Revealed! YOUR club's Cult Hero – as voted for by the fans
What is a cult hero? That's the first question FourFourTwo had to answer before we asked a fan of every team in the country's top five divisions to pick out theirs.
The definition, of course, isn't set in stone – after all, such a topic hardly calls for perfection. Above all, though, a cult hero has to be someone who touched fans' hearts more than any other, not necessarily through what they did on the pitch but as a packaged-up personality. They're not supposed to be the best player who played for your club – though they might just have been.
So sit back and enjoy as our 92 fans reveal their all-time favourites, and then join the debate on social media at #FFTCultHeroes.
Accrington Stanley: Jonathan Smith
Lee Walker (@leewasi)
His no-nonsense tackling and aforementioned aerial prowess made him a legend, and he was one of the main reasons we started the long road back to prominence
“Six years, two promotions, five trophies over 250 appearances and probably the best aerial ability I've ever seen at the Crown Ground. He may not be obvious to some Stanley fans, but make no mistake: former defender "Smudgie" Smith was one of the best ever to grace the hallowed turf.
“Joining on a free from then-local (and now sadly defunct) rivals Great Harwood Town, Smith went on to become a hero at the club. His no-nonsense tackling and aforementioned aerial prowess made him a legend, and he was one of the main reasons we started the long road back to prominence through the late 1990s and early 2000s. Smashing his cheek bone and having teeth knocked out were regular occurrences.
“Loved by the manager and fans alike, Smith left a gaping hole in the side when he finally left in 2005, after suffering a number of niggly injuries in his final season. He has, however, gone onto bigger and better things and is currently first-team coach of National League North side Chorley alongside none other than former Blackburn Rovers star Matt Jansen.”
AFC Wimbledon: Carl Leaburn
Robert Dunford (@repd1975)
“Leaburn didn’t win trophies like John Fashanu, and hasn't been in a computer game like Adebayo Akinfenwa. But this particular big frontman of Wimbledon is still fondly remembered today by supporters.
Plenty mocked his lack of goals after he joined from Charlton in January 1998, but Leaburn won them over in the best way possible a month later
“Plenty mocked his lack of goals after he joined from Charlton in January 1998, but Leaburn won them over in the best way possible a month later. The venue was Selhurst Park, and the opponents were the landlords themselves, Crystal Palace. That evening, the striker who never scored did so in front of the Sky cameras – not once, but twice.
“He was unplayable that night, and suddenly a new hero arrived. Getting one over on those you pay rent to was a big deal back then, especially from somebody like Leaburn. Sadly his form didn't last long, and he only scored twice more before leaving in 2001. But after that night in south-east London, it hardly mattered.”
Arsenal: Emmanuel Eboue
Tim Stillman (@Stillberto)
“In England, cult heroes are often celebrated ironically or championed as outsiders. Arsenal have had many down the years – John Jensen and Perry Groves are the two most striking examples. But Eboue was a cult hero of a different vintage. He was almost politically appointed to the role as a concession.
He became a kind of court jester, playing up to his role of class clown. But patience expired in April 2011
“Eboue was infamously booed off the pitch after an especially substandard display against Wigan in 2008. He was visibly distressed by the mauling he received and thereafter was anointed as a cult hero by Arsenal fans, almost by way of apology, as a manifestation of our guilt.
“He became a kind of court jester, playing up to his role of class clown. But patience expired in April 2011, after a particularly dunderheaded foul gave Liverpool a 98th-minute penalty and a share of the points at the Emirates, almost immediately after Robin van Persie had scored what he thought was the winner. Eboue was sold that summer.”
Aston Villa: Paul McGrath
David Michael (editor, @oldmansaid)
“Every club has its fare share of quirky cult heroes, but few have had a player that transcends such status to become a true legend. Through out his career McGrath was like Billy the Kid, always in the line of fire. He was an alcoholic with dodgy knees who had a tendency to go AWOL before games. The Ireland international was heading for retirement on Alex Ferguson’s recommendation, before Graham Taylor gambled on the injury-prone centre-back for Aston Villa.
Villa gained a world-class centre-back whose party trick was to allow opposition keeper’s goal-kicks to drop over his shoulder and then clear them with a backheeled volley
“The Villa fans put up with his antics and with the player enjoying a light training regime due to his knees, it turned out to be a marriage made in football heaven. Villa gained a world-class centre-back whose party trick was to allow opposition keeper’s goal-kicks to drop over his shoulder and then clear them with a backheeled volley.
“McGrath was the lynchpin to two Aston Villa title challenges, including the first ever Premier League season, where McGrath finished runner-up to his previous club Manchester United. He got revenge at Wembley the following season in Villa’s 3-1 League Cup final win over United in 1994.
“With his shy and humble demeanour, McGrath was aesthesis of the modern day player, and became the much-loved adopted son of the Holte End, where he is serenaded at every game to this day.”
Barnet: Giuliano Grazioli
Tom Bodell (@Barnet_Bee)
A Barnet fan, Grazioli became a cult figure despite netting five against the Bees in a 9-1 win while at Peterborough and playing for rivals Stevenage
“Grazioli's status as a cult hero at Barnet was perfectly encapsulated after the Bees' 1-0 win at Dartford last April. Barnet fans were filing out of Princes Park when they noticed 'Graz', a pundit for BT Sport, and started to serenade him live on air with the song heard so often during his five-year stay at Underhill. Six years after departing the club and with the side set to return to the Football League, the Barnet-born striker was as popular as ever.
“Sixty-five goals in 147 appearances only tell part of the story. A Barnet fan, Grazioli became a cult figure despite netting five against the Bees in a 9-1 win while at Peterborough and playing for rivals Stevenage.
“He assisted Martin Allen in 2011 before taking charge of the side following Mad Dog's defection to Notts County, helping the Bees stave off relegation once more. He still attends games as fan.”
Barnsley: Neil Redfearn
Simon Gaskell (@simongaskell)
“When a 26-year-old Redfearn arrived at Barnsley in 1991, he'd already taken in spells with Bolton, Lincoln City, Doncaster, Crystal Palace, Watford and Oldham. Seven years later, he had ensured his career would be synonymous with only one club.
With the captain's armband, he was the beating heart of the 1996/97 team that inspired the chant 'It's Just Like Watching Brazil'
“An all-action style, endless work rate and propensity for scoring spectacular goals on either foot immediately endeared 'Redders' to the Oakwell faithful. With the captain's armband, he was the beating heart of the 1996/97 team that inspired the chant 'It's Just Like Watching Brazil'. His 17 goals and talismanic ability to pull his team up by the bootstraps took a perennial First and Second Division side into the top flight for the first time in 99 years, and he added a further 10 goals in the Premier League.
“There hasn't been a man to quite capture the imagination in the same way for the Tykes since. There may never be.”
Favourite moment: “Redfearn scoring with a flying header past Ludek Miklosko on the opening day of the 1997/8 season, in glorious sunshine, in front of nearly 20,000 fans. It wasn't anywhere near his best goal but it showed that Barnsley – unfancied by so many – belonged at that level.”
1:20 for some Redders magic
Birmingham City: Kenny Burns
Kevin Ball (@joysandsorrows)
He was a no nonsense, ‘put it about’ forward. Very often when we had our first attack, he would clout the keeper with a hard challenge to try to gain an advantage
“There are players like Mark Dennis who regularly saw red for the Blues, Mick Harford who kept us in the top flight with last-minute goals or Obafemi Martins who scored the winner at Wembley in 2011. But my cult hero (even though maybe doesn’t truly fit the definition) is Kenny Burns. Was he a silky skilled footballer? Nope. Was he a football ambassador? Er, not really. Was he someone who gave 100% for the cause? Absolutely.
“In the first game I went to, Burns scored one in a 4-0 defeat of Manchester City. He was a no nonsense, ‘put it about’ forward. Very often when we had our first attack, he would clout the keeper with a hard challenge to try to gain an advantage (different times…). He scored plenty of goals, including four against Derby one season and then, shortly after, a hat-trick against Leicester. He scored the sixth in that game, winning himself a Triumph TR7 (although he never actually received it).
“Although a very good forward, Kenny started his career as a defender but was pushed up front after Bob Latchford left. He returned to defence later in his career. Sure, he won trophies at Forest but always said he loved playing for Blues – and that could be seen in the way he played.”
Blackburn Rovers: David Dunn
(Midfielder, 1998-2003 and 2007-15)
Anna-Louise Adams (@annalouiseadams)
“It has to be Dunn – the blood that runs through his veins, I am sure, is blue and white. His love for our club showed through his performances, and his hatred for our biggest rivals, Burnley, is second to none.
I’ve admired Dunn for as long as I can remember – despite his failure to recreate Cristiano Ronaldo's skill
“I’ve admired Dunn for as long as I can remember, and would have done anything to keep him in a role at our club. Despite his failure to recreate Cristiano Ronaldo's skill, and his regrettable involvement in a Venky's chicken advert, his passion and love for the club is unrivalled.
“His experience always stood out and he was a calming influence over the younger squad members, particularly when times were hard at Blackburn. During those times he was a beacon of hope for fans – if he could remain with the club he loved, so could we.
Favourite moment: “Dunn’s equaliser in the dying embers of Blackburn vs Burnley in March 2013 – everyone went absolutely mental… it was incredible.”
Blackpool: Brett Ormerod
(Striker, 1997-2001 and 200912)
Bloomfield Bear (@bloomfieldbear)
“When posing this question to Blackpool fans I was pretty certain there would only be one winner of our Twitter poll – and sure enough that man was Super Bretty Ormerod.
“During two spells with the club – he left to join Southampton in 2001 but came back to us in 2009 from pPeston – Ormerod made 215 appearances, scored 61 goals and became the first player to score in all four divisions for the club. His most important goal in tangerine? Only the the winning goal that sent Blackpool to the Premier League!”
Bolton: Ivan Campo
Chris Manning (@19manning83)
“The endearingly scruffy-looking former Valencia and Real Madrid midfielder (a Champions League winner, no less) was a surprising addition to Bolton’s mid-2000s Galacticos, but he’s perhaps the one who left the most indelible mark on the club.
His love for the town and the club was evident, and this feeling was returned in spades by supporters who would turn up for games in matching Campo wigs
“Initially starting his Bolton career on loan, Campo made 172 appearances for the club, scoring 13 goals before moving to Ipswich in 2008. The shaggy-maned enforcer, part of the best Bolton team in the last 20 years, became an accomplished holding midfielder with a great passing range after a somewhat shaky start at centre half.
“His love for the town and the club was evident, and this feeling was returned in spades by supporters who would turn up for games in matching Campo wigs. The evil Gary Megson refused to extend his contract, and his open letter to supporters in June 2008 showed the character of a man who remains a club icon to this day.”
Favourite moment: “In 2007 he was unfairly sidelined by Sam Allardyce’s replacement, Sammy Lee – and left out of the club’s Premier League squad as a result. It was only a series of poor results under the new manager that meant Campo was recalled to the side. He returned with a majestic performance against Spurs where he controlled the midfield with his usual class and grace – even bagging a goal which was celebrated wildly on the pitch and in the stands. What a man.”
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