No other soccer film so proudly demonstrates the types of foul play that can end players’ careers or easily result in a mass confrontation. An important archive of English football history, Soccer’s Hard Men is a 1992 film that every referee should watch.
Fortunately, most of the tackles, punches, crotch grabs, elbows, hits on GKs, and other misconducts shown in this film would be instant ejections today. But developing referees would see the hard evidence on why these fouls are now disallowed.
This documentary is characterized as “presented by” then 26 year-old Vinnie Jones, one of the Football Association’s hardest men, who went on to have a successful film career playing to type. For participating in this film, the FA subsequently fined Vinnie £20,000 but did not enforce their 6-month suspension. Particularly galling to the FA may have been his matter-of-fact enumeration of dirty tricks:
- elbow behind the ear on headers
- poke in the eye
- central defender sorts out the center forward early in the match
- studs on the back of the achilles “is always a nice one”
- help an opponent off the ground by lifting him by the arm hairs
- grab the testicles (as he was caught doing to Paul Gascoigne)
- tread on toes on corner kicks, especially on a freezing January day
Almost 10 years later, Vinnie demonstrates these and many more on Danny Dyer’s body in a hilarious scene in Mean Machine (Vinnie’s first starring role).
A ranking of hard men
Soccer’s Hard Men is not just about their fouls, but also showcases their talents and outstanding play. Superlatives come from interviews with a number of their coaches, including Brian Clough and Alex Ferguson. The hard men are ranked in this order:
- Graeme Souness – Scotland, Liverpool, Rangers
- Billy Bremner – Scotland, Leeds, “known to make the first tackle tell”
- Nobby Stiles – England WC 1966 winner, ManU, no front teeth
- Vinnie “Chopper” or “Psycho” Jones – Wimbledon, Leeds, capped by Wales late in career
- Steve McMahon – England, Liverpool
- Dave MacKay – Scotland, Tottenham, never sent off in his career
- Norman “Bite Your Legs” Hunter – England, Leeds
- Billy Bremner – Scotland, Leeds
- Bryan Robson – England, West Brom, ManU
- Jack Charlton – England WC 1966 winner, Leeds
- Tommy Smith – England, Liverpool, looks like Charles Bronson
- Ron “Chopper” Harris – England (no caps), Chelsea
- Peter Storey – England, Arsenal
Where did this film come from?
But who was the brains behind the film, and where did they get the rights to all that game footage? It’s a mystery. Video Vision Limited is credited as the distributor, and VVL appears it may have later become a mill for pirated videotapes. Perhaps someday Vinnie Jones will read this review and fill in the record on how this film got made. Staff listed at the end of a youtube video include:
- Narrator Tony Francis
- Exec Producers Bill Tennant & Johnny Fewings
- Production executive Helen Parker
And here’s one more tidbit. Back in 2004, Giampiero Ambrosi, a blogger, one-time TripAdvisor manager, and former Brown University captain, played against Hollywood United in a sort of rec league. Read his amusing writeup on how “Vinnie Jones Tried to Whack Me” but got sent off “just like the old days.”
7 Soccer Movie Mom Rating = 7