What’s more annoying than a player who screams at the ref?

As we all know, the most annoying person in modern politics is Ed Balls, at least according to Dave Cameron. "Annoying" is an interesting term of abuse, for it suggests
a patrician position, one of great importance and prestige, on behalf of the annoyed. The annoyer is being dismissed as a minor irritation, hardly worth being annoyed by, really.

It does not necessarily indicate uselessness, stupidity, idiocy, corruption - not even nastiness. It's just an opinion, a prejudice. And oh, dear God, we have loads of that in football. Where to begin?

Players: many fans used to see Robbie Savage as hugely annoying, with his long, girly blond hair, silly voice, stupid tackles and belief that he was a half-decent footballer, rather than a mad lunger. But even at his worst he used to make me smile. And I think he is self-aware - he knows that he is annoying.

Joey Barton is another pantomime villain with a huge opinion of himself, convinced that he should have been an England star. I suspect that he really is annoying - annoying
his team-mates at Newcastle as much as us.

Frank Lampard annoys me with his moany face and aggrieved air, but when he lost form earlier in the season, I rather came round to him. I have now decided that it is not his fault. There's something wonky about his upper lip.

Didier Drogba was annoying, in the days when he'd go down if someone breathed at him.

He would then writhe in agony and stagger around, tongue out. I realised my annoyance was because he is such a fine physical specimen, big and strong, so he shouldn't be acting like a baby. Which is not logical. Acting like a baby is not the preserve of any physical type. He still annoys me, though.

Cristiano Ronaldo is annoying, obviously, with his prissy step-overs, making rival fans scream abuse. But, if he is on your side, you love him.

You can, of course, be annoyed by your own stars - like Berbatov. It pissed me off when he was at Spurs, standing around, superior, despairing of lesser mortals, instead of running his balls off.

John Terry still annoys me.

No reason, really - just that he's John Terry . . . and proud of it.

For services to long-term annoyingness, El Hadji Diouf must get an award. Having annoyed at Liverpool, Bolton, Sunderland and Blackburn, he is now a major irritant in a Rangers shirt. His silly hair is annoying, as is his look of disbelief that he is being picked on, yet again. To be fair, the tabloids have always hated him, going all pompous and self-righteous, wanting him hanged for spitting and other alleged offences, all of them commonplace in football.

He's their favourite source of annoyance, so he can't be all bad.

Not-So-Super Mario

Numero uno at the moment, though, must be Mario Balotelli.

If I were a Man City fan, I would be furious when he stands around doing fuck all or goes all sullen when taken off. He definitely has an "attitude problem", the current phrase for someone really, really annoying. However, I did like it when, at the end of the FA Cup semi-final, he really, really, really annoyed Rio Ferdinand. That was fun.

Managers: Mourinho doesn't annoy me, because that would be letting him win. His shtick is to annoy - he's worked it out, worked on being annoying, so the best reaction is to smile when he poses, preens, smirks and is just too bloody clever.

Wenger, when he "didn't see" something, was awfully annoying, but he became a parody of himself and now hardly uses that excuse.

Fergie is clearly the best manager but also the Prem's most annoying. Not speaking to the BBC, keeping up his hatreds and enemies - that is petty. His worst trait is his conviction that Man United are being picked on and refs are against them - out of envy, of course, as Man United are the best.

This transfers to his players, who are always protesting, wasting so much time and energy arguing, screaming and swearing at refs. I think, overall, that is the most annoying thing in modern football. l


Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 25 April 2011 issue of the New Statesman, Easter special