Modern footballers are increasingly criticised for their exorbitant lifestyles and detachment from reality. The recent incidents involving England internationals Ashley Cole and Wayne Rooney have heightened and justified public dissatisfaction with the some of the game’s most high-profile figures.
The much-maligned duo, who are key figures in the national team set-up, are undoubtedly amongst the most despised footballers in the Three Lions’ squad. Fortunately for messrs Cole and Rooney, England colleagues John Terry and Steven Gerrard have also tended to attract their fair share of hatred and headlines too. Each member of this illustrious quartet is subjected to a chorus of boos whenever they ‘play away’, but which one is England’s most hated football player?
The case for: Arguably the world’s greatest left-back, but undeniably a complete and utter wrong ‘un. England’s most capped full-back has consistently attracted the wrong sorts of headlines since his controversial move across London from Arsenal to bitter rivals Chelsea. Since then, the 30-year-old has shown himself to be quite the ‘player’ off the pitch too after cheating on wife and beloved national treasure Cheryl on multiple occasions.
With his reputation beyond repair, Cole has continued his mission to secure his position as the nation’s most hated footballer. Shortly after revelations about Cole’s private life were first revealed, Chelsea’s number three infamously turned his back on referee Mike Riley following a dangerous tackle on Tottenham defender Alan Hutton.
Having conquered the realms of infidelity and petulance, Cole, desperate to wrestle back the crown of ‘England’s most loathed’ from team-mate John Terry, decided to shoot a work experience intern with an air gun. A remorseful and regretful Cole has tried to make amends for this latest indiscretion by… failing to issue a public apology. What a guy.
Defining moment: Describing contract negotiations with then-Arsenal vice-chairman David Dein, a hard-done-by Cole said: “When I heard Jonathan (Barnett) repeat the figure of £55k, I nearly swerved off the road.”
Schadenfreude moment: Cole is an extremely consistent player, and he seldom makes mistakes. However, his unintended assist for Danny Welbeck in Sunderland’s 3-0 victory at Stamford Bridge earlier this season was highly satisfying, as was his Waddle-esque spot-kick in Chelsea’s FA Cup fourth round-replay defeat to Everton last month.
The case for: Well, well, well. Since bursting onto the scene as a 16-year-old at boyhood club Everton, Rooney has courted controversy with clockwork-like consistency. The potty-mouthed striker, praised in some quarters for his passionate style, frequently displays a lack of respect towards officials. Rooney was sent off against Spanish side Villarreal in 2005 for sarcastically applauding a referee, and was dismissed against Fulham in 2009 for throwing the ball away.
England’s most disappointing performer at last summer’s World Cup, Rooney further aggravated the nation’s long-suffering fans after he opined “nice to see your home fans boo you” to TV cameras following England’s draw with Algeria.
Rooney even managed to invoke the wrath of his own fans earlier this season, handing in a transfer request in order to earn himself a cheeky new contract and bumper pay-rise, all whilst going through the most barren run of his career.
‘Wazza’, clearly perturbed by his recent failure to look anything look like a top-class striker, elbowed Wigan Athletic’s James McCarthy in a horrific unprovoked off-the-ball incident last weekend. Unsurprisingly, the notoriously lenient FA decided to let Rooney off the hook.
Defining moment: This one is a tough one. Prior to 2010, many would’ve highlighted his intimate ‘liaisons’ with some of Liverpool’s most liberal grandmothers, but cavorting with a prostitute whilst his wife Coleen was pregnant certainly takes some beating.
Schadenfreude moment: His recent barren streak, which saw the ex-Everton man go eight months without scoring a goal in open play for Manchester United.
The case for: No list of football’s most hated figures would be complete without the ‘Lionheart’ himself, John George Terry.
A string of moronic nicknames, a penchant for harassing officials and an irritating tendency to talk about himself in the third person all provide strong reasons to dislike Chelsea’s number 26. Factor in the sanctioning of unauthorised tours of Chelsea’s training facilities and running over a Stamford Bridge security guard, and it’s clear that Terry provides stiff competition for fellow Blue Ashley Cole.
Defining moment: Hands up if you’ve slept with the mother of your former team-mate/best friend’s son? John Terry has. 2009’s Dad of the Year allegedly went behind the back of his own wife and had it away with Wayne Bridge’s ex-girlfriend Vanessa Perroncel. The nation subsequently rejoiced when Terry was ignominiously blanked by Bridge prior to Chelsea’s home defeat to Manchester City last season.
Schadenfreude moment: Being knocked out cold after he threw his head at Abou Diaby’s boot amused many, but seeing ‘JT’ miss the opportunity to secure Chelsea’s first ever European Cup is a treasured memory that I will never forget.
The case for: Superman in a red shirt, far from it in white, Liverpool’s very own Roy of the Rovers is almost universally despised amongst supporters of other clubs. Although Gerrard has chalked up fewer off-the-field indiscretions than his esteemed counterparts, ‘Stevie Starfish’ has earned himself a reputation as England’s worst diver. A tendency to go down far too easily has clearly rankled many football fans, with this irritation exacerbated by Gerrard’s claim that “people like Carvalho are ruining the game”. Liverpool’s number eight also said, “if I saw one of my team-mates diving, I would definitely have a word.” Oh the irony.
A close friend of fellow Liverpudlian Wayne Rooney, Gerrard provided the inspiration for Rooney’s recent elbow with unpunished forearm smashes on Portsmouth’s Michael Brown and Sunderland’s Danny Welbeck last year.
Defining moment: Being caught punching a DJ (for failing to put on Phil Collins) on CCTV, and then, ‘against all odds’, being acquitted in the resulting court case.
Schadenfreude moment: Two comical backpasses which lead to goals scored against Liverpool; one against Arsenal in 2006, and another against Chelsea in 2010.
Who is England’s most hated player? Any glaring omissions? Let me know below or message me on twitter at www.twitter.com/zarifrasul