From pranks and banter to bullying and beatings: the footballers' dressing room is not a place for the faint-hearted - as former Arsenal and Tottenham midfielder Rohan Ricketts reveals in his latest expose of the not so beautiful game.
As a footballer I’ve sat in a fair few dressing rooms and seen some crazy stuff that players get up to when they’re not on the pitch.
I remember being at Arsenal as a young boy, there was so many guys who would bring the changing room alive with their humour and spontaneous practical jokes. The first person who springs to mind was Ian Wright. I still laugh when I remember watching him drive off with the team coach at the London Colney training ground.
Being at Spurs was no different, the banter was hilarious. Robbie Keane and Jamie Redknapp were also great people to be around. They would love to wind each other up by secretly sending prank texts from the other one’s phone. Robbie would text Louise Redknapp pretending to be Jamie and then Jamie would get revenge by texting the Ireland manager from Robbie’s phone.
Of course there’s also all the usual stuff you have to put up with like someone cutting up your brand new Armani suit and putting shit in your shoes. But sometimes the wind-ups aren’t always so obvious.
When I was at Barnsley, Andy Johnson had a phobia of cotton wool so we put loads in his jeans. When he came back after training he put his hands in his pockets and started freaking out and having a bit of a seizure. He got so mad that he threatened to bring in a dead rat because he lived in a farm house and had some big ones kicking about.
I remember one player at Spurs who had slept with this girl who was in the public eye and she wasn’t the best looking. When the boys, especially Robbie Keane, found out about it they never stopped hammering him about it. They even got her number from his phone and started calling her up.
Players are like hunters who can smell their prey - if they sense weakness they’ll kill you.
You do get some guys who are goody two shoes – a bit more sensible than the rest. They get ripped to pieces every day with banter and if they’re not strong they end up wanting to leave the club. Sometimes it gets too much because players don’t stop. Players are like hunters who can smell their prey - if they sense weakness they’ll kill you.
For the most part it’s pretty funny but sometimes it can be too much for a player. When I was at Arsenal there was a young Italian kid called Niccolo Galli who was an amazing player and an amazing person but some English guys would get on his back so much he used to go home crying. They would say what are you doing here – you shouldn’t be in England. It got too much for him because he was only 16 and a foreigner living in another land. Sometimes I have to deal with that here in Moldova. If you’re weak they’ll get under your skin you and make you wish you could go home.
At Spurs there was one player who used to get hammered because the others didn’t rate him. They’d banter about his bad touch and that he was ‘stealing a living’. They’d make out they were only joking but you know never a truer word said in jest. It got really bad one Christmas party and I don’t know if it affected him but he left Spurs pretty soon after.
I saw one manager actually holding a player up by the scruff of his shirt - the kid was in tears.
I’ve met some players that are so crazy you do wonder where they’d be if they weren’t playing football. There was this one guy who kept me laughing the whole time. Once we went on tour and out of nowhere he ran across the hotel lobby and did a two footed tackle on a plant pot in and smashed it to pieces. He was only wearing his flip flops!
Then there was this other bloke was at Tottenham who was ruthless. We were on tour one time and he needed to go to the toilet but his roommate was in there so instead he shat on the floor . Then he put a £50 note on it and left the room. I used to ask him what he was going to do at the weekend and he’d always say something like: “Get drunk, get into a scrap and end up in a cell. Bob’s your uncle, I’ll be back in Monday morning.” He knew he was going to get arrested before he was even drunk!
I’ve seen players fight each other in the dressing room. I remember after one game a really big name star was talking to younger player who called him a ‘fucking cunt’. The star just smacked the kid and busted his nose up for being too mouthy. In terms of physical size they were as big as each other but the big name player is a star and in his mind that made him King Kong.
It’s not just the players who get wound up in the dressing room. Some managers get really heated too. I saw one manager actually holding a player up by the scruff of his shirt - the kid was in tears. One time, I saw a manager go face to face and nose to nose with this great big player who he thought wasn’t putting his life on the line for the team. The gaffer was clearly looking to get a reaction from the player in the hope that he’d take his anger out on to the pitch. Funnily enough, it worked.
But then again that’s just the way it is when you’re around men all day, every day.
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