The football “hard man” is a dying breed, which seems to have dissipated without trace in recent years, it’s undeniable.
My mind goes back most recently to the end of the 20th and start of the 21st century, and the epic clashes between Arsenal and Man Utd, when Keane and Vieira were at the height of their powers, and determined to come out on top in the midfield battle. Sadly, these days are long gone, and neither the Gunners nor the Red Devils boast any midfielder that could be described as a hard-man, and unfortunately, this seems to be the case throughout the Premier League.
Of course, a few may be described as ‘hard’: there’s Cheick Tiote, Newcastle’s Ivorian anchorman, Nemanja Vidic, the Serbian assassin in the heart of Manchester United’s defence, and John Terry, who previously made a name for himself by playing on through injury and his courageous acts on the pitch, before certain revelations came to light. This may seem like me clutching at straws, because when I think back to yesteryear, the modern day ‘hard-man’ is simply not in the same calibre as those from the so-called ‘glory days’.
In celebration/lamentation of those missing modern hard-men, this article will look at 20 of football’s hardest men, and the feats that made them so notorious…
Sadly, I could not fit all of the sport’s hardest players into this article, whilst they made various lists elsewhere on the internet, I could not fit in players such as Patrick Vieira, Alan Shearer, and half of Wimbledon’s Crazy Gang team, or just any player that plied his trade prior to the Premier League era, when being hard was more or less a basic requirement, and Kenny Burns was probably the most unfortunate to not make the final cut. There are countless players that could have slide-tackled their way onto this list, but unfortunately I had to keep it to 20.
Now let’s get on to the actual list, and as I can’t see any fair way to order them, let’s do them in alphabetical order…
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