Top 10 football-related wagers: Ronaldo's hair, Gazza's sleeping pills and Gary Johnson's backside
1. Buzz cut, Sir Alex?
A crippling lack of confidence isn’t one of Cristiano Ronaldo’s flaws, but Alex Ferguson twice took advantage of the forward’s assurance, winning wagers that he couldn’t score 10 goals in 2003/04 and 15 in 2004/05.
It was pointless: “I tried to pay, but he wouldn’t take a penny,” remembers Ronny, who raised the stakes to £400 the next season, smashed his new 15-goal target, then wouldn’t take any cash himself.
Rumours from a “club source” – ie made up by tabloids – that CR7 challenged Fergie to a loser-shaves-their-head contest in 2007 couldn’t be verified.
2. “It’s hardly Club Tropicana here…”
Being imprisoned for weeks in a hotel without quad-bikes, fireworks and discotheques for distraction is harrowing for any English footballer, but at France 98 the ‘bants’ barometer nearly broke as Glenn Hoddle’s squad decided to pass the hours by getting song titles into TV interviews for £100 a pop.
“I’m so excited,” deadpanned a deeply bored-looking Tony Adams before expertly dropping four Beatles classics into a three-minute slot: BBC detective Ray Stubbs eventually rumbled them.
3. Unwise, Dennis
Dennis Wise somehow managed to lay odds with Eric Cantona as the Frenchman lined up to take a penalty
We’ve heard of in-game betting, but this is ridiculous: during the 1994 FA Cup Final, Chelsea captain Dennis Wise somehow managed to lay odds with Eric Cantona as the Frenchman lined up to take Manchester United’s 60th-minute penalty. “Wisey, being Wisey, bet him £100 he’d miss,” remembers Gary Pallister. “It didn’t work, but fair play, he paid up.”
4. Boys out of the barracks
In the 70s, the idea of a manager entering a turbo-heeled player into a New Year’s Day race and the entire team gambling on victory wasn’t considered unprofessional. But when Bobby Robson did such a thing with Ipswich’s Kevin Beattie, the results certainly were.
Midway through the Powderhall Sprint, the underpants-eschewing Beattie’s manhood emerged from his shorts, causing him to slow down while trying to arrest his mini-trousers’ slide, and lose. “We were all sick,” recalled youth coach Charlie Woods, who’d witnessed, ahem, a tidy packet evaporate thanks to Beattie’s misfortune.
5. The wide-awake club
One suicidal contest saw thousands staked on who could stay conscious longest after taking Gazza’s sleeping tablets
Putting Paul Merson and Paul Gascoigne in a shared house seems like one of the least sensible administrative decisions Middlesbrough have ever made, and it’s little surprise that the pair were soon gambling on everything.
One suicidal contest saw thousands staked on who could stay conscious longest after taking Gazza’s sleeping tablets. “It’s a miracle it didn’t kill us,” admits Merse in his biography, How Not To Be A Professional Footballer. “But there was nothing to do in Boro.”