The English Premier League is world famous for being one of the toughest in Europe but, long before the current set up, tackles were flying around left, right and center in the English top-flight.
Ron Harris, Norman Hunter and Peter Storey were just three players who plied their trade in the English top-flight to be well known for leaving their mark on opposite numbers. They became feared opponents and respectively helped Chelsea, Leeds United and Arsenal to numerous titles in the 1960s and 70s.
Such players, although skillful and perfectly good footballers, were often deployed in a legitimate tactic to reduce the influence of the oppositions best players – sometimes fairly, sometimes not.
Since those days, the league has become better and more skillful with the improvement of the game and the influx of foreign flair but the pace and physicality has remained.
Since the first incarnation of the Premier League in the 1992–93 season, all kinds of players have taken part, from the artists such as Bergkamp and Juninho, the finishers of Klinsmann and Shearer to the dirty players like Kevin Davies and Gareth Barry. Although Patrick Vieira, Duncan Ferguson and Richard Dunne lead the way in Premier League history with eight red cards apiece, even they cannot get into the Top 15 worst tackles of Premier League history…
15 Karl Henry on Jordi Gómez (2010)
Wolverhampton Wanderers captain Karl Henry was sent off in the 11th minute for a horrific lunge at Wigan Athletic’s Jordi Gómez in their Premier League encounter on 2nd October 2010.
The midfielder was clearly beaten to the ball by Spaniard Gómez but Henry followed through with a challenge that sent the midfielder spiraling to the ground in agony.
The then Wigan manager Roberto Martinez was quoted as saying ‘I can’t remember a worse tackle than that at the DW Stadium. It was a nasty moment.’
Luckily for the Wigan player, he escaped serious injury and stepped up to score a wonderful free-kick in the second half to help his team to a 2-0 victory and take all three points back to Lancashire.
14 Eric Cantona on John Moncur (1994)
Coming off the back of a 7-1 away thrashing at the hands of Newcastle United, Swindon Town scraped a 2-2 draw with Manchester United after Eric Cantona was sent off for a wild stamp on John Moncur.
The Swindon No. 7 tackled Cantona who in turn won the ball back only to viciously stamp on the English midfielder’s chest after Moncur held the Frenchman back. The referee was literally yards from the incident and sent the player off, giving Swindon a numerical advantage over United.
It was to prove costly for the Old Trafford team as Norwegian striker Jan Åge Fjørtoft equalized in the 84th minute to take a share of the points.
13 Steven Gerrard on Kevin Campbell (1999)
Our first inclusion from a Liverpool derby is Steven Gerrard’s reckless challenge on Everton forward Kevin Campbell in a crazy game in 1999.
Kevin Campbell put the Toffees 1-0 up before the game boiled over in the second half.
Francis Jeffers was sent off in the second half for fighting with Liverpool goalkeeper Sander Westerveld, who was also sent to the stands.
Gerrard was then dismissed in injury time for a wild lunge on match-winner Campbell near the center circle which left the striker rolling around in agony.
12 Callum McManaman on Massadio Haïdara (2013)
A Callum McManaman horror tackle on Massadio Haïdara sparked a half-time fracas during the Premier League game between Wigan Athletic and Newcastle United in 2013.
The Wigan midfielder caught the Frenchman on the left-knee in what looked like a career-ending injury. Haïdara who had only been signed a two months prior in the January transfer window had to be stretchered from the field. As referee Mark Halsey did not see the incident, McManaman escaped unpunished.
Thankfully for Haïdara, the injury was much less worse than first feared – just severe bruising which kept the player out of first-team action for a month.
11 Ian Wright on Peter Schmeichel (1997)
In the league game between the two sides in February 1997, England striker Ian Wright was fortunate to escape without a red card after a dangerous two-footed challenge on United legend Peter Schmeichel.
The two players had already had a few run-ins after Wright accused Schmeichel of racism but it boiled over in this particular encounter. On this occasion, with play having just been stopped for an offside flag, Arsenal striker Wright continued with his run and jumped in on the Danish keeper with both feet off the ground catching the goalkeeper full force.
Referee Martin Bodenham missed the incident which mean Wright escaped a sending off but couldn't help the Gunners as they went down to United in a 2-1 defeat.
10 Kevin Nolan on Victor Anichebe (2009)
Kevin Nolan was shown a straight red card for the challenge on Victor Anichebe during a 0-0 draw at St James’ Park in February 2009 when the Newcastle midfielder went in dangerously on the Everton striker.
Nolan’s two-footed challenge caught the striker on the knee which was to keep the player out for 11 months.
Anichebe had to undergo two operations since the lunge damaged cartilage in his right knee and he eventually sued Newcastle for potential loss of earnings. The two parties eventually agreed an out of court settlement in 2011 which was believed to be a six-figure sum.
9 Michael Brown on Ryan Giggs (2006)
Michael Brown was fortunate to escape with only a yellow card for a horrible two-footed lunge on Ryan Giggs during Manchester United’s 5-1 victory over Fulham in 2006.
The incident happened just after the interval when Brown went in two-footed after Giggs had just beaten his man to the ball. Giggs was caught on the knee from the malicious stomp.
Both players were later substituted in decisions that were probably protection from inevitable red-cards should they had stayed on the pitch.
8 Stephen Hunt on Petr Čech (2006)
Petr Čech suffered a depressed skull fracture during a collision between the two players in the first minute of the game at the Madejski Stadium in October 2006.
The incident happened during the Reading versus Chelsea game, as the goalkeeper dived at the feet of Hunt and the Irish international’s right knee collided with the goalkeeper’s head causing the injury.
Fortunately for Čech, the Chelsea doctors recognized the severity of the injury and he was rushed to hospital where he underwent emergency brain surgery which ultimately saved his life.
Since returning from the injury on 20th January 2007 in a game against Liverpool, Čech has worn rugby-style headgear to protect from further injury.
7 Dirk Kuyt on Phil Neville (2007)
Merseyside derbies are always played with high intensity, but this particular edition in October 2007 was made particularly so due to a ridiculous challenge from Dirk Kuyt on former Manchester United man Phil Neville.
In a total rush of blood, Kuyt leapt into the air to try and tackle the Everton captain but fortunately for both players completely missed. Regardless of not making any contact, the Dutch international was extremely lucky to go unpunished.
It was a lucky escape in what was an excellent day for Kuyt – the striker converted his second penalty of the game in injury time to give Liverpool a 2-1 victory over their bitter rivals.
6 Michael Brown on Sean Davis (2006)
In April 2006, Michael Brown was sent off for Fulham against Portsmouth after a dangerous two-footed challenge on midfielder Sean Davis.
As the ball broke, the two players went in for the 50-50 tackle, however only Davis went in legally. Brown’s two-footed challenge meant he was shown a straight red card from the referee who was just yards away and in the aftermath of the incident, Davis accused the Fulham man of trying to break his leg.
During his career, Brown has received 137 yellow cards and seven red cards... and counting.
5 Alan Shearer on Neil Lennon (1998)
England captain Alan Shearer was extremely lucky not to be sent off after kicking Leicester City midfielder Neil Lennon in the face with his left boot during a game in 1998. The referee failed to pick up the incident that occurred in the 0-0 draw between Newcastle United and Leicester at Filbert Street, so the striker escaped punishment.
Lennon suffered bruising and a cut face from the incident but Shearer was found not guilty of deliberately kicking the player by an FA commission shortly after the game.
The not guilty verdict was a welcome relief for everyone associated with Newcastle as it meant their talisman was free to face Arsenal in the FA Cup final just days later.
Sadly for Newcastle and Shearer, Marc Overmars and Nicolas Anelka scored at Wembley to clinch the cup for the Gunners in a 2-0 win.
4 Ryan Shawcross on Aaron Ramsey (2010)
On February 27th, 2010, Ryan Shawcross was sent off for a terrible challenge which inflicted a horrific broken leg on Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsey.
Shawcross had mis-controlled the ball and caught the Welshman just above the ankle which resulted in a double leg break. Shawcross was immediately sent off and was seen weeping as he walked from the field.
The injury kept Ramsey out for months but he's returned a better player, becoming one of Arsenal’s most important players and scoring a career best 16 goals in the 2013/14 season.
3 Ben Thatcher on Pedro Mendes (2006)
Portsmouth midfielder Pedro Mendes suffered a sickening head injury in a challenge with Manchester City player Ben Thatcher in 2006.
When challenging for a loose ball near the left corner, Thatcher intentionally led with his elbow that knocked Mendes into the advertising hoardings that surrounded the pitch.
The Portuguese midfielder was left unconscious and had to be given oxygen on the side of the pitch. Whilst being transported to the local hospital, Mendes also had a seizure and was kept in under hospital observation for one week after the incident. Needless to say, Thatcher was banned for several games.
2 Martin Taylor on Eduardo (2008)
Eduardo suffered what has to be one of the worst injuries in recent Premier League history while playing against Birmingham City in 2008. He suffered a compound fracture left fibula and an open dislocation of his ankle in a strong, late challenge from Birmingham City defender Martin Taylor. After sustaining the injury, the striker was rushed to hospital where he underwent surgery.
The defender was sent off for the challenge and served an automatic three match ban. Wenger even called for a life-time ban for the defender, who received death threats from Arsenal fans after the incident.
Such was the severity of the injury, it kept the Arsenal man out of the game for 12 months.
1 Roy Keane on Alf-Inge Haaland (2001)
The former Republic of Ireland and Manchester United midfielder ended the career of Manchester City’s Alf-Inge Haaland’s with a terrible challenge in a game between the two Manchester rivals back in 2001.
Keane had gone for a ball with Haaland when he caught the Norwegian on the right knee which sent the player tumbling to the Old Trafford turf. Keane was sent-off and subsequently fined around £155,000, while also being banned for eight games.
Later in his autobiography, Keane suggested the incident was pre-meditated retribution for a taunt from Haaland after the Manchester United player suffered a cruciate knee injury in 1997.
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