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Scandalous! Shake-downs, lock-ups, and tap-ins.


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Continuing our World of Football series…


World of Football Part 4


Scandalous! Shake-downs, lock-ups, and tap-ins.


One cannot believe 100% what is printed in the papers – not now, not ever, but every now and again our footballing idols really fall from grace - convicted in court or genuinely admitted to their misdemeanours publicly. Here are those stories that were printed in the chip paper of yesteryear, and what became the chants at the next away game. No-one is above the law if found guilty, and these characters certainly paid the price in one way or another for their waywardness…


Mickey Thomas and Funny Money


Former Manchester United, Wrexham and Wales legend Mickey Thomas was jailed for 18 months in 1993 for forgery, namely printing his own ten-pound notes and distributing them through Wrexham’s trainee players. Ever the comedian Thomas became a regular on the after dinner circuit after getting out of jail and joking like this about his misdemeanour, “Roy Keane’s on 50 grand a week. So was I until the police found my printing machine” Who says crime doesn’t pay? Not Mickey Thomas “I made sure I had the best of everything: whatever I wanted to drink, plenty of days at home and, towards the end, I even had my own car.” A picture of Thomas swigging from a champagne bottle while still serving his sentence subsequently made the front cover of the News Of The World.


David Pleat and the Slowest Car in London


In 1987 in his first season as manager of Tottenham Hotspur and having guided the club to third in the league, an FA Cup Final and the semi finals of the League Cup, David Pleat is forced to resign after the tabloids report on him being cautioned for kerb crawling around notorious red light districts of London. To make matters more clear cut Mr. Pleat was cautioned not once but three times. He went on to manage Leicester City, Sheffield Wednesday and Luton Town again before returning to Spurs as Director of Football in the late 1990s.


Peter Storey – Arsenal’s “Golden” Boy


A member of Arsenal’s 1970/71 Double Winning side and an England international, Storey’s fall from grace after he retired from the game began with a £700 fine and a six month suspended jail sentence in 1979 for running an East London brothel and was quickly followed with being sentenced to three years in jail the following year after financing a plot to counterfeit gold coins. In 1990 he was jailed again for 28 days after trying to import 20 pornographic movies from Europe into the UK having hidden them in the spare tyre of his car.


Graham Rix and the Younger “Woman”


Former Arsenal and England midfielder and Chelsea coach Graham Rix was sentenced to twelve months in prison in March 1999, for having underage sex with a 15-year-old girl who he allegedly plied with drink and drugs in a hotel room before taking advantage of. Upon his release from prison six months later he immediately rejoined Chelsea and was reinstated in his old job.


George Graham and Just for Safekeeping


A former Double winning midfield player with Arsenal in 1970/71, “Stroller” George Graham took his first managerial post at Millwall before returning to his first footballing love at Highbury in 1986 as manager replacing Don Howe. His former amiable charm had been replaced with a dour disciplinarian stance and his silky skills on the ball of his playing days were left far behind as he dragged an underachieving Arsenal side to the League title in 1989 as well as another league title and the European Cup Winners Cup over the next few years with his own brand of dull defensive football. “1-0 to the Arsenal” wasn’t a mickey take, but more often than not the final score of their matches as Graham stifled and outwitted their opponents into submission.


It was off the field matters, ironically brought to the public’s attention by Graham’s old enemies at White Hart Lane and the Sugar-Venables court case, that were to be his undoing at Arsenal though in the form of a Norwegian football agent and the sum of £285000. The agent, Rune Hauge, paid George Graham the money as a bung in the transfer of Danish international John Jensen to Arsenal in 1994 and after a Premier League inquiry found Graham guilty of not acting in the club’s best interests he was sacked in 1995, claiming until the end that he always intended to give the money back to Arsenal Football Club.


George Graham was banned from football for a year but was forgiven his crimes and went on to manage Leeds United on completing his ban before doing the unthinkable and becoming the Spurs manager in 1998 where he led them to a Worthington Cup victory the following year.


Recently in an interview on Five Live – he did not rule out a return to the Premiership…


Paolo Rossi - Italy’s Prodigal Son


Italy’s 1982 World Cup winning golden boy and tournament top scorer almost didn’t make the Finals at all after serving out two years of a ban imposed for allegedly accepting a bribe in a match between Perugia, where he was on loan, and Avellino in 1980. Despite having scored two goals in the game, Rossi was given a three-year suspension, which was eventually reduced to two years after the player continually protested his innocence of the charges. While suspended, Juventus snapped up his registration for a bargain £500,000 and when his suspension ended on April 29th 1982, Rossi was immediately given a recall to the Italian national squad for the World Cup in Spain by coach Enzo Bearzot. After four games and no goals in the tournament Rossi and Bearzot found themselves under immense pressure but the coach persevered and was rewarded with a Paolo Rossi hat-trick which took Italy into the semi-finals, beating the great Brazil side of Zico, Socrates and Junior 3-2. Rossi went on to score both goals in the 2-0 semi-final victory over Poland and the first in Italy’s eventual 3-1 victory over West Germany in the final making him the top scorer in the 1982 World Cup. Quite a turnaround for a man who was viewed as a pariah only a couple of months before.


The Trials and Tribulations of Being Diego Maradona


Born in 1960 in Villa Fiorito, Argentina, Diego Armando Maradona went on to almost singlehandedly (excuse the pun) lead his country to one World Cup Final victory in 1986 and then back to the Final four years later where they were beaten by West Germany. As well as leading unfashionable Napoli to two Italian League titles and breaking the world record transfer fee when he joined Barcelona in 1982, Maradona went on to become regarded as perhaps the greatest footballer who ever played the game.


With such great talent on the pitch came a similar talent for attracting trouble to himself off it. His sublime second goal against England in the 1986 World Cup in Mexico is often overlooked seeing as it followed his infamous “Hand of God” opener where Maradona blatantly punched the ball past Peter Shilton in the England goal and helped Argentina to a 2-1 victory on their way to winning the tournament.


A 15-month suspension from football in 1992 for cocaine use (an addiction he suffered with for many years) led to his departure from his beloved Napoli and two years later he was sent home from the 1994 World Cup in the USA having tested positive in a drugs test for ephedrine doping. Diego claimed that he has been given the backing of FIFA to take the drug for weight loss purposes so that the World Cup wouldn’t lose appeal without him in it only to see them renege on their promise and have him sent home in further disgrace. This claim has obviously been vigorously denied by FIFA.


Scandal continued to follow him in Naples where he was embroiled in an illegitimate child row where he refused DNA tests to ascertain paternity and further questions were asked about his friendships with members of the Naples mafia. Whether it’s opening fire on waiting journalists with an airgun or gaining copious amounts of weight and then having radical gastric bypass surgery to lose it again or having a heart attack following a cocaine overdose, Diego Maradona maintains his position as one of world football’s most brilliant and troubled enigmas.


Surely his appointment as the Argentinean head-coach will provide the fans with some great television when the press get on his back.


Bernard Tapie and l’OM


French businessman, politician and sometime actor and TV host, Bernard Tapie was president of Olympique de Marseille between 1986 and 1994 when he helped lead them to the French League title and the European Cup. The glory surrounding these wins was short lived as it transpired that in 1993 Tapie had attempted to fix a match between Marseille and Valenciennes in the hope of resting his best players for more important matches.


Olympique de Marseille were subsequently stripped of their French league title but not the European Cup and were forcibly relegated to the French second division the following season for further financial irregularities, which were blamed on Bernard Tapie. In 1994, Tapie was put under criminal investigation for complicity of corruption and subornation of witnesses and in 1995 was sentenced by the Court of Appeal of Douai to 2 years jail time, including 8 non suspended, and 3 years of deprivation of his civic rights.


He actually served 6 months in prison in 1997 and was also later prosecuted for tax fraud.

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