Roy Keane. Simply mentioning the name of the former Manchester United midfielder can inspire feelings of love or hate.
There is no half ground with the passionate Irishman, who gave his absolute all on the pitch and expected everyone else to do exactly the same. His decision to walk out on his country at the 2002 World Cup divided a nation.
Irrespective of your feelings towards the man, it’s impossible to deny that Keane played a huge part in United’s era of Premier League dominance in the mid-to-late 90s.
His ‘hardman’ reputation went before him, picking a fight with anyone and everyone if people were interested in going toe-to-toe. Vieira, Shearer and Haarland were just a handful of his foes.
So, in honour of the former Cobh Ramblers starlet turning 41 today (Friday), GMF remembers five of the best ‘hardmen’ in Premier League history. Don’t forget to have your say on the list at the bottom of the article…
Vinnie Jones – Wimbledon
The original Premier League hard man, and perhaps the best of the bunch.
Jones was never far from controversy, helping ‘the crazy gang’ to FA Cup glory in 1989 before brief spells at Leeds and Sheffield United. He returned to Wimbledon for the start of the 1992 season.
He would become captain during his second spell in South West London, and continued to cause havoc to players throughout his time in the league. Jones was sent off 12 times during an eventful career.
Patrick Vieira – Arsenal & Manchester City
The Frenchman is anything but your average hard man, with wonderful vision and a fantastic strike. However, it’s his touch-tackling style that endeared him to the Gunners faithful.
After winning his first title in 1997/98, Vieira took the armband from Tony Adams at Highbury, and went on to guide the club to two more titles – including the ‘invincibles’ season of 2002-03.
A return in 2010/11 saw Vieira a little older and a little less tough, but the veteran was still up for the challenge and his rivalry with Keane remains the stuff of legend.
Tomas Repka – West Ham United
During his five years at Upton Park, Repka was sent off four times, including on debut. That tells you a little something about the Czech Republic international.
With 14 red cards during his career, his poor disciplinary record with the Hammers was anything but an anomaly. Bad tackles and a lack of self-control were two areas Repka was happy to admit were a problem.
He became something of a cult hero during his time in East London, and left the pitch in tears after his final game against Fulham in 2006.
Neil Ruddock – Spurs/Liverpool/QPR/West Ham United
Neil ‘razor’ Ruddock signed for Liverpool from Spurs for £2.5million, and quickly went about his business with the Reds by becoming involved in an on-field battle with Eric Cantona.
Ruddock was renowned for his bad drinking habits during his time at Anfield, and was never far away from the front-and-back pages in the ‘Spice Boys’ era on Merseyside.
Dennis Wise – Chelsea
Part of the Crazy Gang that claimed FA Cup glory in 1989, Wise moved to Chelsea in 1990, and spent over a decade at the heart of the midfield for the Blues.
Whilst at Stamford Bridge, Wise won two FA Cups and a UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup, captaining the side for large periods during nine years in the Premier League.
Wise was renowned for punching above his weight in west London, and ready to take on the big men at every opportunity. Sir Alex Ferguson famously said ‘he could start a fight in an empty house.’