Top Tens

  • Top Tens

When team-mates stop being friends

Tom Walker
June 29, 2012
Chris Ashton is held back by captain Dylan Hartley after being punched by Manu Tuilagi © Getty Images
Enlarge

After Dereck Chisora was attacked by his own coach, Don Charles, as the pair continued with preparations for the grudge match with David Haye, we've unearthed 10 other tales of in-fighting.

Chris Ashton v Manu Tuilagi, 2011
How Ashton stayed on his feet we will never know. Not club team-mates, but soon-to-be England colleagues, Ashton became quickly acquainted with Tuilagi's right hand when the Leicester centre reshaped his head with a stinging blow during the Tigers' 11-3 Aviva Premiership semi-final win over Northampton at Welford Road. Ashton had reason to feel pretty cheesed off after Tuilagi stopped him in his tracks with a high tackle, the winger reacting immediately by shoving Tuilagi in the back. Tuilagi jumped to his feet and unloaded a couple of lefts that, luckily for Ashton, failed to connect properly, but the follow-up right had no problems finding the target - and yet somehow Ashton failed to hit the deck. Both men were sinbinned, with Tuilagi subsequently banned for five weeks. There were fears that the two might collide while on England duty but during the World Cup warm-up campaign Ashton said: "We kissed and made up a while ago to be honest. It's all forgotten. We're part of a team now and it's never brought up."

Mark Regan v Barry Williams, 1997
On the Lions tour of South Africa in 1997, Mark Regan and Barry Williams were fighting it out to be Test understudy to Ireland's Keith Wood. A healthy rivalry is all well and good, and competition for places is never a bad thing, but it wasn't long before they were aiming haymakers at each other during a testosterone-fuelled training session. A brutal scrummaging session led to two flare-ups, with the rival hookers unable to keep their hands off of each other, and a collapsed scrum that would have done wonders for the neck. Rob Wainwright did the honourable thing and stepped in to break up the fisticuffs, not that you would think anything untoward had happened listening to the instigators. "It happens in club training most weeks, so there's nothing to get in a sweat about," Regan said.

Joey Barton v Ousmane Dabo, 2007
Having burnt Manchester City youth-team goalkeeper Jamie Tandy's eye with a cigar in 2004, bad boy Barton courted more controversy when he went to town on Dabo's face in front of a group of children at a training session. Some bone-crunching tackles were exchanged, leading to both men wading in with the windmills. Dabo came off worse, and needed hospital treatment to after being left with a suspected detached retina. Dabo told the Manchester Evening News at the time: "The fact that I look like the Elephant Man and will not be able to play again this season is bad enough, but what I find most shocking is that he struck me first from behind and then repeatedly when I was down on the ground. He is a coward and his actions are despicable." Barton, who was sold to Newcastle in the wake of the incident, was given a four-month suspended sentence and 200 hours' community service, as well as a six-game ban by the FA. Barton's version of events differs somewhat from Dabo's. He told So Foot: "It's him who hit me from behind with his hand, and when he did that, I hit him back, so he started it. I didn't. You have to defend yourself. Ousmane was bigger than me, but it happened just like that - bang, bang, bang and it was over. The truth is he started the fight and I finished it. Frankly, Ousmane is a little pussy."

Lewis Hamilton v Fernando Alonso, 2007
No punches thrown in this one, but plenty of bad blood all the same. Hamilton took victory in the Hungarian Grand Prix, but it was the breakdown of his relationship with team-mate Fernando Alonso that was the main talking point. The first signs of disharmony within the camp came in qualifying, when Alonso - who struggled to cope with the pace of his rookie team-mate - complained that the British driver had hindered a qualifying run. The Spaniard then turned the heat up on Hamilton, refusing to leave his pit box for 10 seconds despite being released by the team. Hamilton couldn't get into his pit box and subsequently missed a second qualifying run, which lead to the stewards receiving complaints about Alonso's underhand tactics. Alonso was penalised five grid places, leaving Hamilton on pole. There was to be no burying the hatchet, with Alonso leaving McLaren just one year into a three-year contract in November 2007.

There was no love lost between Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso when they were both at McLaren © Sutton Images
Enlarge

Lance Armstrong v Alberto Contador, 2009
"My relationship with Lance Armstrong is zero." Not your everyday phrase, but it was pretty obvious how Contador felt about his Astana team-mate. Contador, celebrating his second Tour de France title, revealed relations between the pair had soured during the three-week Tour, with their respective egos preventing team cohesion from being truly established. "The situation was tense and delicate because the relationship between myself and Lance extended to the rest of the staff," Contador went on. "On this Tour, the days in the hotel were harder than the those on the road. He is a great rider but it is another thing on a personal level, where I have never had great admiration for him and I never will." Armstrong pulled no punches with his reply, saying: "If I were him I'd drop this drivel and thank his team. Without them he doesn't win."

Zlatan Ibrahimovic v Oguchi Onyewu, 2010
As if Ibrahimovic's imposing frame wasn't enough off a reason to not get in a scrap with the striker, you can add to the mix he is a black belt in Taekwondo, and you start to see why it might not be the best idea to trade punches with the big Swede. Standing at 6'4", defender Onyewu chose to ignore the warning signs when his AC Milan team-mate made a dangerous tackle on the training ground. It took 10 team-mates and coaches to break it up, and it's just as well they did if you take Ibrahimovic's description of the fight as gospel. "I'm not talking about a small row," Ibrahimovic wrote in his autobiography, I Am Zlatan. "It was like life and death. Onyewu and I almost killed each other." It was only after they had kissed and made up that Ibrahimovic discovered he had suffered a broken rib.

Danny Cipriani v Josh Lewsey, 2008
Cipriani was left nursing a bloody nose and cut lip after being flattened by Wasps team-mate Lewsey in a training ground bust-up. Not renowned for his tackling, Cipriani incensed Lewsey when he failed to bring down a couple of men in training. Cipriani supposedly told Lewsey to "shut up or be shut up", which he soon realised wasn't the smartest move as he found himself picking himself off the floor following a tasty right hook. "It's nothing out of the ordinary," Wasps' director of rugby, Ian McGeechan, said. "This sort of thing happens every week. I'm quite chuffed it was two backs involved. Look, what's new? These are rugby players after all. It's simply not an issue. There's been nothing for us to really deal with."

John Hartson v Eyal Berkovic, 1998
Berkovic lost his rag after Hartson told him to get up after a crunching tackle at West Ham's training ground. Berkovic "cursed" Hartson but instantly regretted it as the Scot planted a boot into his face. "Hartson gave me a kick in the head - not a light one but one done with all his heart. If it was a football, it would have flown into the back of the net," Berkovic said. "I was on the floor for about ten minutes. There was plenty of blood. For two days, I could not eat through the pain." Detailed and harrowing in equal measure.

Lee Bowyer and Kieron Dyer come to blows © Getty Images
Enlarge

Kieron Dyer v Lee Bowyer, 2005
At least with the rugby lads a fight means a fight and not some embarrassing scuffle that consists of two men playing with each other's shirts and shouting the odd profanity. Dyer and Bowyer gave a textbook example of this before they were both shown red cards during Newcastle's defeat to Aston Villa. As the ball travelled up field, the pair squared up to each other in the middle of the park, with Bowyer attempting a couple of wild right hooks after some tenuous shirt grabbing. Gareth Barry stepped in to defuse the situation but judging by Bowyer's screwed up face he wasn't in the mood to make up with Dyer. "We're fine now,"' Bowyer said in 2007 as it emerged that Dyer was on the way to join him at West Ham. ''Back then, when it happened, it was just a crazy moment but I honestly don't have any worries about it at all now."

Brian Laws v Ivano Bonetti, 1996
It's not every day chicken wings cost you your job, but that's reportedly what happened to Bonetti while he was at Grimsby Town. Following a 3-2 defeat to Luton, a team that Grimsby had hammered 7-1 in the FA Cup third round only a month prior, a seething Laws apparently took his frustrations out on the Italian by throwing a plate of chicken wings in his face. Bonetti may have enjoyed a good feed but whether it was worth getting a fractured cheekbone for is another question. Bonetti left for Tranmere on a free transfer at the end of the season, while Laws lasted until November of the following campaign.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Close