10 of football's weirdest unveilings (ft. Becks, Brazilians and Best)
Jon Spurling picks out some of football's most memorable reveals, including one that had Fergie frothing with fury
1. Napoli’s lion-hearted arrival
On a cruise ship circling the Mediterranean port in July 2011, Napoli chairman Aurelio De Lauretiis invited a man wearing a lion’s mask to reveal himself to show off his club’s funky new home shirt. It was none other than Swiss star Gohkan Inler, who’d just signed on the dotted line from Udinese. “How do you like that?” roared the rock-jawed midfielder. Er, a lot?
2. “No, I want it orange…”
Just hours after seeing his beloved Montpellier win the French title in 2012, colourful owner Louis Nicollin made good on a bet he’d made with supporters if his team was successful in its pursuit of Ligue 1 glory.
A local barber morphed his grey hair into an orange-and-blue Mohican - the team colours of La Paillade. “I look like a fool,” squealed ‘Lulu’ upon revealing his new barnet at the title celebrations, “but not as stupid as our rivals do today.”
3. “Do you know what that looks like?!”
“I’m a perfectionist and I want it to be just right,” insisted Southampton chairman Leon Crouch in 2007 after announcing the club’s brand new £120,000 statue of Saints legend Ted Bates would be torn down.
The reason? It looked like a cross between Wee Jimmy Krankie and Portsmouth chairman Milan Mandaric with out-of-proportion arms. A new statue, that actually resembled Bates, was erected within the year, much to Southampton fans’ pleasure. This kind of thing didn't stop future statues from going to plan, mind – just see Cristiano Ronaldo's lump of bronze in Madeira unveiled earlier this year.
4. Forest’s jigsaw identification
In July 2014, Nottingham Forest revealed their new strip with a giant 10-piece jigsaw treasure hunt around the city. Firms tweeted clues as frantic fans returned the pieces to the City Ground to form a giant Chris Cohen, and win a shiny new shirt.
“We’re hoping our season comes together as smoothly as that,” panted the club, far too happy with their jigsaw pun. It didn't really – Forest finished 14th, with no hope of promotion.
5. Brazilian stadiums not finished? Who knew?
The construction of the Maracana for the 1950 World Cup was compared to the building of the pyramids by many Brazilians. There were probably fewer precariously hanging iron girders in Egypt, though. With the stadium still part-unfinished, Yugoslav striker Rajko Mitic knocked himself out on some rogue metalwork, his team beginning the group stage game against the hosts with only 10 men.
A patched-up Mitic returned to the dressing room at half-time groggy but happy with the goalless scoreline. Then he was informed of Ademir’s third-minute opener for Brazil, while he was passed out. Ah.
6. Bywater’s arty eyesore
In Septemeber 2010, former Derby keeper Stephen Bywater showed off some, er, unique homemade garden artwork, much to the consternation of his neighbours. Featuring a portable toilet, a mattress, a graffiti-covered horsebox and a blow-up doll, one incensed local resident described it as “abhorrent” and “an eyesore”. Bywater apologised, covered it up and flogged it on eBay. Maybe he decided it was bloody awful, too.
7. “Nah, don’t fancy you, Leroy”
In 2007, Torquay chairman Mike Bateson offered former boss Leroy Rosenior the opportunity to manage again at Plainmoor, but warned the ex-West Ham striker that a takeover was possible.
Undeterred, Rosenior was unveiled to the press, only to be informed by Bateson 10 minutes later that he had just sold up to new owners, who wanted their own manager. “I didn’t think it was going to happen after 10 minutes,” huffed Rosenior, failing to realise that 600 seconds is a long time in football.
8. “Lose the hat, or I’ll kick a boot at you”
“Take off your hat, David,” insisted irate Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson as the squad sat down for a meal in 2002. Much to Fergie’s annoyance, Becks refused to remove his stylish beanie. Why? He’d just had his trend-setting “buzz cut” and wanted it to gain maximum impact when revealed on matchday 24 hours later. “It was too showbizzy for my liking,” harrumphed Fergie.
9. Knighton’s got game
Eager to announce his £20 million Manchester United takeover, Michael Knighton headed straight for the Old Trafford dressing room before the opening fixture with Arsenal in August 1989.
“He introduced himself as the new owner,” a perplexed Neil Webb later hummed, “and asked for a kit.” Knighton juggled the ball in the centre circle, then jogged to the Stretford End and whacked the ball into the empty net. The takeover collapsed, with Knighton claiming to have been a “hero for 64 hours”. Er, yeah.
10. Best’s lifesize goldfish bowl
With its plunge pool, snooker room and underground garage, George Best’s futuristic split-level Cheshire home (named ‘Que Sera’, obviously) garnered many headlines when the Fifth Beatle hosted an A-list house-warming party in 1969.
The problem was that “rubberneckers gathered outside all the time. It became a nightmare.” Best soon left the the £30,000 house, to move back in with his former digs landlady, Mrs Fullaway. Bless him.
This feature originally appeared in the September 2014 issue of FourFourTwo. Subscribe!
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Jon Spurling is a history and politics teacher in his day job, but has written articles and interviewed footballers for numerous publications at home and abroad over the last 25 years. He is a long-time contributor to FourFourTwo and has authored seven books, including the best-selling Highbury: The Story of Arsenal in N5, and Get It On: How The '70s Rocked Football was published in March 2022.
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