Christmas bashes offer players a rare chance to enjoy some merriment ahead of the busy festive period. But, as is often the case, there’s always someone who take things a little too far.
Featuring sex, booze, and the world’s most inappropriate Secret Santa, these are 10 of the most infamous Christmas parties in Premier League history...
Quite what possessed manager Glenn Hoddle to put Vinnie Jones in charge of planning Chelsea’s Christmas party in 1994 is anyone’s guess, but the shindig certainly lived up to the midfield hardman’s Crazy Gang persona.
Jones pulled out all the stops with a boozy lock-in at a west London pub that featured a unique party game: dwarf tossing. “The idea was to pick up a dwarf and hurl him as far as you could,” team-mate Tony Cascarino later recalled. “I had a go, but I can't remember how I did. They were heavier than I expected.”
Within six months of the party, Jones had left Chelsea for a return to Wimbledon. Purely coincidental, of course.
The Newcastle squad of 1998/99 took ‘lad bantz’ to a disturbing new level when it came to handing out presents at their Christmas get-together that season.
Midfielder Didi Hamann was the not-so-proud recipient of a copy of Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf, while defender Alessandro Pistone was handed a sheep’s heart, in a jokey jibe at his apparent lack of commitment on the pitch.
“I’m sure it was a joke,” Pistone said. “The others had some really funny presents too: Temuri Ketsbaia got a hairbrush and Duncan Ferguson a prison shirt.”
West Ham, 1998
Hammers duo Neil ‘Razor’ Ruddock and Trevor Sinclair landed themselves in a whole heap of trouble after a ‘70s-themed Christmas bash out in Essex. Having been turfed out after last orders, the pair allegedly took their frustrations out on a parked Mini Cooper belonging to a local beauty therapist. Wing mirrors and all were ripped off as general mayhem ensued.
Razor was charged with affray over the incident, while Sinclair was accused of criminal damage. However, conflicting evidence ultimately led to Ruddock being acquitted of the charge, though Sinclair was less fortunate – he was slapped with a £250 fine and forced to pay £225 in compensation.
With the club already in the spotlight following an unsavoury incident involving Lee Bowyer and Jonathan Woodgate outside a nightclub, the Leeds hierarchy pulled out all the stops to try to ensure the team Christmas party went off without a hitch.
David O’Leary held a face-to-face meeting with the entire squad before the festivities began to remind them of their responsibilities, while chairman Peter Ridsdale hired a team of security guards to accompany the players during an army-themed bar crawl across the city.
It didn’t work. Returning in a taxi to his hotel room for the night, Robbie Fowler got in a scuffle with a photographer after the latter tried to take a picture of him asleep in the cab. A camera was allegedly damaged, and Fowler soon found himself arrested – though he was later released without charge.
The presence of both Dennis Wise and Robbie Savage in Leicester’s ranks was always a recipe for disaster, and that proved to be the case at the Foxes’ 2001 Christmas party.
The tipping point came when Wise presented Savage with the Secret Santa gift of a teddy bear in a Leicester shirt with a sex toy attached to it, and a message reading: “You're the only p**** in a Leicester shirt.”
Oddly enough, Savage didn’t take too kindly to the present and a scuffle ensued. Manager Dave Bassett later played down the incident. “The players bought each other presents and there was a bit of mickey taking which was a bit pornographic,” Bassett said. “But that's the way it is. When I was a player the same sort of thing used to happen at parties. It's a bit of good-hearted mickey-taking.
West Ham, 2001
West Ham took footballer-led debauchery to new heights during a festive trip to the London nightclub Sugar Reef back in 2001. Australian defender Hayden Foxe never made much of an impact on the pitch for the Hammers, but he was in his element that night, climbing up onto the bar at the club before proceeding to unzip his jeans and urinate on all below.
Matters were made worse when a second, unnamed player, vomited on a table and some nearby chairs. The West Ham squad were immediately ejected from the venue.
“There were no fights or yelling of abuse or anything,” Foxe later claimed. “What I did was wrong and got blown right out of proportion.” He was fined two weeks’ wages and forced to stump up for a £2,000 bar bill.
Manchester City, 2004
A young Joey Barton first earned his stripes as a troublemaker during a boozy Christmas party night out at a Manchester nightclub. None of it makes for pleasant reading.
Decked out as Jimmy Savile for the fancy dress affair, Barton had spent much of the evening trying to burn holes in his team-mates’ costumes with a cigar. But he failed to see the funny side when 18-year-old youth prospect Jamie Tandy attempted to return the favour using a cigarette lighter – Barton retaliated by stubbing his cigar out on the youngster’s eye.
Thankfully, the resulting £60,000 fine ensured he would never cross the line again with a team-mate. Oh, wait…
Manchester United, 2007
Alex Ferguson went into full Ebenezer Scrooge mode after the Manchester United squad’s sordid antics of 2007. The Scot cancelled any and all Christmas parties for the foreseeable future after a festive do at the city’s Great John Street hotel resulted in all the wrong kind of headlines for the club.
The story goes that the players embarked on a mammoth 13-hour, £4,000-a-head drinking session that included karaoke and various strip clubs. Things culminated in a party at the hotel involving 80 hand-picked women – WAGs were banned - which was described by one tabloid source as “a horrendous cattle market”.
Spurs had garnered a reputation as one of the Premier League’s biggest partiers prior to Harry Redknapp’s arrival, but he was having none of it come December 2009. Speaking at a press conference that month, Redknapp spoke of his disapproval of Christmas parties, noting his Tottenham players would “never take the liberty” of holding one without his say so.
Little did he realise they had done exactly that just 48 hours early. Led by captain Robbie Keane, 16 of Tottenham’s squad had flown to Dublin under the pretence they were embarking on a relaxing golf trip. A night on the tiles ensued, with Keane leading the way on a £2,000-a-head trip. They returned 72 hours before a league game with Wolves and duly lost 1-0. Keane was subsequently loaned out to Celtic a month later.
With QPR in the relegation quagmire once again, manager Redknapp was adamant there would be no festive outing for his under-performing side. “I’m not into Christmas parties, not for footballers,” he said. “I think it’s more aggravation than it’s worth.”
He wasn’t wrong. Despite their poor form, the players organised Sunday lunch in a west London pub to celebrate the occasion. What happened next is unclear. One onlooker told The Sun that a melee ensued after a woman threw a drink over Rio Ferdinand. Joey Barton apparently served as a peacemaker during the ensuing scuffles that supposedly left Steven Caulker bloodied.
QPR claimed otherwise, though, insisting Caulker had fallen while getting out of his car and that the afternoon had gone off without a hitch. In fairness, that does sound more realistic than any story where Barton keeps the peace...
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