Neil Ruddock was known as something of a hardman throughout his professional career, with the bruising centre-back establishing a reputation for a no-nonsense approach to defending during his time at Southampton, Tottenham and Liverpool. However, even Razor was scared of some opponents during an era when players were afforded very little protection from referees.
Speaking to Ruby Walsh and Paddy Power on the latest episode of our From The Horse’s Mouth podcast, Ruddock reveals the two players he always wanted to steer clear of – as well as one who wasn’t as tough as he seemed.
There was a fella called Billy Whitehurst. Now, let me tell you – Billy Whitehurst played for Hull, Newcastle, Sheffield United, and he was tough.
He was from Doncaster. Big, big man. Scary. I was whacking Brian Deane, getting the better of him in one match, and Billy Whitehurst wasn’t playing. So, the half-time whistle goes, and Billy runs on the pitch with his suit and tie on, and he gets my Southampton shirt and just rips it, so it looks like I’ve got a cardigan on now with no buttons.
We only had one shirt. So, second half, I had to put the shirt on like that and pull my shorts up like Simon Cowell wears his strides. You know what I mean? He used to scare the life out of me – you’d win a header against Billy Whitehurst and he’d want to tear your head off just for beating him in the air. He was a dangerous man. Everyone was scared with him.
But the hardest player I played with? Jimmy Case. He played for Liverpool, he won two European Cups, all the FA Cups. Playing with Jimmy – oh, he was an assassin, Jimmy Case. Luckily, I never played against him. A lot of players that played against Jimmy said he was the toughest, craziest.
I saw Jimmy Case two-foot Graeme Sharp in the chin at Goodison Park. It was a 50/50 tackle, and Graeme Sharp came to two-foot Jimmy, but Jimmy two-footed Graeme Sharp over his two feet.
His two feet have gone all the way up his body and hit him under the chin, and Graeme Sharp had four holes in his chin there from Jimmy’s studs. The Everton players just looked at him and went like, oh, stretcher. He was an assassin.
‘Hardmen’ who were actually soft?
Big Fashanu. Big John. Well, I think he might be hard, but I wasn’t scared of him. I was his apprentice at Millwall. I used to clean his boots and I used to speed through that. So, if you were to stand up to him, he was quite alright.
When I used to play against young players who were making a debut or something, I’d say “right, sorry mate if I kick you today. I’m sorry I kicked you. But you have one, I’ll have one, you have one, I’ll have one, then your manager will say well done, my manager will say well done. But if you run me in the f*cking corner, I’ll break your legs, right?”
Most of them would go “oh, yeah”. But I said it to Alan Smith, who used to play for Leeds and Man United. I said that to him and he went “F*ck off you fat c***. He done my head. I didn’t know what to do, because no one had ever said that to me before!
It’s the funniest thing anyone’s ever, ever said to me. It was f*cking hilarious. Most players used to panic and sh*t themselves because I had this reputation. He kept running me in the corner.
Whacking Roy Keane
I’ve got a great picture of me whacking Roy Keane off the ball. I think he came running up towards me off the ball – I don’t know what happened.
He was a proper player, proper hardman. Best thing about that, I whacked him, and he just rolled up and got up.
He didn’t moan at the ref, he didn’t moan at me or anything. Just got up. I just think he was coming for me and I got him first.
So, total respect to him. He didn’t roll around, didn’t moan, just got up and got on with it. I don’t think I would have. I’d have rolled around like a b*tch!
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