Top 10 Most Violent Players in the English Premier League History

Tags: #PremierLeague ,   #Football ,   #Soccer ,   #footballislife

Michael Wendom

Michael Wendom

Last updated:  2023-12-25 13:27:35

The English Premier League is widely considered one of the world's most competitive and physical football leagues. With high stakes and intense rivalries, it's not uncommon for things to get heated on the pitch. Over the years, several players have developed a reputation for their aggressive and dangerous play. Consequently, they have caused controversy on the pitch, and their actions have often resulted in suspensions. Here are the top 10 most violent English Premier League players.

10. Michael Brown

Michael Brown wasn't big, but he was not afraid of anyone
Premier League teams: Manchester City, Portsmouth, Sheffield United, Tottenham Hotspur
Preferred dirty tactics: Breaking the opponent's legs
Intimidation factor: 6/10
Violence rating: 7/10
Player info

The former midfielder Michael Brown never shied away from a challenge, and his tough tackling often got him in trouble with referees. Brown was a combative player, always looking to disrupt his opponents' rhythm and break up their attacks. His physicality on the pitch earned him a reputation as one of the most aggressive players in the league.

Yet, Brown was a skilled player, and his tenacity helped him win numerous battles on the pitch. He played for several clubs in the Premier League, including Manchester City, Portsmouth, and Tottenham Hotspur. Although many disciplinary incidents marked his career, Brown provided intensity and aggression that was hard to match. While he'll never be among the game's greats, there is no denying that Michael Brown left a lasting impact.

9. Eric Cantona

Cantona still doesn't regret what he did
Premier League teams: Leeds United, Manchester United
Preferred dirty tactics: Rough tackles, mind games
Intimidation factor: 9/10
Violence rating: 7/10
Player info

Eric Cantona is a football legend who brought us outstanding playing style and infamous on-field outbursts. During his time in the Premier League, Cantona favored an intense and physical style of play, which often bordered on the violent. He was recognizable for his quick temper and willingness to confront opponents and referees alike.

Cantona's most infamous moment came during a match against Crystal Palace in 1995 when he was sent off for a kick aimed at a spectator. The incident led to a nine-month suspension and tarnished Cantona's reputation in the eyes of many. Yet, he never regretted it. Furthermore, that's one of the reasons he missed playing at the FIFA World Cup. Despite this, he remains one of the most iconic players who ever graced the Premier League. Therefore, his legacy lives on through his incredible skill and unique personality.

8. Nigel de Jong

Typical de Jong, which was very unfortunate for Ben Arfa
Premier League teams: Manchester City
Preferred dirty tactics: High-leg tackle
Intimidation factor: 6/10
Violence rating: 8/10
Player info

Nigel de Jong's tough-tackling and combative style on the pitch sometimes crossed the line into dangerous play. The Dutch midfielder played for several Premier League teams, including Manchester City. This is where he gained notoriety for a reckless challenge on Newcastle's Hatem Ben Arfa, breaking his leg. 

De Jong's aggressive playing style earned him several red cards and a reputation as one of the league's dirtiest players. Despite the controversy, he was a valuable defensive midfielder and helped his teams to several major titles and the World Cup final. While he may have been a liability at times, de Jong's commitment and passion for the game are hard to match.

7. Patrick Viera

Viera rarely committed atrocious tackles, but his intensity is unmatched
Premier League teams: Arsenal, Manchester City
Preferred dirty tactics: Pressuring his opponents
Intimidation factor: 9/10
Violence rating: 5/10
Player info

At 6ft 4in, Vieira was an imposing midfielder who never shied away from a physical challenge. He was a fierce competitor who always gave his all on the pitch, often leaving opposing players nursing injuries due to his aggressive play.

However, Vieira also regularly received yellow and red cards. He was sent off eight times during his Premier League career, often due to reckless or dangerous challenges. Despite his disciplinary record, Vieira is still one of the top midfielders of his era. Therefore, his performances on the pitch helped lead Arsenal to numerous titles, cementing its status as the best London football club. Although, not the Champions League.

6. Lee Cattermole

Lee Cattermole was always eager to add fuel to the fire
Premier League teams: Middlesbrough, Wigan Athletic, Sunderland
Preferred dirty tactics: Aggressive tackles, verbal incidents
Intimidation factor: 8/10
Violence rating: 8/10
Player info

Cattermole quickly earned a reputation as one of the league's most combative players while playing for Sunderland, Wigan Athletic, and Middlesbrough. He received numerous yellow and red cards during his career, which saw him spend time on the sidelines. Cattermole's commitment and determination on the field were unquestionable, but his physicality sometimes crossed the line into dangerous play.

Despite his disciplinary issues, the midfielder was a valuable team player and a fan favorite for his tenacious performances. He was praised for his leadership qualities risking all for the cause. However, his aggressive nature could sometimes hinder his team. Despite this, Cattermole's reputation as a tough-tackling midfielder remains intact.

5. Duncan Ferguson

Fergusson has a huge collection of red and yellow cards
Premier League teams: Everton
Preferred dirty tactics: Anything using his hands
Intimidation factor: 9/10
Violence rating: 9/10
Player info

Ferguson is among the most formidable and intimidating players in the league's history. Standing at 6ft 4in, he possessed both physical strength and skill. Yet, his playing style often landed him in hot water with the Football Association on several occasions. 

He shares the record for the most red cards received in Premier League history, with eight. However, one of the most notable incidents occurred in 1994 in the Scottish Premier Division, when he headbutted opponent John McStay. Yet, his fierce commitment to the game remains an inspiration to many football fans around the world.

4. Roy Keane

The darkest moment of Roy Keane
Premier League teams: Nottingham Forest, Manchester United
Preferred dirty tactics: Verbal violence, breaking legs
Intimidation factor: 9/10
Violence rating: 8/10
Player info

Roy Keane is undoubtedly one of the Premier League's most controversial players. The former Manchester United captain employed fierce determination and aggression. Consequently, that often resulted in clashes with opponents and officials. Keane was unafraid to throw himself into tackles and stand up for his teammates.

One of the most infamous incidents involving Keane happened during the 2001 Manchester derby. That time, he launched a reckless challenge on Manchester City midfielder Alf-Inge Haaland. The tackle severely injured Haaland's knee, and Keane was subsequently handed a five-match ban and fined $230,000. Despite the backlash, Keane remained unapologetic about the incident, stating he had no regrets. His fierce and uncompromising approach to the game earned him respect and fear among his fellow players and fans.

3. Ben Thatcher

The single most violent act in Premier League history
Premier League teams: Wimbledon, Tottenham Hotspur, Leister City, Manchester City
Preferred dirty tactics: Elbow to the head
Intimidation factor: 8/10
Violence rating: 10/10
Player info

Ben Thatcher was never afraid to put in a strong tackle or two, often leaving opposing players in a crumpled heap on the ground. However, his actions off the ball caught people's attention. In 2006, Thatcher missed eight games after a shocking elbow on Pedro Mendes. The incident left the Portsmouth midfielder unconscious and requiring oxygen on the field. The incident was widely condemned, and Thatcher was lucky to escape criminal charges.

Thatcher's violent streak was not limited to that one incident. He often left his mark on opponents in many ways, including late challenges and verbal altercations. While some fans appreciated his toughness and willingness to fight for every ball, others were appalled by his reckless behavior. Thus, Thatcher's legacy in the Premier League will always be tainted by his violent antics. Yet, there is no denying that he was a force to be reckoned with.

2. Joey Barton

Barton was highly unpredictable
Premier League teams: Manchester City, Newcastle United, Queens Park Rangers
Preferred dirty tactics: Throwing elbows, headbutts, rough tackles
Intimidation factor: 9/10
Violence rating: 10/10
Player info

Joey Barton is a name synonymous with controversy in the Premier League. Known for his fiery temper, Barton quickly gained a reputation as one of the most volatile players in English football. His on-field antics often landed him in trouble, with many high-profile incidents throughout his career.

One of the most infamous incidents involving Barton came during a match between Manchester City and QPR in 2012. After being sent off, Barton proceeded to elbow City's Carlos Tevez and aim a headbutt at Sergio Aguero. The incident led to Barton receiving a 12-match ban and a $110,000 fine. Despite his indiscretions, Barton remained a highly-rated player, known for his passing ability and tenacious midfield play.

1. Vinnie Jones

Vinnie Jones would do anything to make you suffer
Premier League teams: Wimbledon, Leeds United, Chelsea, Sheffield United
Preferred dirty tactics: Anything goes!
Intimidation factor: 10/10
Violence rating: 10/10
Player info

Vinnie Jones' reputation as one of the most violent players in English Premier League history precedes him. Known for his aggressive style of play and tough-tackling abilities, Jones quickly gained notoriety as a hard man on the field. Thus, he was willing to battle for every ball.

During his career, Jones played for clubs such as Wimbledon (now defunct), Leeds United, Chelsea, and Queens Park Rangers, and his tough-tackling approach made him a feared opponent. He was notorious for his ability to intimidate opponents and was often cited for violent conduct by referees. However, his uncompromising style of play also made him a fan favorite. 

 From Duncan Ferguson's aggressive style to Joey Barton's hot-headed antics, these players have pushed the boundaries of what is acceptable on the pitch. Yet, it would be wrong to label them as brutes with no skills. Instead, they all deserved their place in the Premier League, often leading their teams.

Who are some of your favorite tough and rough football players? Should football have even rougher rules against such behavior?

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