendous tackle from recent years, as well as being the tackle that quite probably prematurely ended Eduardo's Arsenal career.

    In the third minute of newly promoted Birmingham's home match against Arsenal, Taylor went in high and late on Arsenal striker Eduardo. Eduardo received a compound fracture to his left fibula and an open dislocation of his left ankle. Broadcaster Sky, who were showing the game at the time, took the decision to not show the replay of the incident, deeming it to be too shocking for their audience.

    I'm not as compassionate so here it is; enjoy.

17: Ben Thatcher, For Manchester City V Portsmouth, August 2006

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    MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 18:  Ben Thatcher of Manchester City tackles Stelios Giannakopoulos of Bolton Wanderers during the Barclays Premiership match between Manchester City and Bolton Wanderers at the City of Manchester Stadium on September 18, 2
    Alex Livesey/Getty Images

    Ben Thatcher's career was blighted by incidents such as this, to the extent that, ultimately, he was probably known more for being a thug than a footballer.

    His 2006 elbow into the face of Portsmouth midfielder Pedro Mendes, was the incident from which Thatcher garnered most infamy. Whilst running the ball out for a throw in to Man City, Thatcher visibly raises his elbow, striking Mendes in the face. Mendes is knocked out cold, falling into the advertising hoardings and Thatcher becomes an instantaneous social pariah.

    Mendes required oxygen at the pitchside and suffered a seizure whilst being transferred to hospital, but was released from hospital the next day albeit under medical supervision. Thatcher, for his sins, was given a 6 match ban, 2 of them suspended and a fine amounting to 6 week's wages.

16: Lee Bowyer, For Leeds United V Málaga, December 2002

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    LEEDS - SEPTEMBER 28:  Lee Bowyer of Leeds United pleads with the assisstant referee after fouling Pascal Cynan of Arsenal during the FA Barclaycard Premiership match between Leeds United and Arsenal at Elland Road, Leeds, England on September 28, 2002. (
    Gary M. Prior/Getty Images's Bowyer again and this time it's even worse. During Leeds' ill fated European adventure in 2002, Bowyer's stamp on the head of Malaga defender Gerado stole most of the headlines. Bowyer was subsequently banned from European competition for six games following the premeditated attack, but following his subsequent transfer to Newcastle United, an administration mix-up in the club meant that this ban was extended to 12 games.

    It was the precursor of things to come as Leeds' financial implosion was just around the corner as the club's life of excess came back to bite them, slipping unchecked down the football pyramid and away from the European life they had once called their own.

15: Paul Gascoigne, for Tottenham Hotspur v Nottingham Forest, May 1991

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    18 May 1991:  Paul Gascoigne of Tottenham Hotspur tackles Gary Charles of Nottingham Forest and comes off worse injuring himself and never really regaining his form from making this challenge during the FA Cup Final played at Wembley Stadium, in London.To
    David Cannon/Getty Images

    Ironic is how I would best describe this tackle. Gazza, a player with the footballing world at his feet, lunged in horrifically on Forest player Gary Charles, far too high and with his studs up.

    Yet, and here's the irony, it was Gazza that came off worse, rupturing his cruciate ligaments, an injury many say curtailed his previously burgeoning ability with the spherical ball. You'd think Gazza had a penchant for masterminding his own downfall......

14: João Morais, For Portugal V Brazil, July 1966

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    Brazilian footballer Pele kisses his hand during a training session, mid 1970s. (Photo by Duncan Raban/Getty Images)
    Getty Images/Getty Images

    In a World Cup tie between Portugal and Brazil Portugal, fearing the threat of the Brazilian's talisman, set about Pele. After Morais chops down the Brazilian twice in quick succesion, without any tangible action taken the Brazilian limps out of the tournament, bruised by the encounter and vowing he will never play in the World Cup again. Luckily for Brazil he did, returning four years later to become the figurehead of the 1970 team, regarded by many as the greatest football team that the world has ever seen. 

13: Paul Bosvelt, For Feyenoord V Manchester United, November 1997

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    1 Oct 1997:  Paul Bosvelt of Feyenoord in action during the Champions League match against FC Kosice at the De Kuip stadium in Rotterdam, Holland. Feyenoord won the match 2-0. \ Mandatory Credit: Phil Cole /Allsport
    Phil Cole/Getty Images

    In a Champions League tie between Bosvelt's Feyenoord and Manchester United in 1997, Bosvelt's lunge, knee-high on United's Dennis Irwin was the talking point. The Irishman, initially feared for his career, but the injury was more superficial than first feared and two months later Irwin was able to play again. As if to add insult to injury Bosvelt later moved to England, to Manchester, to play for United's city rivals. It's almost as if you would think he didn't like Manchester United........

12: Norbert Siegmann, For Werder Bremen V Armedia Beilefeld, August 1981

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    GELSENKIRCHEN, GERMANY - FEBRUARY 27:  A portrait of Ewald Lienen coach of Hannover during the Bundesliga match between FC Schalke 04 and Hannover 96 at The Arean Auf Schalke on February 27, 2005 in Gelsenkirchen, Germany.  (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty
    Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

    This is quite honestly the worst injury i have ever seen from football. I have been brought up in a situation that leg breaks are no infrequent, but this is different. The scale of the gash is simply horrific. The result of a heinously over-committed, cynical tackle in which the studs were raised, if not with the primary intention of maiming, with the distinct possibility.

    The most surprising thing about the tackle is that the recipient, Ewald Lienen, doesn't lay on the floor, subservient to the agony that such an injury must surely invoke. Instead his first thought is to chastise Werder manager Otto Rehhagl, who, Lienen deemed, had incited Siegmann to commit the tackle. This to me is the definition of man, not letting a 25cm slit in your right thigh getting in the way of a good argument.

    Shockingly it took Lienen only 17 days before he was back in training!

11: Georges Santos, For Sheffield United V West Bromwich Albion, March 2002

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    WATFORD - OCTOBER 12: Danny Webber of Watford is up-ended by Georges Santos of Grimsby during the Nationwide League Division One match between Watford and Grimsby Town at Vicarage Road, Watford, England on October 12, 2002. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty
    Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

    In a game not too dissimilar from the "Battle of Santiago" (see 4), "The Battle of Brammal Lane also descended into farce after three United players were sent off and another injured, causing the match to be abandoned. Also like the "Battle of Santiago" one tackle stands out and that was Santos' as he leaps into West Brom's Andy Johnson's (possibly in revenge for a previous incident in which Johnson's elbow broke Santos' jaw?) ankle for one of the most obvious red cards you are ever likely to see.

10: Barcelona V Atletico Bilbao, May 1984

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    24 Nov 2001: Saviola of Barcelona and Lacruz of Athletic Bilbao in action during the Spanish Primera League match played between  Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao. DIGITAL IMAGE. Mandatory Credit: Firo Foto/ALLSPORT
    Firo Foto/Getty Images

    Amidst bubbling tension, this game in 1984 quite literally kicked off as the game exploding into a mass brawl that implicated nearly every player on the field, including Diego Maradona, well especially Diego Maradona. No-one was especially wounded in the melee so we can laugh about it, because from an exterior perspective it really is quite funny. I wont say any more for this is YouTube gold.......

9: Andoni Goicoechea, For Athletic Bilbao V Barcelona, September 1983

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    Jul 1986:  A portrait of Andoni Goicoechea of Spain taken before the start of world cup match against Algeria in Mexico. Mandatory Credit: Mike King/Allsport
    Mike King/Getty Images

    If i told you Goicoechea's nickname was the 'Butcher of Bilbao' that would probably be enough to warrant his place on this lift in all likelyhood. The butcher achieved notoriety after a horrendous tackle from behind on Barcelona's Diego Maradona, that injured the later's ankle ligaments and leaving him seriously injured. The tackle is almost certainly the crux to explain the subsequent shocking display of on-field fighting when the two teams met again later in the same season. Not excusing it though of course, just explaining.

8: Brian Mclair and Denis Irwin, For Manchester United V Coventry, April 1996

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    16 May 1997:  Paul Gascoigne in action, playing for Coventry for the David Busst Testimonial match against Manchester United at Highfield Road in Coventry, England. \ Mandatory Credit: Craig Prentis /Allsport
    Craig Prentis/Getty Images

    Irwin from one side, McClair from the other, Busst's leg the filling in the middle of the sandwich. There was only going to be one loser and sadly Busst's leg was that man.

    The fibia and the tibia of Busst's right leg received extensive compound fractures and the match had to be delayed for 10 minutes whilst blood was cleaned off the grass.

    The injury is often cited as the worst in the history of football and at one point it was debated whether or not Busst would have to lose his right leg, such was the extent of the treatment. Indeed after 27 operations on his leg Busst never played football again.

    A testament to the extent of the injury, as if all that wasn't enough, the "Great Dane", Peter Schmiechel was reportedly so shocked by the injury he was sick on the pitch and later needed counselling. Oh indeed.

7: Nigel De Jong, For Holland V Spain, July 2010

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    JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - JULY 11:  Nigel De Jong of the Netherlands tackles Xabi Alonso of Spain with a kick in the chest during the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Final match between Netherlands and Spain at Soccer City Stadium on July 11, 2010 in
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    What became the iconic image of what was a very dirty final, De Jong's foot raised over a metre off the ground, striking Xabi Alonso square in the chest.

    The "tackle", if you can call it that, is so horrendous its actually quite funny (seeing as Alonso sustained no lasting damage). I think you'll agree, this is most certainly not an everyday football challenge and has gone some way to provoking the "fouling" stigma that has followed De Jong in the league this season.

6: Roy Keane, For Manchester United V Manchester City, April 2001

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    21 Apr 2001:  Roy Keane of Manchester United shouts at Alf Inge Haaland of Manchester City following his red card during the FA Carling Premiership match played at Old Trafford, in Manchester, England. The match ended in a 1-1 draw. \ Mandatory Credit: Ga
    Gary M. Prior/Getty Images

    This could and perhaps should be further up the list, but to be honest i feel sixth is the perfect position. This was worse than many of the other tackles on the list in that it was three and a half years in the making. Keane knew what he was going to do and that fateful day in 2001 was presented with the opportunity to exact his "revenge", and took it with blood curdling consequences.

    The feud began in 1997 after a tackle between Keane and Haaland at Elland Road left Keane with an injury to his anterior cruciate ligament. Whilst Keane lay prone on the ground, Haaland, taking him to be feigning injury to avoid punishment told the United captain to get to his feet. In the event Keane was booked as he was stretchered from the field of play. Keane was out for the remainder of the 97-8 season and didn't get back to action again for almost a year. Keane never forgave Haaland.

    So it was that three and a half years later that Keane got his chance, studs raised, leg crunching into Haaland's right knee. Haaland retired two years later after failing to fully recover from an injury to the same knee. After Keane's revelation in his biography that he had set out to 'hurt' Haaland after the Norwegians taunts in 1997, he was handed a £150,000 fine and an additional five game ban (from the 3 game automatic ban and £5,000 fine). Such thuggery really has no place in football.

5: Eric Cantona, For Manchester United V Crystal Palace, January 1995

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    Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

    Despite his talent with a football for some Cantona's faux pas that fateful January day supersedes his ability as a player.

    After being sent off after a kick out at Palace defender Richard Shaw, Cantona was moving his way into the tunnel still firmly under the influence of the red midst. A calm Cantona, maybe wouldn't of reacted, we will never know, but after a barracking from a Palace fan Cantona went Bruce Lee, aiming a flying kick into the crowd at the man, Palace fan Matthew Simmons.

    Cantona's ban that would otherwise have only been 3 games was subsequently increased to a whopping eight months, with the added ignominy of a £10,000 fine. In addition Cantona was stripped of the French team captaincy and United lost the Premiership title race to eventual champions Blackburn Rovers.

4: Mario David, For Italy V Chile, June 1962

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    11 Jun 1998:  Angelo Di Livio of Italy takes on Francisco Rojas and Nelson Parraguez of Chile during the World Cup group B game at the Parc Lescure in Bordeaux, France. The match ended 2-2.  \ Mandatory Credit: Shaun Botterill /Allsport
    Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

    David's "tackle" was simply the worst incident of a horrendously dirty World Cup game between Chile and Italy in 1962, that was subsequently dubbed "The battle of Santiago". More akin to a brawl than a football match, the match was epitomised in David's actions.

    After repeatedly kicking Chilean Leonel Sanchez, the Chilean punches David in response. David responds by kicking his opponent in his neck and is in a shocking twist..........sent off.

3: Duncan Ferguson, For Rangers V Raith Rovers, April 1994

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    22 Oct 1994:  Chris Coleman of Crystal Palace and Duncan Ferguson of Everton jump for the ball during an FA Carling Premiership match at Selhurst Park in London. Crystal Palace won the match 1-0. \ Mandatory Credit: Dan  Smith/Allsport
    Dan Smith/Getty Images

    Before moving to England and becoming an Everton icon Ferguson was involved in a very unsavoury incident whilst a young player at second club Rangers.

    In an otherwise unspectacular season in which the young Ferguson, signed for a then British transfer record of 4 million, a game at minnows Raith Rovers stood out for all the wrong reasons.

    After chasing the ball down into the corner of the Ibrox pitch, Ferguson exchanged words with Rovers defender John McStay. Incensed, Ferguson savagely swung his head at McStay, but because of the fact that the incident was away from the balance of play the officials notice was elsewhere and the barbaric action went unbeknown.

    The incident didn't go unpunished, however, as an arbitrary council noted the incident, Ferguson was charged with assault and since it was his fourth such conviction served a jail term. Ferguson remains the only ever British player to serve time as a direct result of an on-field incident.

2: Harald Schumacher, For West Germany V France, July 1982

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    1982:  Portrait of Harald Schumacher of West Germany. \ Mandatory Credit: David Cannon /Allsport
    David Cannon/Getty Images

    The tackle many find synonymous with the essence of the horrific challenge is only my number two.

    After a delightful through ball from the genius that was Michel Platini, French defender Michel Battison was through and running at goal.

    Battison was almost at the ball, Schumacher had no chance yet he came anyway, knees raised striking Battison in the face and neck, causing the defender to lose his front teeth and damaging his vertebrae.

    While his team mate was out cold, Platini later confessed to a momentary belief that his friend had died "because he had no pulse and looked very pale". Shockingly a penalty was no given for the foul and after Battison had been stretchered off play simply resumed.

    After Germany went on to win the game a magazine poll in France ranked Schumacher as the most hated German, beating Adolf Hitler into second place.

1: Neil Simpson, For Aberdeen V Rangers, October 1988

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    1988:  John Hewitt (centre) of Aberdeen helps up Richard Gough (bottom left) of Rangers while Graham Roberts (bottom right) of Rangers struggles to his feet during the Skol Cup Final match at Hampden Park in Glasgow, Scotland.The match ended in a 3-3 draw
    Russell Cheyne/Getty Images

    The tackle that incited the rivalry between Aberdeen and Rangers that still boils to this day. The tackle is quite literally horrific. High, studs-up, premeditated, leaving Rangers player Ian Durrant unable to play for the next three years. Yet the tackle transcended boundaries between pitch and stand. It survived generations and is still an area of severe unrest between the fans of the rival teams 23 years on.

    Durrant eventually sued Simpson for damages in relation to the incident. Simpson, in the face of much hostility settled with Durrant out of court and the man few had known about resumed his unspectacular career. The world was different though and the name of Neil Simpson will not be forgotten in Glasgow and beyond for a moment of madness that he has lived to regret.

And If All That Wasn't Enough For Your Massachistic Mind...........

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    1992:  Portrait of David Busst of Coventry City. \ Mandatory Credit: Anton  Want/Allsport
    Anton Want/Getty Images

    Please feel free to add your thoughts of any of your own that I have failed to include and if their gruesome enough I will add them in (if i can stand it)....


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