Rash tackles, emotional outbursts and the occasional go at the referee could earn you a yellow card in European football these days. While some of them are almost regulars in getting a booking – Gareth Barry or Wayne Rooney – it’s worth noting that since the Premier League started, out of the top twenty offenders, fifteen of them are English.
Why? Because the English are a bunch of sly ‘men’ who expect everyone else to be as manly as they are. Kidding, of course.
Ron Swanson is a ‘vowel-dropping accent’ away from being English by that definition. Surprisingly, however, the Queen’s men are also some of the most gentlemen-Esque footballers the sport has ever seen.
Yes, Barry might have been the most fouled footballer the Premier League has seen – with Rooney fifth on the all-time list – but the sport wasn’t always the way it is today.
Referees were a lot more lenient back in the day and by lenient we mean, allowed a lot more physical contact before blowing the whistle. And there are a few footballers who haven’t been booked even once!
Here are five such gentlemen: (With their playing career in brackets)
#5 Gary Lineker – (1978 – 1994)
The most recent player to go through an entire career without being booked is BBC’s man, Gary Lineker. The Englishman started his career with Leicester City, moved to Everton, then to Barcelona and ended his European stint with a move to London’s Tottenham Hotspur. He ended his playing career with the Japanese side Nagoya Grampus Eight.
Considered one of the best strikers the game has ever seen, Lineker holds the honour of being the only Englishman to win the Golden Boot in a FIFA World Cup event – having bagged the award in 1986. He’s also the only striker to win the English Golden Boot with three different clubs: Leicester, Everton and Tottenham.
Having gone through his entire career without earning a single booking, Lineker was honoured with the FIFA Fair Play Award in 1990. He’s one of the most ruthless players to have played on British shores yet showed sympathy and respect for his peers on the field making him an all-round nice guy.
#4 Sir Stanley Matthews – (1932 – 1965)
Sir Stanley Matthews is a legendary name and is considered one of the greatest ever players the English game has ever seen. Having spent the majority of his career with Stoke City, he holds the honour of being the only footballer to have been knighted during his professional playing career.
He’s also one of the fittest footballers England has ever seen as Matthews was still playing when he was 50!
Sir Stan was also the first-ever player to win the European Footballer of the Year award as well as the Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year award in the same year.
He was such a gentleman and a gift to the sport that Matthews was the first-ever man to head to Apartheid-controlled South Africa and set up a football with 11 all-black men. The team were called ‘Stan’s Men’ and went on to create history and play a part in bringing freedom to those affected.
Oh, and he was never booked as a professional footballer. 33 years as a professional footballer and not even a stern talking to from the referee.
#3 William Beveridge “Billy” Liddell – (1938 – 1961)
The third William on this list, the second Billy and Merseysider (club-wise) on this list; meet Billy Liddell – Liverpool legend and one of the best forwards during his time as a professional footballer. The Scot was known the world over for his strength, pace, control of the ball and professionalism.
He made 492 appearances for Liverpool – including the appearances he made during wartime – and scored 215 goals as a left-winger, a centre-forward and as a traditional number 9. Liddell was also famous for being nicknamed ‘Liddellpool’ given the kind of gentleman he was on the field and remains the only Liverpool player to have never received a booking throughout his playing career.
Liddell was the kind of role model a lot of youngsters looked up to in those days. You rarely find a player who’s both deadly in front of a goal and a gentleman at the same time. He’ll go down in history as one of the nicest people the sport has had.
#2 William Ambrose “Billy” Wright – (1939 – 1959)
While Billy Wright is a legend to make it on this list, the Wolverhampton man is best known for a host of other records. A one-club man, Billy Wright holds the record for being the first-ever footballer to have 100 caps with an international team.
He also holds the record for being the player with the longest playing streak in international football. Wright has another record for being the longest-serving captain the English national side has ever had: leading the team out 90 times including in three FIFA World Cup finals – 1950, 1954 and 1958.
Billy made 490 appearances for Wolverhampton Wanderers and stayed on the clean side of the rules by making sure he received no bookings throughout his career. Going by all the records he’s made, it’s a shame people don’t talk about him – or praise him – enough.
#1 Willian Ralph “Dixie” Dean – (1923 – 1940)
All of those who’ve played EA Sports’ FIFA series on ‘beginner’ might be familiar with Dixie Dean given Martin Tyler and Alan Smith won’t shut up about him when you score sixty goals or more in your respective domestic league.
Dean is an Evertonian legend. Although he played for five clubs in total, he spent the majority of his professional career playing for the Merseyside club and scored a whopping 349 goals in 399 appearances wearing the Toffees’ shirt.
Dean also has the rare honour of being one of the few professional football players who never received a booking of any kind. He made 447 appearances for all his five clubs in total and played the sport without any of its dirty necessities.