The modern day footballer is, in most cases, a lean mean fighting machine. Every aspect of their lives is now monitored down to the last grain of rice they are supposed to have for breakfast before a big game. Not every player, however, is a svelte Adonis and despite their outstanding ability their physique gives rise to much piss-taking in the stands.
This has been the case for the last 40 years or so, during which time players were left to their own devices on how to re-fuel after games.
So here at Paddy Power we’ve put together our ultimate fat XI in 4-3-3 formation using players both past and present (but mainly past) as we ask you to clear your throats and join in with a rendition of: “He’s fat, he’s round, his arse is on the ground (insert players name here).”
Neville Southall MBE
“Big Nev” was a colossus during a 17-year stint between the sticks at Everton which saw him lift two First Division Championships, two FA Cups and a Cup Winners Cup.
He’ll be the first to admit that he was very much his own man both on and off the field, and tended to go on strike more often than British Leyland in the 1970’s.
That he was so agile despite his huge frame made his achievements in the game even more remarkable but he will probably be best remembered for his half-time on-field sit-in back at the start of the 1990-91 season, when The Toffees were getting d*cked at home by Leeds United.
Neath born Clayton was the pin-up boy of Manchester United in the late 1980’s and was given the nickname “Sunbed” by fans due to his all-year round tan. After the rise to stardom of wingers Lee Sharpe and Ryan Giggs however, the Welsh international’s poster was being torn off teenage girls bedroom walls all over the country.
By the time he was shipped out to Middlesbrough in 1994, Blackmore looked like he’d spent more time in Greggs than he had in the tanning studio, with game time at Old Trafford having now become limited to the odd cameo appearance off the bench. He did help United end their 26 year wait to become champions of England once again as they lifted the inaugural Premier League title back in 1993 and was also an FA Cup winner in 1990. He represented his country 39 times between 1985 and 1997.
Most managers will say that centre-halves play there because they are pretty useless anywhere else on a football field and most fans that saw Neil “Razor” Ruddock ply his trade would probably tend to agree with that statement.
The polar opposite of handsome granite figures such as Claudio Gentile, South London born Ruddock had a distinguished career in the top-flight with clubs including Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur.
Despite being part of what is thought to be one the worst Liverpool teams in history, he still picked up the League Cup with the Merseyside giants back in 1995. A larger than life character both on and off the field, “Razor” has left his indelible imprint on many strikers ankles, calves, thighs etc etc.
Two First Division titles, two European Cups, an FA Cup and two League Cups are not a bad haul for a player who had the elegance of the Rhino in the film Jumanji. Given a new lease of life by Brian Clough at Nottingham Forest in the late 70’s, many put Larry’s no-nonsense approach down to the fact that his middle name was actually Valentine.
His specialty was scaring the shit out of European strikers as the Tricky Trees began English club’s dominance of European club competitions. It seemed inevitable that a man of Lloyd’s stature would do what every footballer did back in the day when they were coming to the end of their careers and buy himself a pub.
If football had an award like Rugby League for a “Man of Steel”, then Sheffield born Sterland would have made it his own for about 15 years.
He won the final (pre Premier League) First Division title with Leeds United in 1992 under Howard Wilkinson, and was probably the only man in West Yorkshire (apart from Howard) who didn’t rate Eric Cantona and was glad to see him head across the Pennines to Manchester United.
Shortly after that Championship victory, any credit Sterland had as a full-back was finished when he was humiliated at Elland Road by a swashbuckling young lad called Ryan Giggs, forcing Sergeant Wilko to quickly put him out to seed at Boston United.
In 1984, Liverpool boss Joe Fagan decided to freshen up his midfield and he went shopping to Holland and brought back Danish play-maker Jan Molby from Ajax.
Within a week of his arrival at Anfield, Molby was able to speak fluent Scouse which he learnt, judging by the size of him, at some of the city’s finest eateries, but many fans took one look and thought Fagan had been smoking too many funny fags when he opened up the chequebook.
His athletic prowess would never make him the face of any sportswear company, but his ability with the ball at his feet gave him two league titles and two FA Cups.
A year after Molby’s arrival, new Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish decided that fat was the new thin and brought in hatchet man Steve McMahon from Aston Villa.
Rival fans soon found a hate-figure as McMahon played like a man on a mission to decapitate anyone who came within a hair’s breadth of him.
His bullying tactics were finally ended in 1988 when Manchester United’s Norman Whiteside came off the bench in an epic 3-3 encounter at Anfield and saw McMahon leave the field on a stretcher.
For around 15 years or so Nottingham Forest boss Brian Clough would get hold a player for next to nothing, nurture him into one of English football’s finest then flog him to Manchester United for an extortionate fee where he would become crap, before buying him back for next to nothing where his career would take off once again.
Neil Webb was an England international when Alex Ferguson took him to Old Trafford in 1989 and everything looked rosy at first, before injury and excessive pie eating got Webb the (not very original) nickname of “Fatboy” on the Stretford End.
After three fairly forgettable years at the Theatre of Dreams, Webb returned to the City Ground after team-mates complained he was taking up at least three spaces in the dressing-room.
Another Clough masterstroke turned Scottish international winger Robertson into one of Europe’s finest crossers of a football.
Image rights were never an issue with John, because he basically didn’t have one, but as Clough declared: “Give him the ball and a yard of grass and he’s a world beater”.
Despite his love of a pint or six whilst puffing on an Embassy Number 10, Robertson was a double European Cup winner and First Division title winner with Forest.
We told you our list was mainly past players and here’s the only one of our fat XI still in action. Akinfenwa looks like he would be more at home in the shot-put circle than on a football field but the 36-year-old has given hope to lard boys all over the country, after a journeyman career that has seen him represent 13 different clubs.
He’s still scoring goals these days at Wycombe Wanderers who are known as the Chairboys; one assumes that Adebayo’s chairs are reinforced for extra safety.
Akinfenwa still has a way to go to match the 19 clubs that Nigel Jemson represented during a career spanning three decades.
Another one of Clough’s protégés, Jemson won a League Cup with Forest in 1990 and scored the winning goal in the final.
But that’s as good as it really got for a player who was noted for having a massive backside and once told this scribe to f**k off after some friendly pre-match banter got out of hand at Shrewsbury Town’s old Gay Meadow Stadium.