tartspotting - a guide to those players who set themselves apart from the rest



Throughout football history, there have always been players who see themselves as a bit different to the rest of their profession.  There are those who stand out like a sore thumb as the "maverick" by their play, their actions or their style of dress (on and off the field).  Many fans regard these as "tarts" and Benny The Ball looks at the history of these players and how to pick them out from the crowd (and believe me, that's not difficult).

1960s - players had no teeth - not tarts.  They had no hair - not tarts.  The only players notable for their hair cuts were those who were making the most of what they had left, like Bobby Charlton and our much missed Ralphie Coates.  But then some started to wear their shirts outside their shorts, socks around their ankles and started to have their hair long.

In the late 60s there was a terrace song that went (to the tune of "Jesus Christ Superstar)  "Georgie Best. Superstar. Walks like a woman. And he wears a bra. The bra's too big. He wears a wig. And that's why they call him. A sexy pig."  Alternatively, it was "Georgie Best. Superstar.  Wears frilly knickers and a Playtex bra."
They were an easy target for the "hard men" of the late 1960s/early 1970s, as typified by Ron Harris' performance in the 1970 FA Cup Final replay against Leeds United, who were regarded as the fancy dans of that era.  They were, but they had their own hard men within their side.  Manchester United lacked that to a certain extent and Best was picked out for the "Chopper" Harris treatment more than once.


For a long time, the tart relied upon highlights in their hair to identify them to the football crowds.  None more so, was the highlighted bouffant that was worn by Barry Venison of Sunderland and Liverpool (right).  His lead was followed by Robbie Savage, who has continued his tarty haircut into football punditry with no apparent feeling of shame.  He even conceded recently that he was not struck by Justin Edinburgh in the 1999 League Cup final at Wembley, but that Justin merely flicked his hair.  That was evidently enough to hurt him so much that he convinced the referee that Edinburgh should be dismissed.  Perhaps the Spurs full back hurt Savage's pride ... in his coiffure.



The tart was part of the football boot revolution that brought Technicolor to the game.  From the all black boots of the 1960s, a late development in the 1970s was the white boot as worn by Alan Ball (with a circle of rotating studs to stop you getting ankle ligament injuries) and Derby County's Alan Hinton.  This blossomed in the 90s, to encompass boots of every colour and they became so de rigor that the appearance of someone wearing black boots brought surprised comments from fans on the terraces.

Things really took off for the tarts in the 1990s and 2000s, with the advent of the pony tail.  It did hand opponents an ideal opportunity to use their hands on the offending hair effect.  In it's most offensive form, it was sported by David Seaman.  I am not sure why he thought it acceptable, but when you are falling backwards as the ball flew over Seaman's head, it just served to make the viewer think "tart" !

Campbell : You look a knob with that ponytail !

Seaman : Fair Comment Sol, but what's your excuse ?

Moving on from the pony tail, to keep the excessive hair out of the tart's eyes, the alice band was employed.  Introduced by Italian players such Benito Carbone, it quickly spread to British players and went from the curved piece of plastic with small teeth to hold the hair off the forehead (surely a piece of equipment that could be dangerous - someone could be nastily scratched) to the cheaper alternative of a bootlace (surely a piece of equipment that could be dangerous - someone could be strangled).  I'm not sure that ex-Gooner Gervinho needed one, with the massive forehead his braided hair gave him.  I suppose the device allowed sweeter contact with headers on the forehead, but the alice band also had the effect of preventing the sweaty hair flopping on the face and it made players look like they never raised a bead of perspiration.   Probably all part of their image rights providing super photos of the subject.

This later went on to develop into the "man bun" or "top knot".  Nacer Chadli sported one of these for a while before probably realising he looked a bit of a jerk, but that hasn't stopped Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Andy Carroll from continuing to display it on the top of their bonces.  Liverpool seem to be keen on them with Firmino, Moreno and Joe Allen (when he was there) following in the boot-steps of Harry Kewell, who was an early protagonist of the man bun.  When Allen moved to Stoke, he joined Marco Arnautovic in the high hair stakes.  Never one to miss a bandwagon to jump on, even hard man Joey Barton took on the top knot when he was in the QPR midfield. 

Hair has always been a feature of the tart footballer through the years and the tonsorial effects used have produced some easy spotting for football
fans.  The likes of Djibril Cisse, Abel Xavier, Paul Pogba, Taribo West, David James, David Beckham and fat Ronaldo have all sported weird hair-dos to either enhance or detract from their footballing abilities.  Shavings, colourings, bead and braids all came in and went out, with the mohawk being a favourite among many players for a while.  Our top notch singing from Japan Toda was more noted for his shark's fin hair rather than what he did on the field of play (which didn't amount to much anyway).   Braids look good on some players.  They do not look good on Andy Carroll.

         Taribo West ... Maybe                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Andy Carroll ... Nah !

The big bushy beard has been a more recent trend that has taken off with footballers.  Good for winter matches I would have thought, but on a cold frosty day, surely all that water vapour puffed out would cause freezing on the facial hair.  Call for the physio with an ice pick to break open their mouth !!
Tattoos were never really the domain of the tart, with the 1960s players sporting them as a sign of hardness and nowadays, the footballers use their bodies as canvasses for their "body art".  Perhaps in a move to make them look harder, the result is more often a lack of idea what to do with all the money they get paid,   so they have tattoos done without much thought as to the long game with them.  What will Jerome Boateng's latest additions look like when he is 60 and will they reflect how he felt and feels about them now and at an advanced age ?  It is hard to make out what most of them are, although they no doubt have great significance to the player in question.  Boateng is obviously must be a great fan of the theatre !

Socks have also featured in picking out tarts on the pitch.  The early 2000s fashion for wearing socks pulled up above the knee has continued to a certain extent, but when first brought into the footballing sphere brought howls of derision.  Two of the worst perpetrators are pictured here.  These days, the fashion for wearing socks rolled down over the shin pads appears to be superseding the style of previous sock wearers, so the likes of Jack Grealish look like a target for the modern day Ron Harris, although there is not the free rein to launch knee high horizontal tackles that often with today's picky referees.

Despite once being the most costly player on earth, Gareth Bale has had dalliances with most of these features, so it just goes to show that it isn't always players who need to have something other than their ability to make them stand out on the pitch.

Alistair McLauchlan

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