Back in the olden days, you knew where you stood with footballers when they retired. The pathway was clear: coaching, punditry or slinking off into obscurity.
But modern life has turned that on its head. We live in a world in which Neil Warnock is now a Twitter celebrity (opens in new tab), with the options available to the retired pro madder and wider than ever. Want to work in television? Sure: it's not just sitting on the sofa next to Carra and Neville available to you these days – you're not even limited to presenting The One Show or Homes Under the Hammer.
Reality TV always has a place for a semi-recognisable former Premier League star to pop up. Sometimes, these guest spots are odder than others…
1: Tugay: Masterchef
Tugay Kerimoglu is the kind of cult hero that football hasn't thrown up for a while. He was torn in his youth between playing the beautiful game or becoming a racing driver, he apparently smoked 20 cigarettes a day and he was lauded by the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson and Mark Hughes – yet he seemingly spent all his life toiling away at Blackburn Rovers, the wrong side of their seminal title win.
It should come as little surprise to those familiar with the multi-talented midfielder, then, that Tugay competed in and won Turkish Masterchef in 2010. Because why wouldn't he? True to his enigmatic legend, the internet seems to have lost footage of it.
2. Lee Sharpe: Love Island
Love Island's recruitment model currently only scouts the lower leagues when it comes to footballers. Take 2021's edition of the show, which featured eventual winner Toby, a Hashtag United star who managed to blag two months off training to awkwardly court ladies in his swimming trunks.
But once upon a time, the ITV behemoth boasted a former Premier League winner. Lee Sharpe is no stranger to reality TV having been on Celebrity Wrestling under the name "Sharpe Shooter" and competed in Dancing On Ice – though his stint on the celebrity version of Love Island is probably the most surreal. Still, he got a holiday to Fiji and a girlfriend out of it. We assume that he would never have gotten permission to go on the show while working under Sir Alex.
3. Glenn Hoddle: Masked Singer
Teddy Sheringham appeared in the first series dressed as a tree, while Michael Owen masqueraded as a stack of doughnuts in the third. The most surprising entrant on ITV1 show The Masked Singer from the football world came sandwiched between the two, naturally, in a grandfather clock costume.
In his youth, remember, Hoddle had a chart hit with Chris Waddle – but still, seeing the former England manager turned BT Sport pundit belting out Rock Around the Clock by Bill Haley & His Comets was a turn up… as was the fact he managed to get further in the competition than professional singers, Sophie Ellis-Bextor and Mel B.
"I'm surprised you didn't clock me," Hoddle winked at Jonathan Ross and Rita Ora upon his unveiling. Just a normal Saturday evening on ITV, then.
4. Neil Ruddock, John Fashanu, Carlton Palmer and Frank Worthington: Come Dine With Me
Ever wondered what the average Premier League canteen was like in the 1990s? Yeah, probably nothing like this.
Individually, Neil Ruddock, John Fashanu, Carlton Palmer and Frank Worthington are no strangers to TV work but put them all together for a Come Dine With Me special and you have a recipe for a bizarre TV special that no one particularly asked for. The cooking is actually quite complicated and there's fancy dress, too – unfortunately, though, none of them had a "What a sad little life" moment (opens in new tab).
5. Erik Pieters: The Real Housewives of Cheshire
Nermina has got a new job... serving the drinks!?! 😱😓🍸#RHOCheshire tonight 10pm @ITVBe @OfficialRHOCH @DohnalovaEster pic.twitter.com/EPWKkz72KsNovember 6, 2017
Burnley's WAGs don't tend to dominate column inches. When you think of the Clarets, you think of 4-4-2, long balls and Sean Dyche's ominous frown – he's gone but not forgotten – not so much Posh Spice or Shakira.
Still, Erik Pieters' significant other Nermina soared to fame in the Real Housewives of Cheshire and rather like Kanye West bemusedly ending up on his wife's family's show every now and then, the Dutch left-back has cropped up in the corners of the show, too. There doesn't seem much crossover between Turf Moor audiences and viewers of the show: we won't blame you Erik if you want to big yourself up on camera as a reborn Roberto Carlos.
6. Shola Ameobi: Cribs
"I love wearing hats, lots of shapes and sizes of hats that I love wearing, just different sizes and colours really," said Shola Ameobi on his episode of Cribs.
The noughties were a heady time and the former Newcastle United star's appearance on the MTV show perhaps surmises why the worlds of reality TV and football aren't particularly suited – despite Shola's admittance that yes, players have a lot of spare time. The striker had a lovely pad really but the episode seemed to centre around a coffee table that Ameobi was enamoured with. It's since become a cult hit online.
“I have actually [still got it],” the laid-back forward said when he was asked about the infamous table in 2017. “My missus hates it but it doesn’t light up anymore, it’s just a coffee table now.”
7. David Seaman: Dancing On Ice
These days goalkeepers are – in the nicest possible way – boring. They're model professionals, quiet and commanding: not the nutters of yesteryear. Put it this way: could you imagine Alisson Becker or Thibaut Courtois willingly ice-skating on Saturday night TV?
David Seaman tried it multiple times and actually married professional partner Frankie Poultney. It could have been weirder though: the first time Safe Hands got his skates on, he was a late replacement for Paul Gascoigne. Please ITV: we'd do anything to see Gazza in the rink.
8. Jimmy Bullard: I'm A Celebrity
Who would have thought that Wigan, Fulham and Hull would produce such a superstar? A man who would transcend his midfield to sit next to Gemma Collins, Tinchy Stryder and Robot Wars host Craig Charles in an all-star line-up Down Under.
Jimmy Bullard's mainstream appeal is a fascinating case study of how one moment can completely flip people's perception of you. Were it not for the "telling off" celebration (opens in new tab), would his star have ever risen to Bushtucker trials? We may never know: it's a similar case with Peter Crouch's robot dance.
The jungle tends to be for the louder likes of Ian Wrights and Razor Ruddocks – so good for Jimmy that a tidy midtable ball-carrier got his time in the Australian sun.
9. Jermaine Pennant: Celebrity Big Brother
Jermaine Pennant is the only English player to have played in a Champions League final but never been called up to his country. As far as we're aware, he's also the only one of the Invincibles to have appeared on the Jeremy Kyle Show.
The former winger ended up on the ITV agony uncle's sofa after an unhappy stint on Celebrity Big Brother, where he had got very close to another housemate, Chloe Ayling, despite his wife watching his every flirty move from the comfort of her living room. Pennant had to take a lie detector test – a far cry from his days dribbling past Paolo Maldini. Thankfully, CBB was cancelled by Channel 5 after the former footballer's series.
10. Stan Collymore: The Farm
Stan Collymore was once an English transfer record of £8.5 million, he appeared in Basic Instinct 2 and he was a competitor in a TV show shooting to be "top farmer". It's been a hell of a career.
Collymore is a common booking on reality TV these days, with a back-catalogue that would make the average TOWIE star green with envy. But his most bizarre experience came on The Farm, a show literally pitting D-listers together to try and run, err, a farm.
The former Liverpool forward sensationally walked off the show, following blazing arguments with rapper Vanilla Ice – who apparently felt Collymore was spending far too long on the toilet.
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Mark White has been a staff writer on FourFourTwo since joining in January 2020, writing pieces for both online and the magazine. Over his time on the brand, he has interviewed the likes of Aaron Ramsdale and Jack Wilshere, written pieces ranging on subjects from Bobby Robson's season at Barcelona to Robinho's career, and has been to the FA Cup and League Cup finals, working for FFT.
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