Jon Spurling rounds up some of the most memorable battles to have taken place on the side of the pitch, featuring headbutts, punches and strangulation...
1) Pearson vs McArthur
“I don’t have to reveal anything, do I?” insisted a menacing Nigel Pearson in February 2015. “I’m more than capable of looking after myself and this was something out of nothing.” These words followed the former Leicester boss’s extraordinary altercation with Crystal Palace midfielder James McArthur towards the end of the Foxes’ home clash with the Eagles last term. After the Scot collided with Pearson, accidentally knocking him to the floor, the 6ft 1in former defender grabbed the prostrate McArthur by the throat and appeared very reluctant to let him go. When McArthur did clamber to his feet and attempt to rejoin the fray, Pearson kept a hold of his sleeve, mouthing a few choice words at him, and wagged his finger at him when he eventually let the clearly alarmed midfielder go. “What happened there?” yelled Palace boss Alan Pardew at his opposite number. Your guess is as good as ours, Pards…
2) Di Canio vs Capello
After reminding Capello that the Chinese “couldn’t even play proper football,” Di Canio suggested his coach (who’d recently been awarded a contract at the Bernabeu) simply “fuck off to Real Madrid right now”
“Why can’t you just let me play the whole game?” asked an increasingly agitated Paolo Di Canio in July 1996, after Milan coach Fabio Capello had substituted him seconds before half time during an exhibition game in China. “Because, Paolo, you’ve got to understand that we have to maintain a tactical equilibrium,” came the response. Capello – a stickler for his favoured 4-3-2-1 formation even in friendlies - refused to allow the maverick forward his way, so Di Canio – not for the first or last time – proceeded to go nuclear in front of the Milan coaches and substitutes. After reminding Capello that the Chinese “couldn’t even play proper football,” Di Canio suggested his coach (who’d recently been awarded a contract at the Bernabeu) simply “fuck off to Real Madrid right now”. “YOU fuck off,” barked Capello, “and go back to the hotel.” Despite insisting that “no one tells me what to do,” Di Canio did just that, and within a fortnight signed for Celtic. “Believe it or not, I eventually patched up with Fabio,” claimed Di Canio. Not sure we do, Paolo…
3) Pardew vs Meyler
With his team losing 3-1 at home to Newcastle in a 2014 Premier League clash, Hull Defender David Meyler was keen to retrieve the ball and take a swift throw-in. Blocking his path was obdurate Magpies boss Alan Pardew, who objected to Meyler nudging him out of the way. Striding towards the Hull man, Pardew put his face into Meyler’s and appeared to make contact with the defender. All hell then broke loose, with Pardew saying: “Nah, nah,” after an accusing Meyler suggested he had been headbutted. Pardew watched the rest of the game from the stand and received a seven-game touchline ban and a huge £100,000 fine from Newcastle.
4) McCoist vs Lennon
Following a 2011 Old Firm clash that was even feistier than usual (Rangers had three players – Steven Whittaker, Madjid Bougherra and El Hadji Diouf - dismissed) – Celtic boss and Gers assistant manager Ally McCoist had a serious disagreement after the final whistle. Objecting to whatever McCoist whispered in his ear, Lennon jabbed his finger at him accusingly, with the pair separated by police and stewards. Both men received bans but patched up their differences quickly. “I felt I and the club as a whole had drawn a line under this whole issue last week, when I had a bottle of beer with Neil,” McCoist explained. He added that he’d been infuriated by the level of vitriolic abuse his players received from Celtic supporters. “Some would say it’s part and parcel of the game. I think it needs to stop.” Rangers’ financial meltdown and relegation triggered an enforced cessation in hostilities.
5) Meier vs Streit
In 2005, struggling Bundesliga club Duisburg sacked coach Norbert Meier a day after the league suspended him for headbutting Cologne’s Albert Streit and then pretending to be the victim. The club insisted they fired Meier because his resultant touchline ban could have lasted for months. "The pressure on the coach has become enormous," said Duisburg chairman Walter Hellmich, who added that Meier was in agreement with the club's decision to punish him. The manager had little option but to go along with his former employers’ course of action after seeing TV footage of the event, which showed him (after a furtive look to his right) simulate the most ridiculous dive since Rivaldo hit the deck at the 2002 World Cup.
6) Rossi vs Ljajic
In May 2012, Fiorentina sacked boss Delio Rossi after he laid into midfielder Adem Ljajic during a tense 2-2 draw with Novara. Miffed at being substituted just 32 minutes into the Serie A encounter, Ljajic sarcastically applauded his manager; Rossi’s response was to throw punches as others on the bench attempted to restrain him. “It was a few seconds of madness in what has been a highly stressful campaign,” Rossi explained afterwards. “All of us are desperate to avoid going down.” The victory all but confirmed the Viola’s top flight status, but the pressure had clearly got to Rossi, who had replaced Sinisa Mihajlovic at the helm in November. The former Lazio and Palermo coach claimed that Ljajic had insulted his family (the player denied it) but quickly apologised for his actions. It wasn’t enough to save him, though, as Fiorentina sacked Rossi two days after ‘slap-gate’.
7) Clemence vs Walsh
MORE TOP TENS
Given the fact he was grumbling about not making the first team and had missed several matches due to a groin injury, one would imagine that livewire Tottenham forward Paul Walsh would have been keen to make an impression when he turned out for the reserves in the early part of the 1991/92 campaign. Yet after labouring for 60 minutes against Oxford, reserve team boss Ray Clemence substituted him, much to the England striker’s displeasure. Instead of taking the tracksuit and handshake offered to him by Clemence, Walsh instead punched his boss square on the jaw. His punishment was a hefty fine, a two-week suspension and a loan move to QPR. After eventually returning to White Hart Lane, he received verbals during a clash with Norwich and chinned the offending fan. Some people never learn…
8) Gattuso vs Jordan
After his Milan team lost the first leg of their last 16 Champions League clash with Tottenham 1-0 at the San Siro in February 2011, veteran midfielder Gennaro Gattuso quite literally lost the plot. It had been a feisty game anyway: Milan midfielder Mathieu Flamini was lucky to remain on the pitch following a horrific tackle on Spurs full-back Vedran Corluka, while Gattuso was booked towards the end after an altercation with Peter Crouch. The red mist descended soon after. When the final whistle sounded, Gattuso removed his shirt and headed straight for Joe Jordan, hurling abuse (“We talked Scottish,” claimed the former Rangers player) at the Spurs first-team coach before grabbing him by the throat and planting his face in the former Scotland and Manchester United striker’s, who was nicknamed ‘Jaws’ in his playing days because of his hardman reputation. Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp was unimpressed by Gattuso’s pugilistic hissy fit: "He obviously hadn't done his homework. He could've picked a fight with somebody else. Putting his head into Joe's face, it was crazy. He lost his head,” explained ‘Arry. If big Joe’s glare was anything to by, that could literally have happened.