Over the years, players and managers alike have been called crazy for signing for Newcastle United, particularly when the club’s star wasn’t in the ascendancy – as if earning your wages at a massive club with major support and huge potential is anything other than an appealing opportunity – and it seems some of those accusations were well placed and wholly justified.
They say that it takes a few loose screws to be a goalkeeper, but on reflection that’s probably just the attempted deflection techniques of even more unhinged outfield players with their own issues. After all, given how many players are legitimately labelled “crazy” (and not in the actual medical manner,) it seems somewhat unfair to say it’s just the custodians who need to be kept an eye on.
They might have been animals on the pitch, or perpetually in the headlines for the wrong reasons, but the thing that unites all of the most “colourful” former Newcastle players is that there’s something not quite right about them, and in most cases, they just don’t seem to care. To celebrate this unlikely crazy gang, we’ve put together a comprehensive list of the most memorably odd, downright unhinged and dangerously destructive players in black and white history.
Forget Wimbledon, Newcastle are the real Crazy Gang…
10. Keith Gillespie
It might seem like something of an odd choice to put the mild-mannered Irishman, who only retired improbably recently on this list of colourful characters, but Gillespie – who Newcastle brought in as part of the deal that saw Andy Cole leave for Manchester United – made one catastrophically stupid decision in his time with the Toon that qualifies him alone.
Gillespie was a good servant to Newcastle, building a relationship on the pitch with his strikers that profited both the club and the centre-forwards who would regularly get onto the end of his crosses into the box, but one incident, which quickly became part of Newcastle folklore, proved that the good feelings might not translate off the pitch.
On a night out in Ireland, in a move that categorises him as at least temporarily insane, Gillespie had the audacity to square up with Alan Shearer, the Hardest Man In Football Ever, after the Geordie challenged him to behave himself, as extracts from his autobiography confirmed:
I was in giddy form, and started flicking bottle tops in the direction of other players.
Alan Shearer got struck by a couple and was getting wound up, which I found enjoyable, so I made him my target and tension brewed.
It came to a head when I clumsily knocked some cutlery off the table.
“F***ing pick it up,” Shearer snapped.
But the lounge girl was already over, clearing up the mess.
I thought he was talking to me like a small boy, and shouted back.
Red mist descended.
We had a bit of a row and, for some reason, I asked him if he wanted to take it outside.
The result, naturally was a punch that sent Gillespie to hospital. As the man himself says, “madness.”
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This article was first posted on January 12, 2014