From Senna v Prost to Devon Malcolm v South Africa, via José Mourinho, Lee Hendrie's wife and Dixie Dean's lost testicle
Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna were the great rivals of their era, perhaps motor racing's greatest rivals of all. And in successive seasons the bitterness of their rivalry was exposed in petty, season-deciding tit-for-tat collisions of varying degrees of obvious deliberateness, both in Japan during the penultimate race of their respective seasons.
The first came in 1989, with the team-acquaintances (team-mates would be stretching it a bit far) at McLaren-Honda. Senna started 13 of the 16 races that season on pole, and as they approached the 15th he had won six, while Prost had taken four. But the Brazilian had also failed to finish six times, while Prost had been merrily clocking up the points, failing to finish only once. As a result the Frenchman led the standings, and Senna had to win both remaining races to retain his title.
Senna, as usual, started on pole but Prost swiftly overtook him. The pair battled for 45 of the 53 laps before, at the final chicane on lap 46, Senna attempted to overtake, Prost cut him off, and the pair collided and skidded off the track. Prost got out of his car, his race over, but Senna refused to accept the same fate, restarted his car with the help of some marshals, and returned to the fray.
Although he had to stop to fit a new nose cone Senna still managed to win the race, only for the FIA president – Jean-Marie Balestre, a Frenchman – to disqualify him on a technicality.
The title race was over. It would be fair to say this made Senna a little grumpy. "1989 was an unforgivable situation," he said, a couple of years later. "I still struggle to cope with that, when I think about it. We had a bad time with the FIA, I had a bad time with Balestre. You all know what took place. They decided against me and that was not justice."
Fast forward a year. Senna and Prost are no longer team-acquaintances, the previous season's champion having moved to Ferrari, but once again they contest the title. Of the first 14 races Senna won six, Prost five. Just as in 1989 one of them had to win the last two races to take the title, but the roles were reversed, Senna this time being strong favourite for success.
Senna qualified fastest in Japan, but was angry that Prost, in second, had the better starting position. He demanded the better racing line, but Balestre put his foot down. And so to the start. Prost got away quicker, but by the first corner Senna was going faster, and attacked. The cars clipped, and both span off. The title race was over.
"What he did was disgusting," Prost said. "He is a man without value." Balestre fumed: "It is a scandal that a world championship should be decided on such a collision." But there were no grounds for a disqualification. The title was Senna's.
"I really felt that I was fighting for something that was correct," said Senna, "because I was fucked [the previous year], I was fucked in the qualifying procedure when I got pole. I tell you if pole had been on the good side, nothing would have happened because I would have got a better start. I would have been first into the first corner without any problem. But it was a result of a decision, a bad decision, influenced by Balestre. I know that. We know that from underneath. And we all know why, and the result was the first corner. It was not my responsibility. I did contribute to it, yes, but it was not my responsibility." SB
Dixie Dean was never booked and never sent off. If scoring a goal really is better than sex, and if sex releases pheromones that can make you happier, Dean must have been a very happy man indeed. His record – 18 in 16 games for England, 383 in 433 for Everton, 60 for his club in the 1927-28 season alone – is spellbindingly impressive, particularly given the obstacles he was forced to overcome. There was a motorcycle accident in 1926, in which Dean fractured his skull and his cheekbone and broke his jaw in two places. Doctors considered it unlikely that he would survive, and downright impossible that he would return to the football field, but they underestimated him rather badly. This, after all, was a man whose pain threshold had been set pretty high when, at the age of 17 and still a Tranmere player, a nasty challenge from an opponent – some sources insist he was playing Rochdale, others Altrincham – caused him a particularly nasty scrotal injury. When a team-mate attempted to tend to the damaged area, Dean famously shouted: "Don't rub 'em, count 'em!" The count didn't go well, and from that moment on there would forever be one ball Dean couldn't stick in the onion bag. So to speak.
Nearly 20 years later, Dean walked into a pub in Liverpool and went to the bar. Someone bought him a pint, probably not an unusual experience for Dean on Merseyside, so long as he picked the right bar. He looked at the man. The man looked familiar. "He sent me a pint across the bar," Dean later said. "I couldn't quite place the face for a time, but then I did." It was the face of the man who skewered his scrotum. "I thumped him," Dean said. "They took him to hospital." SB
Not just a classic case of sporting revenge, but a case of double-revenge from 1994. First South Africa took revenge on Devon Malcolm. Then Devon Malcolm took revenge on South Africa for taking revenge on him. He won.
It all began in South Africa's first innings, when Malcolm unleashed a jet-propelled delivery that destroyed Jonty Rhodes's helmet, ended his innings and forced him to spend a night in hospital. His team-mates were not best pleased, and even though Malcolm's own turn at the crease didn't arrive for another two days, that ball had not been forgotten. As he took guard, England's final batsman, he heard a voice from the slips. "Let him have it, Fanie," it said.
"There is an unwritten law among fast bowlers that you never bowl a bouncer first ball to another fast bowler," Malcolm later explained. "So when I was batting, I was expecting a yorker from Fanie de Villiers and had my bat in place for the yorker before he had even bowled. He hit me right between the eyes and cracked my helmet."
As a piece of said helmet freewheeled towards short leg, the Englishman rose to his feet and declared: "I'm going to kill you guys. You guys are fucking history." Moments later Malcolm was out, England's innings was over, and their fast bowler returned to the dressing room full of fury.
"He had peppered our guys," De Villiers later said. "It was quite funny, the boys said to me: 'Pin him,' as he had chirped us. But the moment I hit him on the head they were all mad at me, because he stood up and said to the guys nearby: 'You guys are history!' And by then the wicket had degenerated."
The rest, like South Africa's batsmen, is history. After his first ball ripped past Gary Kirsten, Malcolm turned to the watching tourists on the balcony and yelled: "You all better be padding up now boys, you'll be out here soon enough." And with that, he set to work. Kirsten misjudged a speeding delivery and Malcolm himself collected the looping outside edge, 1-0. His brother, Peter, in his last Test innings, managed a single run before he misjudged a hook, and Phil DeFreitas took the catch, 2-1. Hansie Cronje lasted seven balls before a jaffa ripped out his middle stump. South Africa had lost three wickets for a single run, and Malcolm's figures read 2-2-0-3.
Darryl Cullinan, Kepler Wessels and Brian McMillan provided some obstinate opposition, but Malcolm eventually dealt with the latter two, plus Dave Richardson and Craig Matthews, and was on course to take all 10 wickets until Darren Gough had Cullinan caught in the slips for 94. Malcolm dealt with the tail to finish with nine wickets for 57 runs; Cullinan's signed shirt is now in his office, framed and bearing a plaque that reads: "The one that got away."
"I'd never seen fast bowling like it before," Kirsten wrote in his autobiography. "He was particularly quick, on a particularly quick wicket, and the result was chaos."
Allan Donald said his side had been "swept away by the most destructive piece of fast bowling I have ever seen".
"I don't think this is the quickest I've bowled for England, but I was fired up," Malcolm said at the end of the day. "I know these guys don't like fast bowling – nobody does. I wouldn't like to face me, either."
Looking back on the day a few years ago, Malcolm said: "People ask me what was going on and all I can say is it was just one of those days when everything clicked at the same time. I was in a zone, as they say. I could have bowled forever. I just didn't feel tired. It would be nice to wake up feeling like that every day."
Revenge, as they say, is sweet. The following year England travelled to South Africa, and a warm-up match was interrupted to allow Nelson Mandela to meet the tourists. Mandela worked his way down the line of cricketers, shaking hands, until he reached Malcolm. "I know you," he said. "You're the destroyer." SB
October 1970, and the Leeds United centre-half Jack Charlton agrees to be interviewed by Fred Dinenage, most famous for presenting children's television, reading ITV local news in the Kent and Hampshire area, and being on the board of directors at Portsmouth. Charlton was always a forthright interviewee and, with this being just a pilot for a new series and never intended to be broadcast, was probably even more relaxed than usual.
The interview went well, and Tyne Tees considered the pilot so watchable that they broadcast it, with the footballer's permission. And thus the world found out that Charlton was willing not just to bend the spirit of the game but to snap it in two like a twig, or an opponent's femur. First Charlton admitted that he would perform a professional foul. "If I saw someone getting away with the ball and I couldn't catch him, I would flatten him," he said. "My job is to stop a man scoring. I wouldn't break anyone's leg or anything like that, but I would maybe grab him by the scruff of the neck and stop him running."
Then he was asked about the worst challenges he had been on the receiving end of. "I cannot mention names," he said, "but I have a little book with two names in it, and if I get the chance to do them I will. I do not do what I consider to be the bad fouls in the game, such as going over the top. I will tackle as hard as I can to win the ball, but I will not do the dirty things, the really nasty things. When people do it to me I do it back to them. There are two or three people who have done it to me and I will make them suffer before I pack this game up."
The quotes were reported in the national media, with various degrees of moral opprobrium, along with demands for punishments ranging from a small ban to instant sacking. "I don't know what all the fuss is about," he said. "I have been in this game a long time and I am not a dirty player, but what I referred to in the interview does happen. Everyone knows what goes on but no one has ever said it before. I was asked a question and I answered it honestly."
He was charged by the FA with bringing the game into disrepute, and attended a private hearing at the London offices of Tyne Tees television. He clearly put his case rather well, for the FA's final decision was "that J Charlton be admonished and advised to be more careful in the future when commenting on the game". Which is some way from stringing him up, as the Express and others had demanded.
"There was never any little black book," he later insisted, but it's the thought that counts, and by the time he wrote his autobiography the list had expanded from the original two. "I didn't really have a black book," he wrote, "but I did have perhaps five or six players in mind who had committed nasty tackles on me and whose names I wouldn't forget in a hurry. I'd get them back if I could, but I would do it within the laws of the game." (If you want to read more about the affair, there's an excellent article on the mightyleeds website here.)
Charlton remained an entertaining interviewee, memorably laying into the great Italy and Milan defender Franco Baresi as "a tippy-tappy type of player". Niall Quinn, who played under Charlton for the Republic of Ireland, summarised his footballing philosophy particularly well. "I've spent 10 years at club level working on my technique, developing close control," he said. "When people say I've got good feet for a big man, it's the compliment that means most to me, music to my ears. Then I go to Ireland and Jack tells me that if I start doing any of that shite he'll have me on the first plane home. That's his way." SB
As any regular reader of tabloid newspapers will know, in their downtime Britain's professional footballers are a fun-loving bunch, the fun they particularly love being of the horizontal kind, generally in the company of the nation's fine womenfolk. Inevitably, this behaviour results in a certain number of spurned, mistreated former lovers seeking revenge, frequently by telling journalists about their experiences for eventual, lurid two-page splashes headlined "MY SEX HELL WITH SPURS LOVERAT", or somesuch.
And with that, over to Becky Hendrie, who having already borne him two children, Maizie and Telulah, married the then Aston Villa star Lee in June 2004 only to find out, before they even got as far as the honeymoon, that he had been cheating on her with a woman eight years her junior. They never did have that honeymoon; instead she applied for a credit card in her husband's name, and went shopping.
"I think any woman would do what I did," she told the Sunday Record in 2006. "He didn't behave very well and I thought I'd get him back where it would hurt the most – in his pocket. I spent it on just about everything really – clothes, shoes, jewellery and stuff like that."
Mrs Hendrie also decorated her husband's new £60,000 Porsche Cayenne, number plate X1 HEN, with the words "prick" and "wanker". "I pressed so hard I dented the bodywork," she said. "I know it was a criminal thing I did but it was sweet for me after the way the bastard had rubbed my nose in it. Lee just can't say no to sex, no matter how much it hurts and humiliates me."
If Becky wanted her husband to suffer financially, a few years down the line her wishes would come most emphatically true. In January 2012, in very small part because of Becky's shopping spree, Hendrie was declared bankrupt. We take absolutely no delight in Hendrie's financial demise, about which he spoke eloquently to our own Stuart James last year, and on a recent episode of Radio 4's You & Yours, but there's a chance that his ex-wife did. Looking back now at what she said in 2004, with the player still starring for Aston Villa, it seems remarkably prescient: "Lee can sit with his new lover, counting his cash and enjoying his exotic holidays and cars, but I have the one thing his millions can never buy – the love of my children. When his fame and cash are gone, what will he have left? Nothing." SB
If you're going to engage someone in a game of one-upmanship, you should always be aware how far your opponent might be willing to go. Although José Mourinho was more or less untouchable during his first two seasons at Chelsea, winning back-to-back league titles, his relationship with the club's owner, Roman Abramovich, began to sour after the £30m signing of Andriy Shevchenko from Milan in 2006. Mourinho was unsure about Shevchenko, feeling that a player who was once the best striker in Europe would not be able to keep up with the pace of English football and his doubts were vindicated by the Ukrainian's underwhelming spell at Stamford Bridge.
But like most billionaires, Abramovich likes to get his way. Shevchenko never settled though, and when Chelsea were hit by a defensive injury crisis during the 2006-07 season, Mourinho wanted money to spend in January. Nothing doing and Chelsea ended up losing their title to a rejuvenated Manchester United, although they did beat them in the FA Cup final. Still it seemed that this was a squad in need of a tweak or two in the summer, but once again Mourinho was denied the funds he desired. In came Florent Malouda from Lyon for £17m, but that was as lavish as it got.
Of course it is possible to read too much into Mourinho's mindset during the summer of 2007, but it remains a struggle to understand what precisely he saw in Tal Ben Haim, Claudio Pizarro and Steve Sidwell. Chelsea stuttered at the start of the 2007-08 season and, after a 1-1 home draw with Rosenborg in the Champions League in September, Mourinho was gone. But while Mourinho lost his job, it's still unclear who really had the last laugh. After all, there's a handy lesson here for anyone who's toying with the idea of messing with Mourinho: you might think you've won, you might think you've beaten the ultimate champion, but after you've handed him his P45, returned to your office and poured yourself a celebratory glass of scotch, suddenly you'll remember that he gave the No9 shirt to Khalid Boulharouz . JS