Unflattering footballer nicknames

Footballer nicknames are all fine and well, until you find yourself stuck with an unflattering one like 'psycho', 'ape', 'calamity' or 'sicknote'. Luckily you're not necessarily stuck with a nasty nickname. Gerd Müller is proof of that. The height challenged German striker was in danger of having to spend his career being known as 'Kleines Dickes'. That was after his first coach at Bayern Munich famously asked 'what am I meant to do with this little fat one', when Muller first entered the club's training ground. Stick him up front and let him shoot at goal, as it turned out. So outstanding was Müller at hammering in the goals, he ended up earning himself the much more flattering nickname 'Der Bomber'.

The opposite happened to William Henry Foulke, the legendary Sheffield United goalkeeper who was active around the turn of the twentieth century. At the start of his career, Foulke was noted mainly for his impressive height. At six foot four he was extremely tall for the period that he lived in. His extraordinary ability to stop even the best placed balls soon earned him the nickname 'the octopus' and a well deserved call up for the English national team.

In Pictures - Maradona plays against Scotland

The 62.000 spectators who attended the friendly between Scotland and Argentian at Hampden Park on June 2nd, 1979 were witnessing history. Unfortunately for them it wasn't a maiden win over Argentina, as the visitors won the match 3-1. What they did witness was a young Diego Maradona scoring his first ever international goal. The fans didn't seem to mind too much, reportedly chanting 'Argentina, Argentina' in recognition of the masterclass put on by the reigning World Champions, and in particular by the 18-year old prodigy in their ranks.

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Diego Maradona on the ball against Scotland at Hampden Park

Playing on with a broken neck

There are plenty of examples of footballers playing on with injuries. No self respecting football hard man is going to let a head wound get the better of him, no matter how enthusiastically the blood may be flowing out of it. The urge to play on no matter what has produced iconic images of Giorgio Chellini, Paul Ince, and off course Terry Butcher, playing with a blood stained shirt and a turban of bandages. But playing on with an broken neck? That’s taking things to a whole other level. Still, that’s exactly what happend at Wembley on the 5th of May 1956, when Manchester City and Birmingham City met in the final of the FA-Cup

In goal for Manchester City that day was the German goalkeeper Bert Trautmann. He had come to England as a prisoner of war during the Second World War. Trautmann had decided to stick around after the war and had stumbled onto a career as a goalkeeper, even though he had only started playing during his time as a POW. After having initially encountered a lot of resistance, he had earned the esteem of crowds and colleagues alike. Trautmann was living up to his reputation, when in the 75th minute, with Manchester leading 3-1, he collided with a Birmingham attacker in a brave attempt to stifle a breakthrough that threatened to throw the game wide open.

In Pictures - Gullit captains Holland in 1988 final

With Holland missing out on the 2016 European Championship, it’s time for fans of Dutch football to reflect on the good times of the past. In 1988 an impressively mustachioed Ruud Gullit captained the Dutch national team to victory at Euro 1988. The powerful forward might have expected to be the star of that team, but found himself outshone by Marco van Basten. Gullit contented himself to play in the service of his team, fully living up to his captaincy, but did produce one crucial goal when he opened the score in the final against the Soviet Union.

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Gullit and his teammates lining up before the match

Hooliganism makes it to the big stage

Football vandalism has a surprisingly long history, but modern hooliganism is the product of the England of the 1970’s, when crime and violence were rife around football games. The rest of Europe soon found itself introduced to the phenomenon, as British teams travelled to the continent for European cup ties. As authorities struggled to get hooliganism under control, crowd violence led to suspensions from European competition for Leeds United in 1975 and Manchester United in 1977. The World Cups and European Championships held during the decade however, were spared the new violent fan culture. The reason was simple: England had failed to qualify for every major tournament since the 1970 World Cup.

At Euro 1980 England was present for the first time since football hooliganism had exploded into public consciousness. The England team, featuring the likes of Kevin Keegan, Ray Wilkins, Trevor Brooking and Tony Woodcock, was widely counted amongst the favorites. English clubs had won the European Cup four years running, with Liverpool and Nottingham Forest both winning it twice. There was every reason then, to assume that English fans would travel to support their team en masse. About 4500 supporters obtained tickets for England’s first game, in Turin against Belgium, through official channels. But in fact about 8000 Englishmen descended upon Turin and the surrounding area. Any hopes that it might be a peaceful affair soon evaporated as numerous violent confrontations between English fans on the one hand, and Italian fans or police on the other, marred the run up to the game.

In Pictures - Gascoigne scores against Scotland

Paul Gascoigne had stormed onto the international scene at the 1990 World Cup. Six years later the days when Gazzamania had swept the country, seemed like an eternity away. Problems with alcohol and injuries had started to overshadow his career and there was a widespread belief he was past it. In the second game of England’s Euro 1996 campaign, Gazza replied to his critics in the most effective way: with his feet. Passing a Scottish defender with a superior flick, he proceeded to volley the ball into the net, scoring one of the most memorable goals in the history of the European Championships.

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Jack Charlton’s little black book

When Jack Charlton admitted to having a little black book during a television interview in 1970, viewers perhaps wondered if they were about to be made privy to some scandalous secrets by the seemingly happily married World Cup winner. But instead of providing juicy stories for the gossip pages, Charlton’s disclosure ended up sparking a scandal that would dominate the back pages for weeks, as journalists and officials tumbled over one another in self righteously denouncing the tough as nails veteran defender.

Charlton had made it clear that his little black book did not contain women’s telephone numbers, but names of players that he would do on the field if he got the chance because they had committed bad fouls on him. Charlton really hadn’t said much wrong. He had explicitly denounced bad or nasty fouls. It did not lessen the media frenzy that followed. “These sickening comments,” ran a headline in the Daily Express, above an article that called on Leeds to sack Charlton. Even Bobby Charlton was trotted out to denounce his older brother. The Football Association dutifully charged the man with 35 caps to his name with bringing the game into disrepute.