Professional football brings with it all sorts of strain and pressure that is mostly kept under the surface, but at times it spills over and we’re left with moments of hilarity.
With Neil Warnock set to renew his one-way grudge with ‘classless’ Nuno Espirito Santo when Cardiff face Wolves on Friday, memories are evoked of his infamous rant in April that saw him tell the Wolves manager to f*ck off.
That got us thinking about some of the unlikeliest spats we’ve ever seen on a football pitch …
1 Neil Warnock vs Nuno Espirito Santo
After Warnock’s Cardiff had missed two penalties in the dying moments of the game, Nuno Espirito Santo and his coaching staff ran onto the pitch to celebrate a win that virtually guaranteed them promotion to the Premier League.
Santo did so without shaking Warnock’s hand and that didn’t go down well with Warnock at all. Television cameras caught Santo chasing Warnock around the pitch while the latter tried to shake him off, shouting obscenities at the Portuguese manager without looking at him.
The drama didn’t stop there, however, and when faced with the customary post-match interview, Santo offered his apologies to Warnock and stated that he would wait outside the Cardiff manager’s office to offer a more sincere apology.
Warnock was having none of it. He branded the Wolves manager a ‘disgrace’ in his own post-match interview, saying that he lacked class. For Neil Warnock to lecture any manager about class is about as ironic as it gets.
When he was informed of Santo’s intention to go to his office, Warnock said (on live TV) that he would not return to his office until he was sure Santo had left the ground. The whole thing was gloriously childish, and was rounded off by Neil Warnock confirming that he would have liked Santo to have said hard luck to him at the end of the game. It just doesn’t get any pettier.
2 Neil Lennon vs Ally McCoist
Ok, so definitely the most unsurprising bust-up on this list; Lennon and McCoist almost came to blows when Celtic played Rangers in 2011. Lennon’s Celtic had just dumped Rangers out of the Scottish Cup when Lennon approached Rangers assistant Ally McCoist in what seemed to be a jovial manner.
McCoist, however, appeared to say something that upset Lennon and his facial expression changed in an instant. Never one to hold back, Lennon retorted with something that angered McCoist in equal measure.
Within seconds the pair were struggling to get at each other and had to be restrained by their respective back room teams. Had they been left alone they’d probably still be fighting. Both were served two match touchline bans in the wake of the incident that really came out of absolutely nothing. But it wouldn’t be Celtic and Rangers if there wasn’t some argy bargy.
3 Nigel Pearson vs James McArthur
The year 2015 was a strange one for Nigel Pearson. He miraculously kept Leicester up, but still finished the season without a job. He branded a reporter an ‘ostrich’ for reasons known only to him, and he had this immensely enjoyable altercation with Crystal Palace’s James McArthur, when Leicester entertained Crystal Palace at the King Power Stadium.
McArthur collided with Pearson as he tried in vain to keep the ball in play. What at first seemed to be a joke between the pair, turned into something altogether more comical.
Pearson grappled with McArthur and grabbed him by the throat, before pulling him by the shirt as he tried to run back onto the pitch. The whole thing was bizarre as the initial collision was quite clearly an accident. McArthur later admitted to being ‘frightened’ by Pearson, who ironically had unsuccessfully tried to sign him the previous summer.
The incident forced Leicester to come out and squash rumours that they had sacked Pearson that very night and it really summed up a turbulent year. He was sacked just a month after he kept the club up, with the official club statement reading that “the working relationship between Nigel and the board was no longer viable”.
With incidents like that, it’s not hard to see why.
4 Alan Pardew vs David Meyler
Alan Pardew, bless him, is the gift that keeps on giving. From wearing a training top that says ‘Pards’ to that dance in the FA Cup final, Pardew has always been peak meme material. However, his touchline fight with Hull City’s David Meyler in 2014 is very possibly the most embarrassing moment of Pardew’s career. And that is saying something.
Pardew did not take kindly to Meyler barging past him to take a throw in. Pardew was so irate, in fact, that he thought Meyler’s actions warranted a headbutt. Admittedly it was one of the more tame headbutts we’ve seen, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that a man in his 50s, who has been involved in professional football for over 30 years, thought that headbutting an opposition player was the best way to resolve a situation.
Pardew’s excuse topped things off nicely. Pardew said that he had been trying to push Meyler away with his head, rather than pushing him away with, you know, his hands. The excuse would not look out of place in the Joleon Lescott book of excuses and it added comedic value to an already hilarious situation.
5 Lee Bowyer vs Kieron Dyer
What else? Teammates at Newcastle at the time, Bowyer and Dyer were involved in one of the most infamous moments of Premier League history. Bowyer became increasingly frustrated that Dyer was not passing him the ball as his side were 3-0 down at home to Aston Villa
Dyer’s reason was because Bowyer was not passing the ball to him. Beautifully childish. Dyer later revealed in an article that Bowyer told him he wasn’t passing the ball to him because he was f*ck*ing sh*t, before coming at him with punches.
These weren’t the punches we normally see between two footballers either, where a light slap is enough to send the opponent to the ground. No, these were proper hits, more reminiscent of a boxing match than a footballing spat. Dyer didn’t hold back either and hit Bowyer with a few hooks of his own, ripping his shirt in the process.
Both were promptly sent off and Newcastle, already down to 10 men, finished the game with eight players. They were subsequently charged with violent conduct, fined, and suspended, before patching things up with a staged handshake weeks later.
Bowyer remained at Newcastle for another season before departing in 2006, while Dyer remained with the Magpies until 2007, meaning that the pair had to endure each other’s company for a full year before they were finally rid of each other. An iconic moment in the history of bust-ups.