Football’s Craziest Fans!
There may be plenty of impostors in the current Manchester United side but fifteen years ago this week it was a star-studded line-up.
Keane, Scholes, Giggs, Cole, Stam, Yorke, err, Power. The latter made headlines when he breached security to pose for a pre-match team photo before a Champions League clash with Bayern Munich. We take a look at his escapades and some other crazy football fans.
It’s the dream of many football fans to line-up alongside their heroes before a big European match with the UEFA Champions League anthem blaring. For many it is just that – a dream that will never become reality. For others, like Karl Power, it’s a challenge.
Serial prankster Power spent two years planning his most famous jape, lining up for an official team photo with the Manchester United team before a European tie at Bayern Munich.
Having pretended to be with a TV crew, he changed into his United kit on the sideline and ambled on for the pre-match photo. Roy Keane and Gary Neville were the only ones suspicious of this “new team-mate” but allowed Power remain for his 15 seconds of fame. He later went on to perform similar high-profile stunts at centre court at Wimbledon, at Silverstone race track and at Headingley with England’s cricket team.
Years later, another imposter named Bebe wound up at Old Trafford but was quickly spotted by officials and sent on loan to other unsuspecting clubs.
Not to be confused with recently-retired snooker legend Steve “Interesting” Davis, this West Ham fan does have a remarkable anecdote about his time as a Hammers supporter. In 1994, Davies was infuriated at striker Lee Chapman’s form during a pre-season friendly at Oxford United and proceeded to rain abuse at actress Leslie Ash’s husband.
Hammers assistant boss at the time, Harry Redknapp, had had enough of this man behaving badly and ordered Davies down the tunnel to tog out, proclaiming “if you think you can do better, then prove it!”. Prove it he did, with Davies getting on the scoresheet and looking like one of Redknapp’s shrewder acquisitions. Indeed, a local Oxford sports reporter sidled up to Redknapp and asked who this new skinheaded striker with a West Ham tattoo on his neck was.
“Haven’t you been watching the World Cup? It’s the great Bulgarian Tittyshev!”, replied Harry.
It was to be Davies’ sole appearance for the club but Redknapp was made manager a month later.
Karl Power was clearly the inspiration for Irishman Conor Cunningham in 2011. Cunningham managed to blag his way on to the Estonia bench as the hosts took on Ireland in a European Championship play-off, after being quoted £500 for a ticket by touts outside the ground.
The cheeky Irish fan managed to wrangle his way into the stadium before proceeding to put on an Estonian tracksuit he’d found over his jeans and t-shirt. Within minutes Cunningham had taken his place on the home side’s bench, sitting next to manager Tarmo Ruutli. An eagled-eyed UEFA official spotted the ruse but Cunningham merely moved to the stand to watch the rest of the match.
When Ireland secured a 4:0 win, he was back in the thick of the action, celebrating on the pitch with the Ireland team and even promised a jersey by midfielder Keith Andrews. A few years earlier and Steve Staunton might have given him a cap.
‘My best moment? I have a lot of good moments but the one I prefer is when I kicked the hooligan.’, said Eric Cantona when reminiscing about his glittering career. Twenty-one years ago Cantona was Manchester United’s metronome but also had a short fuse. He’d been sent off in a stormy encounter at Crystal Palace and was being ushered to the away dressing room when some abuse from the crowd stoked his ire.
The perpetrator, Matthew Simmons, was adamant he’d merely said “off you go Cantona, it’s an early bath for you” while Cantona heard “F&*k off, you mother&*cking French b@&&%rd.”. Either way, the Frenchman launched a kung-fu kick at the Palace fan, resulting in a six-month ban and one of the most enduring football images of the last twenty years. At first Simmons was portrayed as the victim, until a grubby past as a BNP and National Front supporter with a conviction for assault were revealed. The incident almost lead to Cantona quitting English football but did deliver his famous “When the seagulls follow the trawler, it’s because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea” quote.
There are a number of hidden risks when getting a tattoo. These include allergic reactions, skin infections and the footballer you’re getting tattooed on your thigh signing for another club two days later. I’ll never forget the day Andy Cole signed for Manchester United from Newcastle United, there was a genuine feeling that it was an epochal transfer. And it certainly was for a Geordie called Robert Nesbitt.
Just 48 hours earlier, Nesbitt had completed his own transfer, a thigh-size image of the Toon’s number nine on his left leg. Back in 1995, transfer window signings weren’t always the culmination of months of tabloid and internet speculation – and this signing was totally out of the blue, with Nottingham Forest’s Stan Collymore having consistently been linked with a move to Old Trafford.
Alex Ferguson swooped for a prolific Cole for a record £6 million and Keith Gillespie, leaving Newcastle fans – particularly the luckless Nesbitt – shocked. Luckily no Man United fans had been stupid enough to have had Gillespie tattooed on themselves.