Football

Eboue was a fan favourite at Arsenal, but not for his footballing ability.

Following Emmanuel Eboue's return to England, a look at six of football's most-loved cult heroes

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After Emmanuel Eboue rocked up at Sunderland as a free agent for a spot of training, it marked the return of one of football’s mavericks to English shores.

As a result, it seemed as good a time as any to revisit some of football’s greatest cult heroes.

Ivorian Eboue, of course, last graced us with his presence at Arsenal, where he spent six seasons mainly joking around and treating us to some very dodgy dancing.

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Here’s a look at six other players that we all took to our hearts - even if their footballing ability wasn’t necessarily up to scratch.

PAOLO DI CANIO

The talented Italian certainly had a personality, so much so he has taken it through to his managerial career. To call him passionate would not be doing him justice.

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However, he often demonstrated the fine line between passion and insanity.

Only an insane person would push over a referee, but only a man of passion - not to mention guts - would perform a knee slide on the St James’ Park turf as Sunderland boss to celebrate a goal.

He was caring too. Remember when he caught the ball so Everton 'keeper Paul Gerrard could receive treatment? What a guy.

West Ham v Arsenal x

VINNIE JONES

Now perhaps better known for his foray into Hollywood, Jones encapsulated the English spirit as a member of Wimbledon’s ‘Crazy Gang’.

The tough-tackling midfielder pulled no punches on the football pitch - some say Steve McMahon can still feel that tackle in the opening seconds of the 1988 FA Cup final that the Dons famously won.

Such tackles got him into trouble occasionally, as Jones picked up no less than 12 red cards throughout his career.

Vinnie Jones celebrates his team's goal

And did you know he’s got the FA Cup tattooed on his leg? Hero.

STUART PEARCE

This man is redemption personified. You know the story.

When Pearce missed his penalty at Italia '90, partly costing England a place in the World Cup Final, the nation mourned.

Then, six years later, when hosts England were taken to penalties in the quarter-finals of Euro '96, history was in danger of repeating itself.

Not one to shy away, though, Pearce risked a lifetime of humiliation - but boy, did he take his chance.

Stuart Pearce of England is consoled

It wasn't the fact he scored that won fans' hearts, but the outpour of relief that followed to depict a man that wanted to do his country proud.

They didn’t call him ‘Psycho’ for nothing.

ROBERT HUTH

Who doesn’t love the German? And what is it about defenders?

The larger-than-life centre-back is currently enjoying the high life with Leicester City at the top of the Premier League and fast becoming a fan favourite with his dominance in the air both stopping and scoring goals.

Manchester City v Leicester City - Premier League

And have you seen his Twitter account? It’s an absolute goldmine of fun, though he has been known to overstep the mark - parental guidance is advised.

The only person that may have an issue is poor Jonathan Walters.

EMILE HESKEY

From one Leicester favourite to another. A decent striker back in the day for the Foxes and Liverpool, Heskey’s cult status has largely come from his clumsiness and hilarious moments of failure.

It was perhaps the latter years of his England career that sealed a rather awkward relationship with your typical football fan.

A-League Rd 27 - Newcastle v Adelaide

His inclusion at the 2010 World Cup left most bemused to say the least and his performances seemed to justify that.

Cue a deluge of videos showcasing the many ‘talents’ of Heskey hitting the web.

And for that, Emile Ivanhoe Heskey, we will always love you.

CLINT DEMPSEY

The American will be remembered at Craven Cottage for his impact during six years there.

His popularity probably peaked during Fulham’s extraordinary run to the Europa League final, scoring a delightful chip to secure an unlikely win over Juventus and his place in Cottagers folklore as they finished runners-up to Atletico Madrid.

Fulham v Wolverhampton Wanderers - Premier League

Fulham enjoyed their best years in the Premier League during Dempsey’s stay and his 60 goals from midfield were the main reason for that.

He was a superstar at a club he probably didn’t belong to, but Dempsey seemed happy to fall in love with the small west London outfit. Fair play.

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Topics:
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Thierry Henry
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