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Diary of a Pro Footballer: Secrets of Arsenal And Tottenham's Dressing Room

by Rohan Ricketts
8 April 2011 23 Comments

From pranks and banter to bullying and beatings: the footballers' dressing room is not a place for the faint-hearted - as former Arsenal and Tottenham midfielder Rohan Ricketts reveals in his latest expose of the not so beautiful game.

From pranks and banter to bullying and beatings: the footballers’ dressing room is not a place for the faint-hearted – as former Arsenal and Tottenham midfielder Rohan Ricketts reveals in his latest expose of the not so beautiful game.

As a footballer I’ve sat in a fair few dressing rooms and seen some crazy stuff that players get up to when they’re not on the pitch.

I remember being at Arsenal as a young boy, there was so many guys who would bring the changing room alive with their humour and spontaneous practical jokes. The first person who springs to mind was Ian Wright. I still laugh when I remember watching him drive off with the team coach at the London Colney training ground.

Being at Spurs was no different, the banter was hilarious. Robbie Keane and Jamie Redknapp were also great people to be around. They would love to wind each other up by secretly sending prank texts from the other one’s phone. Robbie would text Louise Redknapp pretending to be Jamie and then Jamie would get revenge by texting the Ireland manager from Robbie’s phone.

Of course there’s also all the usual stuff you have to put up with like someone cutting up your brand new Armani suit and putting shit in your shoes. But sometimes the wind-ups aren’t always so obvious.

When I was at Barnsley, Andy Johnson had a phobia of cotton wool so we put loads in his jeans. When he came back after training he put his hands in his pockets and started freaking out and having a bit of a seizure. He got so mad that he threatened to bring in a dead rat because he lived in a farm house and had some big ones kicking about.

I remember one player at Spurs who had slept with this girl who was in the public eye and she wasn’t the best looking. When the boys, especially Robbie Keane, found out about it they never stopped hammering him about it. They even got her number from his phone and started calling her up.

Players are like hunters who can smell their prey – if they sense weakness they’ll kill you.

You do get some guys who are goody two shoes – a bit more sensible than the rest. They get ripped to pieces every day with banter and if they’re not strong they end up wanting to leave the club. Sometimes it gets too much because players don’t stop. Players are like hunters who can smell their prey – if they sense weakness they’ll kill you.

For the most part it’s pretty funny but sometimes it can be too much for a player. When I was at Arsenal there was a young Italian kid called Niccolo Galli who was an amazing player and an amazing person but some English guys would get on his back so much he used to go home crying. They would say what are you doing here – you shouldn’t be in England. It got too much for him because he was only 16 and a foreigner living in another land. Sometimes I have to deal with that here in Moldova. If you’re weak they’ll get under your skin you and make you wish you could go home.

At Spurs there was one player who used to get hammered because the others didn’t rate him. They’d banter about his bad touch and that he was ‘stealing a living’. They’d make out they were only joking but you know never a truer word said in jest. It got really bad one Christmas party and I don’t know if it affected him but he left Spurs pretty soon after.

I saw one manager actually holding a player up by the scruff of his shirt – the kid was in tears.

I’ve met some players that are so crazy you do wonder where they’d be if they weren’t playing football. There was this one guy who kept me laughing the whole time. Once we went on tour and out of nowhere he ran across the hotel lobby and did a two footed tackle on a plant pot in and smashed it to pieces. He was only wearing his flip flops!

Then there was this other bloke was at Tottenham who was ruthless. We were on tour one time and he needed to go to the toilet but his roommate was in there so instead he shat on the floor . Then he put a £50 note on it and left the room. I used to ask him what he was going to do at the weekend and he’d always say something like: “Get drunk, get into a scrap and end up in a cell. Bob’s your uncle, I’ll be back in Monday morning.” He knew he was going to get arrested before he was even drunk!

I’ve seen players fight each other in the dressing room. I remember after one game a really big name star was talking to younger player who called him a ‘fucking cunt’. The star just smacked the kid and busted his nose up for being too mouthy. In terms of physical size they were as big as each other but the big name player is a star and in his mind that made him King Kong.

It’s not just the players who get wound up in the dressing room. Some managers get really heated too. I saw one manager actually holding a player up by the scruff of his shirt – the kid was in tears. One time, I saw a manager go face to face and nose to nose with this great big player who he thought wasn’t putting his life on the line for the team. The gaffer was clearly looking to get a reaction from the player in the hope that he’d take his anger out on to the pitch. Funnily enough, it worked.

But then again that’s just the way it is when you’re around men all day, every day.

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image descriptionCOMMENTS

Nathan 9:51 am, 23-Sep-2010

how sad.

Rick 1:05 pm, 23-Sep-2010

R.I.P Niccolo Galli

MJL 1:57 pm, 23-Sep-2010

Did Galli leave AFC before that dreadful accident. Makes you wonder.. good article Rohan....few more clues needed to identify players!

Whipping Boy 9:54 pm, 23-Sep-2010

"Stealing a living" Classic dressing room banter!

Manny 7:23 am, 24-Sep-2010

Man that's so sad about Galli, did you join in on the banter on Galli too?

BB 9:13 am, 24-Sep-2010

"Then he put a £50 note on it and left the room." Razor Ruddock - has to be.

Patrick 12:02 pm, 24-Sep-2010

Just goes to show what a shower of c*nts you lot really are - not a decent I.Q between you. You sit there and talk all this alpha male BS about hunting prey etc etc. The bigger man would have defended that person. He was promising, you're in Maldova. Change your diary to semi professional!

Tom Hills 9:50 pm, 24-Sep-2010

@MJL Galli was on loan at the time but was still an Arsenal player Where were you when Niccolo Galli was getting bullied Rohan? I'm sure you weren't the only one culpable but a decent man would be ashamed of himself to be part of that. Funny how footballers are rocky when the boys are there, you wouldn't last five seconds, any of you, on your own and it's exactly the behaviour you describe that alienates you all from the public so much. Shame, I thought you were a good kid at Arsenal.

Calum 10:10 pm, 24-Sep-2010

What a shame that someone seeming willing to go against the grain and be a different in publishing articles like this proves themselves to be no more than a sheep. The hopeless crap around "banter" is no more than the turgid woeful excuse for humour that prevails in groups of ill educated numpties. "Patrick" is right - that a real man, a real maverick, would stand up against this bollocks - either in tackling the bullies or in telling these numbskulls that shitting on the floor is not to be lauded - it is deplorable and reflective of the fact that person is scum.

Bob Roberts 5:16 pm, 25-Sep-2010

You guys are missing something important. One of the reasons banter exists is because knowing you can safely insult each other is a mark of closeness as a team, as friends and comrades. Some people take it too far, and some people can't take it at all; you have to be able to deal with that kind of environment to remain competitive, though. Sport isn't about being a good person, it's about succeeding on the field -- as proven by Rooney.

Ash 3:56 am, 27-Sep-2010

Im sorry but all you idoits are missing the point. Ive played all levels in the uk from professional to amateur and i can tell you banter is what keeps the team going. When the team is riding high banter keeps even the biggest star grounded and when the team is low banter serves to keep the fighting spirit alive. In no way is it 'BULLYING', its just a group of MEN who hang around together all day and make jokes.Some of you people sound like you get bullied by your boss in the office so i dont think you will ever understand real banter between lads.

Rick 11:00 am, 27-Sep-2010

No Ash (mr pro footballer) "For the most part it’s pretty funny but sometimes it can be too much for a player. When I was at Arsenal there was a young Italian kid called Niccolo Galli who was an amazing player and an amazing person but some English guys would get on his back so much he used to go home crying. They would say what are you doing here – you shouldn’t be in England. It got too much for him because he was only 16 and a foreigner living in another land". This is what Rohan wrote it is no longer banter when a young kid goes home crying thats more than banter nobody is denying banter goes on everywhere its not just limited to footballers oops sorry MEN as you seem to think it is, it goes on everywhere but in other work places bullying is stopped as it should be maybe Niccolo Galli would be alive today if it had been in this instance. Though i doubt you will understand this being an ex pro as we all know footballers dont have two brain cells to rub together.

Tom Hills 6:52 pm, 27-Sep-2010

@Ash "Some of you people sound like you get bullied by your boss in the office so i dont think you will ever understand real banter between lads." for the record big man, i work on a building site, i'm fully aware of what constitutes banter, i'm also fully aware of what constitutes bullying. it takes a far bigger man to go against the flow and stand up for what is right and proper. integrity is a far bigger virtue than apathy.

john 1:05 pm, 7-Oct-2010

I am serving soldier and know all about banter turning into bullying - please dont pretend footballers are more men than soldiers. Bullying is what it is and no fluffy name will cover it up.

DD 5:14 pm, 9-Oct-2010

I have to agree with most the posters here. Having played up to the 5th tier the only thing that keeps us all going is the banter when the chips are down and likewise it is great when things are going well. In any evironment bullying occurs it just takes different forms it's human nature and more underhand say in the office environment. I have to say also Rohan keep it up this is an excellent read.

anne 1:40 pm, 7-Nov-2010

I love your honesty dude,it makes a difference to hear the stories from an insider and not from the press because quite often the stories are either exaggerated or distorted.

jay 8:44 pm, 19-Nov-2010

Charming bunch of cunts aren't they. Love to see them banter with us down the pub. Shortly followed by them getting volleyed all over the place. Don't worry though its only a bit of fun

terry 2:29 pm, 22-Nov-2010

bullying pricks - whats seems like banter is bullying. i hate footballers

Orangepeel 3:18 pm, 8-Feb-2011

Banter is two-way. Bullying is one way, usually from a cowardly ignorant prick.

Massimo Osti's Secret Son 5:47 pm, 8-Apr-2011

why are you mugs talking about Nicolò Galli still "being alive", geezer died in a car crash in Bologna, that hasn't got anything to do with Arsenal dressing room banter (even though, as a Spurs fan, I assume it must be shit)

25 7:32 pm, 8-Apr-2011

Let's be honest here, anyone using the term "banter" seriously is quite obviously a twat.

Wayne 10:16 am, 14-Apr-2011

Galli's father was one of the best keepers who ever played. His son gets bullied by yobs.

D0li 7:13 pm, 17-Apr-2011

this is just aweful! I understand you need a "peep" talk to increase spirits when you are loosing but bullying to the point of teers is just too much! I know I can go over the edge sometimes but I always stop once I know I'm hurting someone's feelings.

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