Football, a sport with sportsmanlike players and enthusiastic fans who respectfully support their teams and congratulate the opposition even when they lose. We all know it’s not like always that. While most of the football world lives by fair-play rules and sportsmanlike action on and off the pitch, there are players who don’t give damn about that and do their own thing. Some do it shamelessly so everyone can see, others have become masters in hiding their unsportsmanlike actions. Whichever way they approach it, they both have one thing in common. They are “dirty players“, who are despised by most fans and other players. In this article, we will check out 5 players that have earned their spot on my list of top 5 dirtiest players in the history of the Premier League.
5. Paul Scholes
We start off our list with the 4th most booked players in the Premier League history; now retired Paul Scholes, who just recently took over Oldham Athletic as their new manager. Paul Scholes started off his football career in Manchester United youth squad, where he stayed in between 1991–1993 until he got to play in the senior squad, where he remained for 20 years until he decided to retire in 2013. In the 499 matches he played in United shirt, Scholes scored 107 goals and was admired by many due to his superb football ability, which made it seem he can do everything. He even got a nickname “Ginger Ninja”, which as funny as it may sound, was the right name for this explosive midfielder. However, despite his phenomenal performances with the club, he was notoriously known to be one of the dirtiest players in the history of the Premier League. His rash tackles proved to be one of the biggest issues that contributed to Scholes downfall as a promising player. While he was still a good player, his dangerous tackles sometimes seemed like they had a potential for malicious intent. Due to his dangerous tackles, Scholes accumulated a total of 97 yellow cards in his career, which makes him a player with 4th most yellow cards in the history of Premier League. And that number does not even include cards in international competitions, nor the Cup matches.
This is just one of the examples of a great player whose name is tainted by the numerous bookings he received and a name he made for himself due to his actions.
4. Kevin Davies
Former professional striker and player for Chesterfield, Southampton, Blackburn Rovers, Millwall, Bolton Wanderers and Preston North End, Kevin Davies earned his place at our No.4 spot, which is only fair considered he has “collected ” 99 yellow cards in his 22-year long career in the Premier League. As an interesting fact, Kevin Davies played a total of 689 games for 7 clubs and gathered 444 appearances in the Premier League. In the course of those 444 games, Davies committed 605 fouls, which is the 2nd most among all players in the history of Premier League. He was known for his physical style of play, which resulted in him committing that many fouls. On the other side, he was also one of the players who was fouled many times. I guess we can say “what goes around comes around”. Nonetheless, his surprising high number of fouls and highly physical approach to the game earned his spot as my no.4 pick.
3. Lee Bowyer
I do not expect any player to be friendly with the opponents, nor should I. At the end of the day, for those 90 minutes, the opposition is the “enemy” of some sort. Fighting with your opposition is one thing, but Lee Bowyer took it a bit too far. He was just… a violent player who you did not want to argue with. And while he was a player the opponents tended to avoid, Lee Bowyer took a step further and fought his own teammate. The most iconic fight was without the doubt the Bowyer vs Dyer which happened in 2005 in a Premier League match between Newcastle and Aston Villa. Why did the fight start? Dyer did not pass the ball to Bowyer. That was all that was needed for Bowyer to tip him off. While the fight did not result in any major injuries, it was a real fight which earned both players a red card in addition to being a part of a memorable event which we will talk about for years to come.
Lee Bowyer collected 99 yellow cards in his career and committed 140 fouls in the 397 appearances in the Premier League. While he did not commit as many fouls as Kevin Davies, nor Paul Scholes, Bowyer deserves to be at our number 3 spot solely due to a fight he had with his own teammate, which is something you do not see often, if ever.
2. Ben Thatcher
Former professional football player, Ben Thatcher started off his career in Millwall and later joined Wimbledon, Tottenham, Leicester, Manchester City, Charlton Athletic and Ipswich Town where he played up until 2010 when he retired at 34 years of age. In his career, Thatcher appeared in 209 games in the Premier League where he collected 43 yellow cards and 4 red cards. His yellow card count is much lower than any other player on our list, but this is not a list of players with the most yellow cards. Ben Thatcher earned his place at our number 2 spot because of his foul on Pedro Mendes in 2006/07 season. While this was just one of many fouls he committed, it was a foul to remember, as It clearly showed what kind of player Ben Thatcher was. It was such a gruesome foul it overshadowed anything good Ben Thatcher managed to achieve in his career and we could argue the mentioned foul bordered an official assault. If we draw a line and look back at Thatcher career, we can all agree that Ben Thatcher was without a doubt one of the worst disciplined players in the Premier League history, the name he got despite only appearing in the Premier League for only a few seasons. Sadly, this will most likely be the only thing we will remember about him, despite the fact he was a good player in his prime.
1.El Hadji Diouf
When it comes to “dirty players” they are usually despised by the opponents and liked by the fans of the club they play in. When it comes to El Hadji Diouf… there is no one that likes him.
El Hadji Diouf has not appeared in many games in the Premier League (243), nor did he receive a lot of cards (55 yellow). He is not even known for doing anything like Ben Thatcher and Lee Bowyer. What makes him the most hated player and the “dirtiest” player in the Premier League is his spitting incidents. If there is one thing football players and fans do not want to see is spitting of players. Sure, tackle an opponent, maybe leave him with some bruises, even “accidentally” kicking the player in a dirty attempt to release your anger is somewhat acceptable, but same cannot be said for spitting. El Hadji Diouf is not only known for spitting on other players but the fans as well, which is a step too far. With his numerous spitting incidents, he has made a name for himself as the dirtiest player in the Premier League. That name will surely follow him around wherever he goes, just like the chant “he’s gonna spit in a minute” that is regularly heard when Diouf is seen.
With that, we conclude our list of top 5 dirtiest players in Premier League. Some earned their spot due to a huge number of fouls they committed in their career, others due to “famous” fouls, which will remain to be one of the worse and most memorable fouls in football history, and lastly there is El Hadji Diouf whose actions are not only despised by opponents but his own fans and teammates as well.
Sports journalist, content writer and passionate football lover.