The 20 hardest footballers in Premier League history have been named (20-11)


True Premier League hardmen are few and far between these days.

The likes of Roy Keane, Vinnie Jones and Patrick Vieira could unleash hell at any moment, and it very often turned ugly.

Remember Keane’s challenge on Alf-Inge Haaland, or Wimbledon’s infamous Crazy Gang?

Meanwhile, Stuart Pearce earned the nickname ‘Psycho’.

It’s said that every team needs one and, while the current makeup of sides in England’s top flight suggests that’s not true, they still hold a special place in English football folklore.

The Mirror have named their top 20 hardmen in Premier League history, featuring players who were sometimes on the wrong side of naughty to those who would genuinely lose the plot.

20. Nigel de Jong

De Jong earned the nickname ‘The Lawnmower’ during his time at Manchester City.

The Dutchman knew how to look after himself and Xabi Alonso still probably bears scars from De Jong’s shocking challenge during the 2010 World Cup final.

19. Dennis Wise

Wise was part of Wimbledon’s Crazy Gang and the former midfielder was involved in several controversial incidents during this career.

He once missed 15 games in one season for Chelsea through suspension and also broke teammate Callum Davidson’s jaw during a pre-season tour when he played for Leicester City.

It’s no wonder Sir Alex Ferguson once said Wise could “start a fight in an empty house.”

18. Alan Shearer

Shearer wasn’t known as a typical tough guy but he knew how to look after himself.

He booted Leicester City’s Neil Lennon and also had the nerve to wind up Roy Keane when Newcastle United took on Manchester United at St James’ Park.


17. Andy Todd

During his time at Bolton Wanderers, Todd was involved in an on-field scrap with Stan Collymore that was described by referee Graham Poll as “one of the better punch-ups in the Premier League”.

His time at the Reebok Stadium came to an end following an incident that left Phil Brown with a broken jaw, and his departure from Charlton Athletic came following an alterncation with Dean Kiely.

16. Kevin Ball

Ball loved a tackle. There’s a rumour that Vinnie Jones once named the former Portsmouth and Sunderland midfielder his most fearsome opponent, which says a lot.

15. Nemanja Vidic

Vidic was a warrior, the perfect complement to Rio Ferdinand’s more stylish approach at Manchester United.

He was willing to put his body on the line every time he played for the Red Devils.


14. John Hartson

Defenders knew they were in for a tough afternoon when Hartson came to town.

The former Arsenal, Celtic and West Ham striker wasn’t the most gifted footballer but made up for that with his physical strength and work rate.

13. Thomas Gravesen

Of course Gravesen makes the lift. He had have the nickname ‘Mad Dog’.

Nobody wanted to mess with the former Everton midfielder, who could be a nutter at times.

There’s a story that Mike Tyson was so impressed after watching the Dane play that he asked for his shirt.

What we’d give for another Gravesen in the Premier League.


12. Neil Ruddock

Ruddock once famously pulled down Eric Cantona’s collar – and the Frenchman wasn’t the only high-profile name that Ruddock clashed with.

He fronted Patrick Vieira after the Arsenal midfielder spat at him.

During an after-dinner speech, Ruddock was once asked who he liked kicking the most.

“Andrew Cole,” he said, “I know it’s not big and not clever but in one tackle I did break both his legs. Why? Because he annoyed me. I didn’t mean to break both his legs. I only meant to break one.”

Unsurprisingly, Ruddock later apologised for the remark.

11. David Batty

In a Leeds United midfield that featured the late Gary Speed, Gary McAllister and Gordon Strachan, Batty was the ball-winning anchor who carried out the dirty work and let those around him shine.

An uncompromising player, Batty even fought with teammate Graeme Le Saux on the pitch during a European tie for Blackburn.


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