1. Kenny Sansom, unlikely bedfellows
“Peter Taylor kept mouthing ‘I love you’,” recalled Kenny Sansom. “The next thing, he’s blowing kisses at me too.” The chunky full-back, who admitted to being “naive” when he turned professional at Crystal Palace, later discovered room-mate Dave Swindelhurst had pushed the beds together in their room. Sansom soon cottoned onto the wind-up, but not before enduring a sleepless night before his first-team debut.
2. Garrincha, Little Bird dropping
His Botafogo coach later described him as “the most amateur professional ever to play football”, and Garrincha’s behaviour towards new signings did little to disprove that view. “He’d eat a really spicy meal,” explained former team-mate Didi, “then break wind in the new boy’s face.” The Little Bird’s array of botty-related pranks also extended to lobbing turds through new signings’ windows.
3. Ray Parlour, Romford Beadle
Ray Parlour enjoyed taking new Arsenal recruits under his wing and teaching them some helpful English phrases. After being schooled by Parlour, Brazilian Edu was reported to have greeted former Manchester United chief executive Martin Edwards with “you dirty bastard”. The Romford Pele later admitted that he would “try to get foreign players to swear at important people all the time”.
"Now then Bobby, go congratulate the ref for being a w***er"
4. Ugandan National Team, denouncing a dictator
“You were told to shout ‘down with Amin’ in front of the first team,” explained an unnamed former Uganda striker in the early 80s. With the former Ugandan despot rumoured to have political spies everywhere, this test of foolhardiness proved too much for some petrified newcomers, who opted not to play for The Cranes, rather than incur Amin’s wrath.
5. Trevor Francis, “milk and two sugars”
Having already threatening to “whack him around the head with my squash racquet” after signing for Nottingham Forest, Brian Clough then decided to bring down million pound signing Trevor Francis a further peg or two by instructing him to make his new team-mates’ half-time cuppas during his first week at the club. “He put too much milk in mine,” moaned the barking mad Cloughie afterwards, “but luckily he played football better than he made tea.”
6. Chelsea, singing the blues
Rather than indulge in the more base antics of putting Deep Heat in jock straps, or crapping in new boys’ shoes, Chelsea’s galaxy of international stars arrange a more cerebral, if equally cringe-worthy greeting; New boys are forced to stand up in front of the first-team squad and belt out their national anthem at full volume, a ritual now seemingly adopted by everyone else. “Salomon Kalou’s version of the Ivory Coast anthem was crap,” chuckled Frank Lampard.
Chelsea show off their crap new boy band in 2006
7. Gordon Hill, serving up a treat
“Gordon Hill had only been a professional for two months,” recalled Eamon Dunphy in Only A Game?. “But he made a mistake when he told us he was a great tennis player.” On a pre-season tour to Bournemouth, Hill received calls from team-mates pretending to be tennis journalists. As his mates prepared for a night out, the future Manchester United winger was left slouched in the hotel lobby in his tennis whites, waiting for a TV crew which never arrived.
8. Gerd Muller, Der Bomber silenced
After arriving at Bayern Munich, Gerd Muller was disturbed to find that none of his team-mates wanted to speak to him. “It was like I was invisible,” admitted Der Bomber. After grabbing a brace in the reserves a week into his Bayern career, Muller’s colleagues shook hands with him in stony silence. A fortnight later, they burst into applause when he walked into the dressing room, and congratulated him for “enduring the two-week silent treatment”.
Muller: Eventually silenced everyone with his goals
9. John Hartson, gang induction
“The suit cost me a couple of grand,” admitted new Wimbledon striker John Hartson, after joining the Crazy Gang from West Ham. Having torched the Welshman’s suit, Vinnie Jones et al proceeded to throw the charred remains in a puddle, and then let down the new signing’s tyres. “English football misses that kind of humour,” reflected Vinnie years later, “it’s all too serious these days.”
10. Mel Sterland, the pain game
“I’d get a really hard toilet brush,” recalled Mel Sterland in his autobiography, “shove it in their bollocks, and twirl it around.” Sheffield Wednesday was no place for faint-hearted apprentices in the early 80s, particularly with boss Jack Charlton actively encouraging “welcome to Hillsborough” ceremonies for new recruits. The rest of the initiation ceremony comprised dollops of Vaseline, boot polish and being tied naked on the freezing Kop.