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Premier League"s worst divers – according to Vinnie Jones

Diving has been happening for 20 years… it is up to captains and managers to stamp it out, says hardman Vinnie Jones



13:44 GMT, 11 December 2012

Vinnie Jones is explaining how he keeps up to date with events in the Barclays Premier League when the tone of his voice deepens considerably.

The thorny issue of diving has arisen in our conversation and Jones makes no attempt to conceal his disgust. Jones may now live in Hollywood and have a portfolio of 60 movies but, to a certain generation, he was the quintessential football hard man.

As one of the founder members of Wimbledon’s ‘Crazy Gang’, Jones took no prisoners and relished trying to take the big clubs down a peg or two. He was always rough and tough but never did this midfield enforcer rely on the dark arts of trying to hoodwink referees.

No contact: Santi Cazorla wins a penalty for Arsenal despite there being debate as to whether Steven Reid made contact

No contact: Santi Cazorla wins a penalty for Arsenal despite there being debate as to whether Steven Reid made contact

Going down: Cazorla goes over close to Reid and wins a penalty

Going down: Cazorla goes over close to Reid and wins a penalty

So when he is asked for his views about the theatrical antics that have become commonplace each weekend – the latest being Arsenal midfielder Santi Cazorla’s risible tumble against West Brom – Jones, typically, does not hold back.

'I was filming in New York last week for an episode of Elementary and I was in my trailer watching Celtic in the Champions League, in between scenes,’ said Jones, who also played for Chelsea, Sheffield United, Queens Park Rangers and Leeds before ending up in Tinsel Town.

'Anyway this geezer from Spartak Moscow gets tackled but goes down as if he had been shot in the calf with a 12 bore shotgun. He was only doing it to get the Celtic lad booked. He goes off the field after a bit of treatment then he’s running around with no problem.

Theatrical: Luis Suarez goes down while under pressure from Vincent Kompany

Theatrical: Luis Suarez goes down while under pressure from Vincent Kompany

Taking a tumble: Suarez goes down against Arsenal

Taking a tumble: Suarez goes down against Arsenal


‘There were so many good lads playing in my day you were always guaranteed a battle. If I had to pick the hardest out I’d go for Bryan Robson, Steve McMahon, Terry Hurlock, Roy Keane and Carlton Palmer. Why Carlton He was so big, he’d run away from you and you’d never catch him!’

'Well, in my view, the referee should have booked him when he got up. All this is starting to creep up on clubs. You hear this talk of Gareth Bale but he’s not doing anything that David Ginola wasn’t doing. He was 6ft 4ins and you’d see him rolling all over the place.

'It’s terrible. It’s out and out cheating. This debate keeps rearing its ugly head every three or four years but nothing seems to happen.

'Everyone says it is down to the referees to sort it out but that isn’t fair. Referees are under such pressure now. Why are they getting stick from managers Managers and captains should be setting the example and other players should follow their lead to stamp it out.

'I’ll tell you a story: when I was at Wimbledon, one of our players – who shall remain nameless – went down with a dive in the area. I walked over, picked him up by his hair on the back of his neck and told him “we don’t do that here, son. Got it” I promise you he never did it again.’

No contact: Gareth Bale has been accused of being a serial diver

No contact: Gareth Bale has been accused of being a serial diver

Unbelievable: Bale has been booked for simulation four times this season

Unbelievable: Bale has been booked for simulation four times this season

Jones is in full flow now. From recounting how Wimbledon defied the odds in 1988 to beat Liverpool in the FA Cup final to speaking of his pride that Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch – his first acting roles – remains in the top five British movies of all time, the chat is never dull.

His is a quite remarkable story – the one time hod-carrier who joined the a Hollywood A-list – but even though his career has changed dramatically, his passion for football burns as intensely as it did when he was going toe-to-toe with the best around.

Fittingly, Jones has just become an ambassador for Warrior Football – the manufactures of Liverpool’s kit – and he describes England captain Steven Gerrard as befitting the image of the brand; a player who would never give up.

No nonsense: Vinnie Jones was known as a tough tackling midfielder

No nonsense: Vinnie Jones was known as a tough tackling midfielder

Unfortunately, though, he feels there are too few characters in the modern game.

'I said this would happen 20 years ago,’ he continues. ‘All this diving around isn’t new. I said the Premier League would get flooded with foreign players but people at the time said we needed them. I always felt it would be to the detriment of the national team.

'I feel sorry for Roy Hodgson. Harry Houdini couldn’t get England to win a tournament now. But I still watch the Premier League religiously. We probably see more games in America live than you do at home. We just need to see more of these honest players going in blood and thunder.’

Screen stars: Vinnie Jones and Everton midfielder Marouane Fellaini (below) star in the new Warrior Sport advert

Screen stars: Vinnie Jones and Everton midfielder Marouane Fellaini (below) star in the new Warrior Sport advert

Marouane Fellaini

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Vinnie Jones is an Ambassador for Warrior Football

Salford 8 Widnes 46: Hanbury on song as Vikings stun Reds

Salford 8 Widnes 46: Hanbury on song as Vikings stun Reds



21:45 GMT, 20 July 2012

Salford's hopes of a top eight finish
in Super League suffered a massive setback as Widnes ran in eight tries
in an emphatic win.

Scrum-half Rhys Hanbury was the star
of the show with two tries and eight goals, while Patrick Ah Van and
Cameron Phelps also bagged two tries each for the rampant Vikings.

Widnes, hammered 38-18 at home by Salford in February, went into the clash in confident mood after a resounding 40-10 win over Castleford and a narrow one-point defeat by St Helens.

However, the Vikings were without skipper Jon Clarke, Paddy Flynn and Shaun Briscoe although Stefan Marsh, Joe Mellor and Ah Van had all recovered from knocks.

The Reds were also buoyed by successive victories against Warrington and Hull KR and decided to delay the debut of 35-year-old assistant coach Sean Long, who was registered as a player with the club this week.

Youngster Mark Sneyd continued at scrum-half alongside Exiles star Daniel Holdsworth after Matty Smith's move to Wigan, with Sean Gleeson back in the centre.

Ashley Gibson kept his place after the late withdrawal of Joel Moon and the Reds clearly missed his power in midfield.

Widnes had an early Hep Cahill try disallowed by referee James Child for an infringement in the build-up and then Paul McShane was held up over the line.

It was a bright start by the Vikings but Salford should have scored when Hanbury lost possession and Vinnie Anderson and Holdsworth broke clear.

A niggly opening kept the officials busy with desperate Salford defence again denying Marsh when he looked a certain scorer.

Widnes were rewarded for their perseverance when John Kite's charge set up the chance for Hanbury to send Phelps bursting through Lee Jewitt's tackle after 24 minutes.

Hanbury booted the conversion and Widnes went further ahead three minutes later when Phelps' pass took a deflection from a defender before Ah Van touched down in the corner.

Hanbury kicked the goal off the touchline to make it 12-0 as Salford struggled to reproduce recent form.

The Vikings added a third try four minutes before the break when Ah Van latched on to a McShane kick to cross, with Hanbury's conversion stretching the lead to 18-0.

Hanbury then piled on the agony for Salford with a scorching burst to score, and his fourth goal made it 24-0 at the interval.

Salford were hammered 10-3 in the first-half penalty count but should have scored early in the second half before Jordan James threw away a chance after a strong burst by Iafeta Paleaasesina.

It was no surprise when McShane burrowed over from dummy half to extend the lead to 30-0.

The Vikings suffered a blow with the departure of Eamon Carroll with an arm injury but Widnes were ripping apart Salford in midfield and another Hanbury burst sent Phelps over for his second try.

Hanbury bagged his second touchdown with another sizzling effort to stretch the advantage to 40-0.

Gibson went over for Salford after 58 minutes before Danny Williams took his try tally to seven in four games to give the home fans something to cheer.

However, Danny Craven sealed the win for the Vikings by intercepting a Sneyd pass to record the eighth try six minutes from time.

Salford 10 St Helens 32: Saints making late surge under Rush

Salford 10 St Helens 32: Saints making late surge under Rush


22:40 GMT, 22 June 2012



22:40 GMT, 22 June 2012

Mike Rush hailed Jon Wilkin's impact as St Helens produced 32 unanswered points to secure a dogged win.

Saints came back from 10-0 down after Vinnie Anderson and Danny Williams had got the Reds off to a flyer and Rush said: 'Jon's been in good form a few weeks now. He pushes, kicks and defends really well.

'He's having a very good season for us. We took our chances well.'

Thomas Makinson of St Helens (L) evades a tackle from Jodie Broughton of Salford City to score their third try

Thomas Makinson of St Helens (L) evades a tackle from Jodie Broughton of Salford City to score their third try

Josh Jones and Lance Hohaia levelled the scores for Saints before Wilkin's high kick saw Tommy Makinson edge the visitors ahead. Tries for Jonny Lomax, Michael Shenton and Paul Wellens sealed the points.

'We were in the game right until the end. I'm disappointed for a lot of the guys in the dressing room,' said Salford boss Phil Veivers.

Salford let slip a 10-0 lead against St Helens for the second time this season as Rush's men continued their impressive run in the Stobart Super League.

The Reds conceded 38 points without reply in going down 38-10 at Langtree Park in February and there was a touch of deja vu as they were once more unable to maintain their early promise, with Saints finishing strongly at the City of Salford Stadium.

Saints have now lost just two of 11 league matches under Rush and Keiron Cunningham, both to leaders Wigan, and have their sights set firmly on a seventh consecutive Grand Final appearance.

Salford have little left to play for apart from pride but the final scoreline did little justice to their efforts, with the visitors running in three converted tries in the last six minutes. St Helens were without prop Josh Perry but they had all nine players involved in last Saturday's internationals and two of them, Lance Hohaia and Jonny Lomax, especially caught the eye.

Yet Salford dominated the first half, highlighted by touches of class from stand-off Daniel Holdsworth in particular, and they deserved their 10-6 half-time lead.

Hohaia breached the Salford line midway through the first half but referee James Child had spotted an obstruction and it was the Reds who opened the scoring three minutes later.

Inevitably, Holdsworth was at the heart of the move as he supplied the final pass for former St Helens back rower Vinnie Anderson to go past Paul Wellens for a try, to which Holdsworth added the conversion.

Hohaia had another try disallowed, this time for a knock-on, before Salford stretched their lead through Danny Williams.

The former Newcastle Falcons winger, who this week signed a new two-year contract, produced a superb finish after Salford ran the ball on the last tackle and Chris Nero cleverly drew the Saints defence out of position.

St Helens hauled themselves back into the game just before the break when centre Josh Jones collected Hohaia's towering kick to touch down and Tom Makinson added the goal to cut the gap to four points.

It was all square two minutes into the second half when Hohaia went over from dummy half for Saints' second try and the visitors went in front for the first time on 53 minutes when Jon Wilkin's kick hung in the wind and enabled centre Michael Shenton to get Makinson over at the corner.

Makinson was unable to master the wind with either of his latest conversion attempts but, at 14-10, the momentum was firmly with the visitors.

The Reds continued to look lively but they suffered a blow when tough-tackling forward Shannon McPherson hobbled off on 65 minutes and there was no way back for them when Wellens tapped the ball back from Wilkin's high kick for Lomax to touch down.

Saints then made sure with two further tries through Shenton, who followed up his own grubber kick, and Wellens, with substitute Lee Gaskell kicking three conversions.

Salford 34 Catalan Dragons 30: Reds launch stunning fightback

Salford 34 Catalan Dragons 30: Reds launch stunning fightback



21:39 GMT, 1 June 2012

Two tries: Salford's Jodie Broughton

Two tries: Salford's Jodie Broughton

Salford claimed their second big-name scalp within a week with a sensational comeback victory over the Catalan Dragons.

Salford followed up their Magic
Weekend win over Huddersfield by denying Catalan the chance to move into
second spot in the Stobart Super League table and continue their own
push for a play-off place.

The Reds looked down and out as they
were blitzed in the opening exchanges and conceded four tries to trail
20-0 after just 24 minutes.

But the hosts then scored 28 points
without reply, despite being down to 11 men at one stage, as Daniel
Holdsworth and Vinnie Anderson were both sin-binned for dissent by
referee Steve Ganson.

Then in a frantic finale Catalan looked like getting the upper hand when Remi Casty touched down.

But back came the Reds and Jodie
Broughton's second try of the game on 70 minutes, converted by
Holdsworth gave the Reds an eight-point cushion which meant Vincent
Duport's late try was not enough for the Dragons.

Salford kept with the same 17 that
defeated Huddersfield 38-34 at the Magic Weekend with just one
positional change as Anderson started in the second row and Chris Nero
dropped to the bench.

Catalan picked up a number of
injuries during their win over London at the Etihad Stadium with Clint
Greenshields, Jamal Fakir and Mathias Pala all ruled out to add to
long-term absentees Damien Blanch, Setaimata Sa and Frederic Vaccari.

But the French side were given a triple boost by the return of Daryl Millard, Gregory Mounis and David Ferriol after their injury problems.

And it was Catalan who exploded out of the blocks with some excellent attacking play that saw them cross for two tries in the opening seven minutes.

Dureau instigated a crisp passing move along the line that ended with winger Millard crossing for the opening try of the night.

And it got even better for the Dragons two minutes later when a rampaging 40 metre midfield break by loose forward Jason Baitieri set up Scott Dureau to touch down, to which the scrum-half added the conversion to make it 10-0.

The Dragons continued to boss the opening exchanges and claimed their third try of the half on 16 minutes when more excellent passing between Sureau and Thomas Bosc created the space for winger Cyril Stacul to squeeze over in the corner to further increase their lead.

The one-sided feel to the game continued as the Dragons claimed a further try on 24 minutes when despite having three Salford players on his back prop forward Lopini Paea managed to crash over under the posts.

Bosc added the conversion to give his side a commanding 20-0 advantage. The home side finally came to life late in the half with two tries in two minutes to haul themselves back into the game.

Firstly centre Joel Moon claimed the home side's first try of the game on 28 minutes and then two minutes later a superb break by Luke Patten saw stand off Holdsworth collect his inside pass to score.

Holdsworth was on target with both conversions to cut the deficit to eight points at 20-12.

But having grabbed a foothold in the game Salford appeared to press the self destruct button as firstly Holdsworth was sent to the sin bin by referee Ganson in the 37th minute for dissent.

And two minutes later he was followed by team-mate Anderson for the same offence to leave the Reds with 11 men as the half-time hooter sounded.

Despite being two men short the Reds started the second half in explosive fashion when winger Jodie Broughton broke from deep inside his own half and Sean Gleeson was on hand to finish the move off and Matty Smith's conversion cut the deficit to just two points at 20-18.

And the amazing turnaround was complete four minutes later when still down to 11 men Leon Pryce fumbled possession and Broughton reacted quickest to scoop up the loose ball and race 40 metres to score to which Smith again goaled to make it 24 unanswered points for the home side.

And Salford made it 28 points without reply with a superb effort from Patten.

A try from Casty for the visitors gave some more anxious moments for the home side before a second from Broughton sealed an amazing win although the visitors had the final word with a late Duport try.

Salford City Reds 20 Bradford Bulls 20: Late Broughton try snatches draw

Salford City Reds 20 Bradford Bulls 20: Late Broughton try snatches draw



22:38 GMT, 18 May 2012

Jodie Broughton snatched a dramatic draw for Salford with a try three minutes from time.

The Reds trailed 20-16 until Broughton took a Luke Patten pass to go over in the corner but Daniel Holdsworth missed the conversion.

Karl Pryce bagged a hat-trick for the Bulls, who were also awarded a controversial Tom Burgess try by referee Richard Silverwood.

Salford City Reds 20 Bradford Bulls 20

The Reds, playing against a strong wind in the first half, trailed 10-6 at the break.

Bradford went into the clash having triumphed in 22 of their 29 Super League meetings against Salford, who won 38-18 at Odsal in March.

The Bulls were missing the suspended John Bateman with Andy Purtell, Jarrod Sammut, Chev Walker, Nick Scruton and Brett Kearney still sidelined through injury.
But Bryn Hargreaves, formerly with Wigan and St Helens, made his 200th career appearance.

Salford faced an uphill task winning the forward battle with Shannon McPherson, Ben Gledhill, Jordan James, Vinnie Anderson and Wayne Godwin all missing from a depleted pack.

But Reds prop Adam Sidlow tore into the Bulls from the start and ploughed over for his first try since last June in the sixth minute after Craig Kopczak conceded a penalty.

Holdsworth tagged on the conversion but the Bulls almost replied when Hargreaves released the ball close to the Reds line but the chance went begging.

Jamie Langley's clever distribution gave Salford problems, with Steve Wild putting in a crunching tackle to clear another danger.

Burgess made an immediate impression when he appeared as sub but Salford's defence held firm until Pryce powered over in the corner after 32 minutes.

Luke Gale missed the conversion but a surging Elliott Whitehead run gave Bradford more confidence.

Pryce notched his second try in three minutes from a looping Gale pass after Salford conceded another penalty.

This time Gale made no mistake with the goal attempt to fire his side ahead 10-6 at the interval.

Sean Gleeson spilled the ball straight from the kick-off in the second half before Salford rallied courtesy of a sizzling Luke Patten break.

Holdsworth and Gleeson combined for Danny Williams to squeeze over in the corner and make it 10-10.

The Bulls hit back immediately with Pryce completing his hat-trick after Ben Jeffries saw the Reds cover out of position and his precision kick bounced kindly for the winger.

It was still anybody's game and Gleeson's smart flick pass put Williams over for his second try after 55 minutes, with Holdsworth's conversion edging the Reds in front 16-14.

Pryce came close to a fourth try from a Gale kick but was pushed into touch by Williams.

Both sides made frequent handling mistakes round the ruck but it was Burgess' controversial try nine minutes from time which restored the Bulls' lead.

Shaun Ainscough looked yards offside when he collected Jeffries' kick to put Burgess over and Gale converted to make it 20-16.

Referee Silverwood allowed the try to stand, to Salford's fury, but Broughton struck back after Oliver Elima was sin-binned.

Widnes 18 Salford 38: Vikings slain by rampaging Reds

Widnes 18 Salford 38: Vikings slain by rampaging Reds

Salford turned in a sizzling first half show to break their duck in the Stobart Super League this season and leave new boys Widnes still searching for their first win.

The Vikings – without Scott Moore, Hep Cahill and Simon Finnigan, all suspended for a breach of club discipline – trailed 32-6 at half-time and lost Ben Kavanagh and Anthony Watts through injury.

They turned in an improved second half show but stay rooted to the foot of the table.

Easy: Salford's Luke Patten grabs a try

Easy: Salford's Luke Patten grabs a try

Moore and Cahill joined the Vikings from St Helens and Crusaders in the close season and played in the club's first two defeats back in the top flight.

Finnigan, in his second stint at Widnes following spells at Salford, Bradford and Huddersfield, was a substitute in last week's 66-6 thrashing by the Giants.

The Vikings were also missing Cameron Phelps and Brent Kite, still in Australia awaiting their visas, and injured Shaun Briscoe but Anthony Watts and new skipper Jon Clarke were back.

Confident: Salford romped to victory

Confident: Salford romped to victory

Salford had Vinnie Anderson returning from illness but were missing Joel Moon, who broke his hand in the battling defeat at St Helens and Sean Gleeson.

The Reds made a flying start after Ben Cross was penalised for interference and Matty Smith sent Daniel Holdsworth over in the second minute.

Holdsworth tagged on the conversion and had a chance to fire his side further ahead but threw a wild pass to Danny Williams.

Another penalty conceded by Willie Isa proved costly for Widnes, who fell 12-0 behind when Luke Patten went over despite Smith's pass bobbing along the ground.

Powerful: Salford's Iafeta Paleaaesina impressed

Powerful: Salford's Iafeta Paleaaesina impressed

Crunch: Widnes' Patrick Ah Van gets to grips with Salford's Chris Nero

Crunch: Widnes' Patrick Ah Van gets to grips with Salford's Chris Nero

There was nothing fortuitous about the Reds' third try after 17 minutes with Danny Williams' scorching break allowing Patten to cross for his second try.

Widnes came close with Patrick Ah Van denied by Holdsworth before the winger took Frank Winterstein's clever pass to squeeze over in the corner and convert his own touchdown.

Vikings sub Kavanagh was carried off on a stretcher only five minutes after replacing Cross. He was injured when he appeared to catch his studs in the pitch fielding a kick with no Salford defender in close proximity.

Holdsworth brushed off Jon Clarke's poor tackle and booted his third conversion to stretch the lead to 22-6.

Patten, who was ripping Widnes apart alongside Holdsworth and Smith, sent Jodie Broughton over and when Watts was sin-binned for dissent the Reds took advantage of the extra man for youngster Gareth Owen to nip over from dummy half and stretch the interval advantage to 32-6.

There was no stopping Iafeta Paleaaesina who charged over from Owen's pass early in the second half when Widnes were still down to 12 men.

Watts returned from the sin-bin but went off almost immediately with a leg injury.

Ah Van gave the Widnes fans something to cheer by shrugging off Patten to grab his second try and then land the conversion off the touchline before Paddy Flynn's effort three minutes from time.

The Saturday debate: Who is the toughest tackler you have ever witnessed in action?

The Saturday debate: Who is the toughest tackler you have ever witnessed in action

Nigel Reo-Coker intimated earlier this week that Premier League players do not know how to tackle, so Sportsmail asked out panel of experts who is the toughest tackler they have witnessed in action.

Uncompromising: Stuart Pearce

Uncompromising: Stuart Pearce


Stuart Pearce. When Stuart Pearce
went into a tackle for England it was as if he was tackling for me, the
bloke sitting next to me, my next door neighbour – and the whole


Gerson. No-one in this country wanted
to be on the wrong end of tackles from Ron Harris, John Giles, Peter
Storey, Bobby Collins, Paddy Crerand or Graeme Souness, while Bryan
Robson and Dave Mackay were among our most prolific and cleanest

But the most ferocious tackler of them all was also a cultured exponent of the most beautiful game.

Gerson was the link between the
defence and attack of the greatest team of all time – Brazil's 1970
World Cup winners – and such was his mastery of the ball and midfield
that he was voted above Pele, Carlos Alberto, Tostao, Rivellno and
Jairzinho as the man of that magical final against Italy.

Gerson's ruthlessness in the tackle,
however, was best expressed by the 100,000 fans in Rio's Maracana
stadium who clicked their fingers in unison whenever he went into the
tackle. It created the noise of a leg breaking.

It was the most unnerving sound – most of all for the opponent about to be challenged by Brazil's enforcer-in-chief.


Billy Whitehurst. My strongest memory is going into a tackle with Billy Whitehurst when I was at Aston Villa for which he was favourite and then, all of a sudden, I was favourite.

He let me get the ball and then clattered into me deliberately afterwards. I had scars down my shins for 18 months.

Combative: Vinne Jones

Combative: Vinne Jones


Vinnie Jones. A no-contest. It seemed Jones could be nasty, evil and wicked on the football field, as vindictive as they come.

For evidence, check out his assault on Manchester City's Peter Reid five seconds into an FA Cup tie back in 1991 on YouTube, or his scandalous challenge on Steve McMahon in the first few minutes of Wimbledon's 1988 FA Cup final victory over Liverpool.

There were no apologies and certainly no prisoners where Jones was concerned.


Souness. Has there ever been a harder man on a football pitch He might
be the cultured, sophisticated, articulate face of football punditry
now, but Souness was as tough as they come and a wonderful, wonderful
player, too. He was a winner. He won the ball and usually the match.

Hardman: Norman Hunter 'tackles' Jim Cannon of Crystal Palace

Hardman: Norman Hunter 'tackles' Jim Cannon of Crystal Palace

Wild streaK: Terry Hurlock

Wild streaK: Terry Hurlock


Norman Hunter. One video was played to death in my house through the 1990s. My dad eventually broke that cassette after rewinding a clip of Hunter one too many times. It was from 1968 when he left an Everton player flat-out, unconscious. For a 12-year-old lad it was both brutal and beautiful.


Smith. Bill Shankly said: 'Tommy Smith wasn't born, he was quarried.'
He was a more frightening sight than those hard men of Leeds – Bremner,
Hunter and Giles.


Terry Hurlock. I first saw him playing for Brentford at Chesterfield when he was an immense midfield presence, if slightly wild. Fans connected with him.

Andrew Flintoff"s battle with depression

Flintoff: Depression is crippling… I cried in front of my dad and retiring was all I'd think about

Andrew Flintoff has experienced the debilitating effects of what he describes as a 'crippling psychological injury'.

An affliction made all the worse because, in sport, you dare not speak its name. And yet it is estimated that one in 10 sportsmen has suffered some form of depression. Former Wimbledon footballer Vinnie Jones admits it got so bad for him that he 'walked into the woods with a gun'.

Boxer Ricky Hatton, snooker player Graeme Dott, Celtic boss Neil Lennon and Flintoff's ex-England team-mate Steve Harmison, have all suffered. None of them know why.

Highs and lows: behind Flintoff's big smiles and personality was a troubled man

Highs and lows: behind Flintoff's big smiles and personality was a troubled man

What they do know is it has something to do with the one thing that unites them: sport. So why do these fit and strong athletes feel so painfully fragile inside And why do so many feel unable to reach out for help

The former England cricketer searches for answers in Freddie Flintoff: Hidden Side of Sport, a documentary aired on Wednesday night.

Psychologist Steve Bull, who spent 12 years working with the England cricket team, offers some insight: 'You could see the world of professional sport as not a particularly healthy one. You play, train, travel. You are focused almost to the point of being obsessed about what you do. You get the total sense of personal identity from your sport.

'When things are going well that's OK. When they are not it's challenging to your personal identity.' Flintoff struggled to unite the public persona of cocksure Freddie with the Andrew who was full of self-doubt.

'I was sitting in the dressing room as this fella who will drag everyone with him,' he says. 'If I had turned round and said, “Look lads, I'm really struggling”, it would have sent shock waves. So I thought I shouldn't.'

Fantastis Fred: Flintoff addresses the all-too common problem in sport

Fantastis Fred: Flintoff addresses the all-too common problem in sport

Flintoff, the ostensibly gregarious Ashes-winning all-rounder, admits to feeling so low he 'didn't want to get out of bed'. On Christmas Eve 2006, he was captain of his country yet he broke down in tears in front of his dad, Colin, and apologised for letting him down.

'The 2006-07 Ashes series was my all-time low, both professionally and personally,' he said. 'I didn't want to face people. All I was thinking about when I was on the field was retiring. 'I don't think I was ever the same player again after that.'

Here, other sporting stars talk of their own, desperate, experiences with depression…



In 1996 former football 'hard man' Vinnie Jones bit a reporter on the nose in a bar in Dublin.

When he got home he felt so ashamed he 'took a gun up to the woods and that was it'.

'With the intention of firing it' asks Andrew Flintoff. 'Yes,' is the decisive reply. 'I just felt that I had let everybody down,' said Jones.

'You just feel so degraded in yourself. Why do these people have to keep putting up with me'

'(But) I thought, “Is this going to make it worse Leaving the family in this state of shock”

'I didn't want to be in a selfish depression, if you like.' Jones, now 47, freely admits that, as a footballer in the 1980s and 1990s, talking about depression 'would have been taken as weakness. It was something that wasn't recognised,' he said.

'They (managers) are not trained in that sort of thing. In sport, when I was playing, there was nobody to talk to.

'If you had turned around, and you are bottom of the league, and one of the lads says, “I've got depression”, you would smack him round the side of the head, wouldn't you

'And say, “Pull yourself together”. 'I think it was ignored. I think it would have been taken as weakness.'


The 2006 world snooker champion came close to quitting the game when he drifted out to No 48 in the provisional world rankings just two years later.

He could barely win a match and there were personal traumas, too.

Dott's father-in-law, and former manager, Alex Lambie had died in 2006 and his wife, Elaine, suffered a miscarriage.

But the 34-year-old Scot finally sought help. He now manages his illness with medication and reached the 2010 World Championship final.

Dott said: 'I never actually thought I had depression.

'I went through months of doing nothing. I had no interest in doing anything. I wouldn't speak to my wife.

'It was the tournament in China before the World Championship. I was losing my match and I actually started crying.

'I thought, “My career is finished”. 'I was quite paranoid with depression. I thought everybody was talking about me all the time.

'People think it's happy pills but it's nothing like that. It just makes you feel normal.

'I think I will be on them forever. I have tried to come off them and then I start feeling low again.'

Crazy Gang: Jones was troubled behind his on-field tough guy persona

Crazy Gang: Jones was troubled behind his on-field tough guy persona


When Celtic manager Neil Lennon was 29 years old he endured three months of 'abject misery'.

He said: 'I was just numb. I had no emotion at all. 'I woke up one morning and I just didn't feel right.

'I became this other sort of person that I never recognised.

'It's not just a mental illness – it can affect you in a physical way – lack of sleep, sweats, shakes, lack of appetite.

'My life was just running along very, very smoothly. It was perhaps a genetic thing.

'My life, for three months, was abject misery. There's sort of a feeling of shame as well.'

Lennon, 40, has recognised similar problems among his young players, and gave one individual a month off to help him recover from depression.

'(My old manager) Martin O'Neill gave me some good advice.

'He said, “Just treat it like an injury, like a hamstring strain and, you know, in three or four weeks' time, it will be better”.

'You just had to get through it as best you could.'

CASE HISTORY: Ricky Hatton

Boxer Ricky Hatton, now 33, admits he knew he was going to lose before he faced Manny Pacquiao in May 2009.

Hatton said: 'Walking to the ring before I fought I thought, “I'm going to get beat here. You have peaked too soon”. The bell rang for the first round and I was overly reckless. He flattened me in two rounds. I came out of the ring and took my mouthguard off and I took my gloves off and I just put a towel over my head, and I remember just sobbing and sobbing.

'I was devastated. I felt like hanging my head in shame. I just cried and cried and cried. 'It took me four months to actually watch the tape of the fight. Being such a proud man, it was very hard to take.'

Hatton's solution was to drink his way through the fog.

'If you are suffering from depression and then you add drink to it, it's like a runaway train,' he said. At the end of the night you are sat in the corner of the pub sobbing. ' I suffered from depression after the Floyd Mayweather fight (in December 2008). 'For three years after that (I suffered) with depression.

'It's very, very hard for any man, but especially a boxer, to go to someone and say, “I'm struggling”. It's tough.'

Down and out: Defeat to Pacquiao in 2009 crushed Hatton

Down and out: Defeat to Pacquiao in 2009 crushed Hatton

Case history: Steve Harmison


Andrew Flintoff tells how he watched his close friend Steve Harmison 'suffer in silence' for 10 years, wondering if his failure to help was 'one of his failings as captain'.

Harmison, 33, said he only realised how bad things had got during England's tour of South Africa in 2004-05. His voice falters as he says: 'When we got to Johannesburg I struggled to breathe. I was hyperventilating.

'That's when it dawned on me – you've got a problem and you have got to sort it out. I was panicky, shaking, experiencing really bad heads. I thought, you are not well. There is something wrong and you have got to sort it out.

'But I still can't get to the answer of why I felt like that.'

Freddie Flintoff: Hidden Side of Sport – Wednesday night BBC 1, 10.45pm