Premier League refs agree on worst player to officiate who was "downright rude"

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Premier League referees have a notoriously fraught relationship with some players, leading to many clashes between them on the pitch.

Among the worst to deal with, according to match officials, sits Craig Bellamy, who celebrates his birthday on Wednesday. Bellamy featured for Liverpool, West Ham and Manchester City, often drawing the ire of referees.

But the Welshman was not the only one who fell foul of the men in black, with plenty of others also having poor relationships with them. Here, Daily Star Sport looks at seven of those who referees believe were the worst players to take charge of.

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Craig Bellamy

Michael Oliver told The Athletic of Bellamy: “Craig Bellamy was incredibly difficult. I watched him for two or three years — I’m a Newcastle fan and you wanted him in your team because he was a winner. But he was a nightmare to referee because he would argue about everything. If you told him it was black, he’d tell you it was white.”

Mark Clattenburg agreed with Oliver, telling the Daily Mail: “I knew my relationship with him was on sticky ground when he squeezed my balls in the tunnel at the Etihad, and I don’t mean my match balls.

“He would snarl at you and throw his arms around, constantly challenging you. His language was awful, just plain rude. As a referee, it is difficult when you have a problem player like that because you are drawn to him and it’s a distraction."

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Howard Webb, considered to be one of England's best referees of recent times also had a bad experience with the attacker: “Not long after the 2010 World Cup, I was fourth official at Anfield and was sitting quietly on my own at the back of the technical area.

"Bellamy was on the bench for Liverpool, and happened to catch sight of me sitting behind him. ‘Oi you, fuckin’ shithouse,’ he yelled. ‘You fucked up that World Cup good and proper, didn’t you, eh?’

“Not wishing to lower myself to his level with a similarly snide retort, I pretended I hadn’t heard. However, I remember thinking at the time there weren’t many more obnoxious players around than Craig Bellamy.”

Alan Stubbs

Martin Atkinson, who retired last season, said of former Everton star Stubbs: "He would kick anything that moved, was hard as nails and scared me to death when I first got on. He was just so tough to referee that it was, like, impossible. I learned a lot from that – you learn how to manage players."

Rio Ferdinand

Another player Clattenburg found difficult to deal with was Rio Ferdinand, during his time under Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United. Clattenburg explained: "I found him difficult to referee during that Fergie era because he was always trying to play mind games. He tried to get under your skin, probably to get that next decision. He was such a difficult player to referee as he was always in your face. When I got older and a bit more wiser, he probably left us alone more."

Ian Wright

Ian Wright amazingly fell foul of former referee Jeff Winter in a charity game: "I remember when my career was actually over, two weeks after the FA Cup final, and Wright was playing in a Legends match. He came on and the minute he came on, I thought, ‘Oh, shit.’ It was a Legends match but the game totally changed straight away because he was in my face, screaming and moaning.”

Roy Keane

Unsurprisingly, former United hardman Keane's name is one that crops up, as Clattenburg explained: "Roy was physical, hard and you couldn't trust him. Look at the tackle on Alf-Inge Haaland for example. You never knew what he was going to do next. He always came across as stone-cold and wanted to be the hard man."

Mike Dean agreed with his former colleague, telling BBC Sport: "I got in the Premier League in 2000 when I was 31, 32, and you had massive, big personality players the Keanes, people like that, Vieira, they were all around then. It was just a massive step, and I was probably in awe of them as well to be fair. [I was] probably a bit nervous and a bit scared of making a decision."

Jens Lehmann

Former Arsenal keeper Jens Lehmann was renowned for his crazy reputation, which also impacted Clattenburg: "I used to find Jens Lehmann such hard work. He was always difficult because he'd always whinge about people stepping on his toes in the penalty area. A corner would come in and they would give him a little nudge and he'd go ballistic and push players and have arguments with referees. He was always a difficult one."

Alan Smith

Another player Winter struggled to get onboard with was Alan Smith, telling The Athletic: “My lasting memory of him on a football pitch was obnoxious, foul-mouthed, disputing every decision, in the days where the cameras were into the players’ faces; effing, blinding, screaming, shouting. Smith epitomised that type of player."


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