Premier League and pranks go together like curry and rice, fish and chips or cereal and milk.
Training grounds are a hub of hilarity, where rich young men gather to take the mickey out of each other – and play some football.
Every single footballer has at least one story of the banter, japes and laughs that go on behind the scenes.
While they don’t always come out at the time, retired footballers are usually keen to tell their tales once enough years have passed.
Some are harmless enough, but plenty have escalated beyond mere pranks to become something entirely different.
Here are 10 of the most controversial from the annals of Premier League history.
We start at the bottom end of the scale with a bit of victimless fun from Manchester City.
City were in a buoyant mood back in May 2019 after securing the domestic treble of Premier League, FA Cup and Carabao Cup.
So naturally they decided to organise a prank involving their happy and unsuspecting fans.
Kevin De Bruyne and Sergio Aguero hosted some supporters at the club’s training ground where they would have fun and get pictures with the Premier League trophy.
Only it wasn’t the real Premier League trophy – and De Bruyne and Aguero hadan ulterior motive.
While the group were busy celebrating, De Bruyne and Aguero subtly dropped the trophy over the back of the stand, watching it smash on the ground below.
Cue plenty of shocked faces before they were told it was a fake. Simple yet effective.
Now, onto the less harmless stuff. Hardly a classic of the genre this one, but infamous nonetheless.
For some reason that still remains unclear, Ashley Cole decided to bring an air rifle to Chelsea training at Cobham back in 2011. That is already problematic, but it gets worse.
While “larking about” in the changing room, Cole fired the gun into unsuspecting work experience student Tom Cowan from about five feet.
Chelsea treated the poor Loughborough University sports science student for his injury and hurriedly organised a meeting to make sure he wouldn’t press charges against the England defender.
Under British law the incident could be deemed actual bodily harm which carries a maximum penalty of five years' imprisonment and an unlimited fine. According toThe Athletic, Cole got away with a fine of two weeks’ wages – around £220,000.
Cole is not the only one to have turned Cobham into a war zone. Reserve midfielder Jacob Mellis also tried to up the stakes at Chelsea’s training ground.
A year after Cole’s efforts, Mellis and team-mate Billy Clifford brought a smoke grenade from a paintballing expedition into training and let it off for the laughs.
It turned out not to be very funny. The centre was evacuated and the fridge brigade was called.
Mellis, 21, was later sacked by Chelsea and Clifford fined after the club conducted an investigation.
Back to the classics. This one does exactly what it says on the tin: an expensive car and a trip to the fishmongers.
Mario Balotelli was famous for his childish behaviour at Man City – think setting off fireworks in his bathroom, throwing darts at team-mates and so on – but this time he was the victim.
The 20-year-old returned from a two-week pre-season tour in 2011 to find his team-mates had hidden fish inside his £150,000 Maserati before they left.
“The smell really made him sick. It was revolting,” a source told The Sun.
“There were flies in the car and the leather seats in the back had rotting fish all over them.”
No doubt Balotelli got his own back.
A pig mess
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Stoke City’s dressing room was no stranger to outlandish pranks around 2013, but this one really escalated.
It all started with Jon Walters’ coat being put down the toilet, so naturally the striker responded by buying a pig’s head and putting it inside Matthew Etherington’s locker, as well as some rainbow trout in his shoes and wash bag.
The problem came next. Etherington thought it was Glenn Whelan’s doing, so put the pig’s head inside what he believed to be Whelan’s locker. Except it wasn’t. It was Kenwyne Jones’.
Walters says he tried to explain the mix-up, but it was no good.
“So Kenwyne has gone out and got a brick and put a brick through Glenn Whelan’s car window because all he’s heard is Glenn Whelan’s name – then drives home,” he told talkSPORT.
Jones was furious, believing there might have been religious discrimination behind it.
"My wife at the time was Muslim, I had all different factions of the Muslim community writing to my house – I don’t know how the heck they found my address – wanting to handle the situation,” he told the Shoot The Defence podcast. “That could have gone a whole lot of different ways.”
After the mayhem of the pig’s head, a less dramatic prank courtesy of Stoke City.
“I remember when Michael Owen was at Stoke, we were staying at a hotel,” Peter Crouch said on That Peter Crouch Podcast.
“Someone had wrapped his entire car in eggs and flour. No one knew who it was for months and everyone was trying to get to the bottom of it. He was fuming, he actually left at the end of the season.”
It turned out to be Walters and Robert Huth, who later owned up by sending a picture of themselves holding up a napkin with “Guess what we did?” and a crude picture of a car.
Owen posted the picture on Twitter, pretending he found it all funny. He wrote: “After weeks of denial, the egg and flour culprits eventually own up!!!”
Gerard Pique has been at Barcelona since 2008, but he began his professional career with Manchester United.
The Spanish defender didn’t make much of an impact at United between 2004 and 2008, but he did leave his mark in another way.
Rio Ferdinand explained the story in conversation with Dele Alli and Kyle Walker-Peters forCopa90.
“One of the main ones at United, Pique, when he was there, he was mad, I think he weed in someone’s locker in the changing room,” he stated, simply.
“When I was at MK (Dons) someone took a poo in someone’s boot so when they put their boot on their foot went straight in,” Alli replied.
“Wee, poo and my food… I’m not into those games,” Ferdinand concluded. Amen Rio.
Now this is a proper classic prank. Almost every first genuine call-up for international duty is followed by the player giving an interview saying they thought it was a wind-up at first.
Well, there is a good reason for that worry it seems.
Enter Robbie Savage and David Bentley, who were team-mates at Blackburn in 2005/06, and England manager Steve McClaren.
Knowing the England squad was being announced, Savage called Bentley pretending to be McClaren.
“I came off the phone and I’m ringing everyone in the England squad,” Bentley recalled on BT Sport. “Half an hour later I get another phone call from the actual Steve McClaren! And I’m like ‘what…you just rang me”
Savage added: “He got to training and all the lads are in stitches.” Hilarious.
Picture the scene. Peter Schmeichel is in the shower. Nicky Butt is holding a kettle full of hot water. Butt is trying to sneak up on Schmeichel and is planning to pour the water on his team-mate’s bum.
All fun and games, I’m sure you’ll agree.
The problem was that Butt was not very subtle and Schmeichel cottoned on, turning around at a very inopportune time, just as the water was thrown.
The Danish goalkeeper was not best pleased to have been hit by boiling water on his genitals. As Jaap Stam said in his book, "Nicky had to run for his life".
Back to Robbie Savage to finish. The self-appointed banter king of Premier League football was sent off while playing for Leicester City against Aston Villa in 2002.
In protest against the decision, Savage allegedly went into the room of referee Graham Poll to relieve himself in the toilet before leaving without flushing.
Poll was not amused to find the dirty protest after the match and included the details in his referee’s report. Savage was charged with improper conduct by the Football Association.
Leicester fined Savage two weeks’ wages, despite the midfielder claiming he was suffering from a stomach upset and actually used the toilet before the game, not after being sent off.
That’s one expensive poo.
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