No Love Lost for This Romeo, a Cut above Even the Truly Tough Players; NAME-CALLING: Going on Gooily the Last Thing on the Mind of AC Milan, Juventus, Roma and Italy Hard Man Benetti

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), September 5, 2002 | Go to article overview

No Love Lost for This Romeo, a Cut above Even the Truly Tough Players; NAME-CALLING: Going on Gooily the Last Thing on the Mind of AC Milan, Juventus, Roma and Italy Hard Man Benetti


Byline: Alun Rees

IT would be nice to think that Mr and Mrs Beckham's naming of Son No 2 was an entry into the debate on hard men engendered by the recent perturbations in the life of Roy Keane.

While the names of such adepts at putting themselves about as Graeme Souness, Jimmy Case and Vinnie Jones were being bruited, Ma and Pa Beckham went for Romeo. Doesn't sound hard: usually evokes images of lovestruck youths going on gooily about girls.

But this Romeo, on his day off from going on gooily, was a tough. The greatest fencing reporter of all, William Shakespeare, immortalised the way he turned things round as a sub in the famed swordplay match between Montague United and Capulet Hotspur in old Verona.

Tybalt Capulet does for Mercutio Montague with a foul for which he should have been red-carded (1-0). So Romeo Montague, as well up for it as a Millwall midfielder, does for him (11). Match then halted as some felt it was turning a shade nasty.

The other sporting Romeo who springs to mind pursued the same trade as Pa Beckham. Hard? You can classify soccer toughs in four categories: (a) hard, (b) harder, (c) ``Help, I want my mum'' and (d) ``Behave, you lot, or Romeo Benetti will get you.''

Category (a) players are reactive. Want a game of football? Fine. Oh, it's a kicking match you're after - well, you asked for it. Memories of Newcastle's Jimmy Smith demonstrating the art of counter-clogging on Peter Storey, who fancied himself, still warm the old cockles.

Ferenc Puskas did more to dissuade big athletic chaps from picking on little fat chaps than anyone in history. And there was Eusebio: could smell a high tackle three pitches away, and overtopped the over-the-topper. Nobody tried kicking him twice.

Category (b) lads are category (a) types with a tendency to take additional umbrage when team-mates are discommoded by the uncouth. Chopper Harris of Chelsea fame was one of the greats: looked like a choirboy, but it was the vulgar opponent who ended up singing soprano.

Raymond Kopa (if French soccer had any soul every stadium in the land would be named after him) and the incredible Dave Mackay were category (b) giants. Puskas could be provoked into a move from category (a), and Denis Law wasn't above enlisting, either.

Paul Ince during his Italian sojourn was perhaps the daddy of category (b) players of recent times. …

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