The Scot was adept at using his head but not always in the most advisable way. Ferguson, the Andy Carroll of his day, shocked football when he was playing for Rangers by headbutting Raith Rovers' Jock McStay in 1994 for no particular reason, somehow managing to avoid even a booking – imagine the minute-by-minute outrage if he'd done it in the Twitter era.
He moved to Everton, where he started well, helping them win the FA Cup in May 1995, but he was jailed for three months in October despite Everton's pleas for leniency. Everton called it a "witch hunt" and the club's manager, Joe Royle, said: "We are all amazed and stunned and can't really believe, in a society that seems dedicated to keeping people out of prison, that we are putting away a young man who is in a good job and is no danger to society."
To put it into context, Ferguson already had two convictions for assault, one for breach of the peace and one for drink-driving. In 1991, he was fined for headbutting a police officer. McStay was small fry by comparison.
Ferguson returned to action on 11 December 1995 as Everton hosted West Ham United at Goodison Park in a match that, surprise, surprise, was live on Sky Sports. Ferguson had to settle for a place on the bench and watched as Graham Stuart gave Everton the lead after 34 minutes, before West Ham lost their goalkeeper, Ludo Miklosko, to a red card after he conceded a penalty two minutes before half-time. David Unsworth duly made it 2-0.
Without a goalkeeper on the bench – sides were allowed only three substitutes then – West Ham put Julian Dicks in goal. John Ebbrell rounded off the scoring and Ferguson was introduced just after the hour; however, although he did get his head to one fine Unsworth cross, he was unable to beat Dicks.
Ferguson had to wait until his fourth match before he got on the scoresheet, scoring twice in the space of two first-half minutes as Everton won 3-2 at Wimbledon on New Year's Day. JS
Juventus had been without Paolo Rossi throughout the 1981-82 campaign. The striker had been serving the second year of a ban imposed for his part in the Totonero match-fixing scandal (a part Rossi has always denied), but in April, with three matches to go, he was ready to return and make his first appearance for the club he joined just before his ban came into effect. His comeback would be in the middle of a thrilling Serie A title race.
Juventus and Fiorentina had been neck and neck from Christmas onwards, leaving the rest of the division behind. With three games to go they were level on 41 points, with Roma eight points back in third. Juventus travelled to face Udinese, who were ninth but much closer to the relegation zone than the top two.
Even so, the home side took a second-minute lead through Paolo Miano and Rossi's glorious return was in danger of falling flat. But Domenico Marocchino equalised on the half-hour, Rossi provided the cross from which Antonio Cabrini fired Juve into the lead, then four minutes after the interval Rossi got across his marker to head home the third from a near-post free-kick. The points were all but safe. Cabrini and Pietro Paolo Virdis made it 5-1 with late goals.
It was a spectacular return (and Rossi would have a hand in earning Juventus what proved to be the title-winning penalty 15 minutes from time in the final game of the season at Catanzaro) but even better things awaited at the 1982 World Cup. JA
Joey Barton, not so much a stranger to controversy as its best man, has rarely been someone who has thought first and acted later. Trouble has always followed him and perhaps his lowest moment came when his current club, Queens Park Rangers, were fighting for their Premier League survival at Manchester City, who needed a win to secure the title, on the final day of the 2011-12 season.
QPR had equalised through Djibril Cissé at the start of the second half but Barton erupted minutes later after a clash with Carlos Tevez, who fell after a tangle with the midfielder on the edge of the visitors' area. Then, having been shown the inevitable red card by Mike Dean, Barton set about digging himself an even deeper hole, punching an unsuspecting Sergio Agüero in the stomach, aiming a headbutt at Vincent Kompany and gobbing off at Mario Balotelli on the touchline, before finally being led off the pitch by Micah Richards, his former City team-mate. And to think he once went to an art gallery.
City won, QPR stayed up but the FA was unamused by Barton's antics. A serial offender, he was banned for 12 domestic matches (with six suspended). By the time he was seen again, he was wearing a Marseille shirt during a Europa League group match against Fenerbahce, lasting a forgettable 70 minutes in a 2-2 draw.
Strangely Barton has never seen fit to thank the FA for giving him an unexpected holiday, even though it allowed him to spend more time looking up Jean-Paul Sartre quotes on Google. JS
If Luis Suárez does play against Manchester United at Old Trafford on Wednesday night, he will be following in the footsteps of Rio Ferdinand. Well, sort of.
There was a time when the accusation against Ferdinand was that a lack of concentration was holding back his defending but it was his doziness off the pitch that cost him and United so dearly in 2003. In December 2003, Ferdinand was banned for eight months by the FA after he had missed a drugs test earlier that September, depriving both club and country of their best defender for a considerable amount of time.
Ferdinand's last appearance for United before his ban was in a 1-0 defeat at Wolves in January 2004 and he was also not included in England's squad for Euro 2004. United were top going into that game against Wolves but their title defence unravelled without Ferdinand and they finished third as Arsenal's Invincibles won the league.
He did not return to United's defence until the following season and his comeback was against Liverpool under the Old Trafford lights on 20 September 2004. However it was Ferdinand's partner in central defence, Mikaël Silvestre, who stole the show, scoring two headers either side of an own goal from John O'Shea as United won 2-1. JS
"After 249 days of silence," wrote Richard Williams, "Eric Cantona took exactly 67 seconds to reassert his presence in the game." It had been a long wait for Manchester United and the France forward, who had not been on a Premier League pitch since slipping from the grasp of the United kitman Norman Davies and launching himself into the Selhurst Park terraces at Matthew Simmons on 27 January 1995.
A long wait. His initial season-long ban was extended to the end of September, the most severe handed out to a professional player in England since the betting scandal of 1964, but a two-week prison sentence was reduced to 120 hours' community service. In April there was the famous "seagulls" press conference. In July, United were investigated by the FA after playing Cantona in a training match against Rochdale, a slight Cantona took so badly that he slapped in a transfer request. United refused and Sir Alex Ferguson persuaded the United talisman to stay.
After tumultuous summer Cantona was finally back in the United first team for the game against Liverpool on 1 October. And he was brilliant. In the Guardian, David Lacey wrote in his match report: "Eight months after kicking his way into footballing history with a kung fu assault on an abusive Crystal Palace fan, Manchester United's gifted maverick returned to the muck and nettles of the Premiership to demonstrate, as if there had ever been any serious doubt, that his skills had survived the wilderness of the Football Association's ban."
He created the United's first with a cross for Nicky Butt after 67 seconds, and provided Lee Sharp with a chance from which he should have made it 2-0. Robbie Fowler then scored twice to put Liverpool 2-1 up, but with 20 minutes to go Jamie Redknapp hauled down Ryan Giggs, who was sprinting on to Cantona's pass. Cantona – who else? – stepped up to score from the spot. JA
Paolo Di Canio
The 11-match ban handed to Paolo Di Canio, sacked as Sunderland manager on Sunday night, for his shove on the referee Paul Alcock during Sheffield Wednesday's win over Arsenal on 26 September 1998 should have seen him return for the Owls in their Boxing Day fixture against Leicester City. Instead the Italian went awol, heading to his wife's home town of Terni, near Rome, saying he was suffering with "stress and depression".
Club and player could not put aside their difference and Di Canio was sold to West Ham. "I made a mistake and I'm sorry," said the £1.5m signing. "West Ham have given me a big chance and I'm very happy because they are a better team than Sheffield Wednesday." Not on his full debut they weren't. Di Canio had made his first appearance on a pitch as a 72nd-minute substitute in the 0-0 draw with Wimbledon on 30 January (more than four months after beginning his suspension), but he was in the starting lineup for the first time since that autumn afternoon at Hillsborough when West Ham welcomed Arsenal to Upton Park seven days later.
While Wednesday had beaten the Gunners 1-0, the Hammers went down 4-0 to the Dennis Bergkamp-inspired visitors. In the Guardian, David Lacey wrote that Di Canio "made a minimal impact but at least kept his hands off the referee". JA