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Mar 10, 2011

Insult to injury

This week, ESPNsoccernet puts together a selection of some of the most improbable injuries suffered by footballers.

Chic Brodie's dog day afternoon (1970)

Brodie endured a particularly unfortunate career with Brentford.

In 1964, following a game at Carlisle, he was struck on the knee by a stone from the crowd and had to be carried from the field. In 1965, he discovered a hand grenade in his goalmouth in a game against Millwall, although it turned out to be a replica. In the dying moments of a match against Lincoln in 1970, he injured his back when he held onto the crossbar as he tipped a cross behind for a corner. It collapsed onto him, prompting a 45-minute delay as officials attempted to repair the damage.

Having overcome so much misfortune, it was an incident with a white terrier that proved his undoing: in a 4-0 defeat to Colchester, Brodie shattered his kneecap when he collided with the animal, and it brought an end to his professional career. "The dog might have been a small one, but it just happened to be a solid one," he said.

He resumed playing on a part-time basis with Margate while earning a living on the side as a taxi driver. In 1971, during his time with Margate, he claimed more unwanted headlines as his team went down to an 11-0 FA Cup defeat to Bournemouth, helping nine-goal Ted MacDougall on his way by twice dropping the ball.

Alex Stepney's verbal assault (1975)

Manchester United managed to record a 2-0 win at Birmingham in their second game of the 1975-76 season despite playing the majority of the second half without their goalkeeper.

Stepney had hurt his jaw as he faced a heavy charge from Birmingham centre-forward Bob Hatton in the first attack of the match, but the damage sustained had not been enough to force him from the field. At the start of the second half, though, with the score still at 0-0, Stepney shouted some instructions to his defence, which forced him out of the game.

"I just shouted for the ball when my jaw clicked and left me in agony," he said after the game. "It was ridiculous. The damage must have been done when Bob Hatton flattened me very early in the game."

Brian Greenhoff, capable of playing in midfield and defence, was forced to adopt a new position for the remaining 43 minutes of the match and, after United had taken the lead through a Sammy McIlroy header in the 49th minute, the makeshift goalkeeper produced a fine 70th-minute save from Howard Kendall that kept his side in front.

McIlroy then added his second to seal the win late on and United boss Tommy Docherty said: "It was a magnificent victory in the circumstances."

Charlie George's fight with a lawnmower (1980)

Arsenal legend George lost his index finger and the tip of another while trimming the garden during his time at Southampton.

"I lifted the mower up to clear some grass from the blades when it moved and chopped off my finger," he told the Daily Mirror shortly after the accident. "I suppose I'm lucky that I didn't lose my hand."

George, 29 at the time, dismissed the idea the injury would end his career but said: "I won't be able to take a throw-in. Or put two fingers up at people."

He managed to prolong his career for another three years.

Svein Grondalen's loose moose (1980)

Hardman defender Grondalen won 77 caps for Norway, but he missed a game against Finland in 1980 after an unfortunate encounter with a large deer.

"I was running in the woods outside Trondheim with my wife when suddenly an elk appeared in front of us," he told Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten in 1999. "The animal overlooked my wife - apparently it was me it was after. While rising up on his hind legs, the elk tried to attack me with his forelegs."

As elks are capable of lethal attacks with their hard, sharp-edged hooves, Grondalen was forced to take evasive action.

"At the very last moment, I managed to throw myself off a steep hillside. I rolled downhill, and in the commotion I got a deep cut in my thigh. I therefore couldn't participate in the next international match. That was, by the way, the only tackle I backed out from during my career."

Steve Morrow's fall from grace (1993)

Morrow scored the winner for Arsenal in the 1993 Coca-Cola Cup victory over Sheffield Wednesday - his first goal for the club - but his ecstasy turned to agony at the final whistle when, lifted up on captain Tony Adams' shoulders, a loss of balance saw him crash to the ground and break his arm. He left the stadium on a stretcher as his team-mates paraded the trophy, and the injury ruled him out of the FA Cup final.

"It was just a freak," manager George Graham said. "You can't tell players not to celebrate. It's what playing football is all about. You enjoy it. It's very sad, but there you are."

With Morrow sidelined, Arsenal managed to record another 2-1 victory over Wednesday in the FA Cup final the following month and the Northern Irishman was allowed to go up and collect his League Cup medal while his team-mates received their rather more prestigious rewards. "No disrespect to the Coca-Cola Cup," Morrow said, "but the FA Cup final is something special."

Darren Barnard's urination problem (1999)

A year on from attracting national acclaim for his performances during Barnsley's solitary Premiership season, Wales wing-back Barnard spent five months on the sidelines with a torn knee ligament courtesy of his pet puppy's urine.

"We had just bought a new puppy and because he was so young he left a mess in the kitchen," Barnard said in 1999. "I walked in just after my wife had cleared it up, slipped on the wet surface and went head over heels. I needed an operation to repair the damage."

Wales manager Bobby Gould suggested during his absence that Barnard had been missed more than Ryan Giggs.

Claus Lundekvam's food fights (2000)

Lundekvam had earned himself the nickname 'Rocky' at Southampton when he sustained cuts, bruises and a broken toe after he and a friend were set upon by eight men having been refused access to an Indian restaurant.

"When my best mate Claus is subject to blind violence, I feel it is right for me to talk about it," Saints team-mate Trond Egil Soltvedt revealed on his Norwegian website, against Lundekvam's wishes. "Claus and a golf buddy were denied access, and had started to move on, but they were followed and both men were beaten and kicked, and they ended up in hospital."

The incident, shortly before Christmas 1999, was followed a couple of weeks later by a more unlikely injury: he injured his back while picking up a frying pan.

"I feel so stupid, but my back is killing me," Lundekvam said. "It's so bad I didn't think I could get out of bed. I was just reaching over at breakfast when I heard this crack in my back. It hurt so much, I couldn't straighten up.

"Now I'll have to see the chiropractor to click it back into place again because, at the moment, it is hurting just trying to walk. What with my toe being broken since the week before Christmas, things are not very easy for me at the moment."

Incredibly, Lundekvam was the third Southampton player in the 1999-2000 season to suffer a domestic mishap. James Beattie had two ribs broken and punctured his lung after slipping in his kitchen while wearing flip flops, and John Beresford - on loan at Birmingham at the time - "took a tumble down the stairs", as Blues boss Trevor Francis put it, and required a knee operation.

"We talk to the players before the start of each season about safety issues and not reacting to crowd behaviour, but we haven't got round to tackling domestic chores yet," Southampton safety officer David Pallett said. "Most of our players seem to suffer accidents at home."

Darius Vassell's driller killer (2002)

Faced with a blood blister under his toenail, Villa striker Vassell opted to go down the DIY route by attempting to drill a hole in it.

"Darius tried to get the blood out himself, which he now realises was not really advisable," Villa boss Graham Taylor said. "There are people on the staff readily available to have treated the problem.

"I am not certain he looks after his feet properly. It was giving him pain and it seems he used a medical implement to try to drill the nail. The outcome was it still caused him pain and was infected."

Paulo Diogo's ring sting (2004)

Servette midfielder Diogo made international headlines in 2004 after excessively celebrating an assist for Jean Beausejour in the 87th minute of a 4-1 win at Schaffhausen. Jumping onto a metal perimeter fence to greet the travelling fans, his wedding ring became entangled and, when he jumped back down, his finger did not follow.

"When I jumped down from the fence, I didn't feel anything at all," Diogo told the Swiss newspaper Blick. "The first time that I noticed that something was missing from my hand was when it started to hurt. And it hurt tremendously."

Stewards began the search for his finger as the referee issued Diogo with a booking for his exuberance. Club officials eventually located his missing digit, but surgeons were unable to reattach it and he had the remainder of the finger amputated.

"I'm not dead and life goes on, so I have to live with one less finger," he said. He played on for another five years.

Richard Wright's bad sign (2006)

Strongly tipped to become England's No. 1 during his youth career, Wright has, for one reason or another, never been able to make the grade at the highest level.

Having left Arsenal for Everton in 2002, he suffered several injuries in his first season at Goodison and, in the summer of 2003, put himself out of action for two months when he separated his shoulder after falling from a ladder while putting suitcases into his loft.

He fell behind Nigel Martyn in the pecking order but was handed a chance in an FA Cup fourth-round replay against Chelsea in the 2005-06 season as Martyn was sidelined. In the warm-up, while taking shots in goal, he failed to pay heed to a sign: 'Please do not practise in this goalmouth.'

"Everyone says the sign was right in the middle of the goalmouth, but it wasn't," Wright said in 2009. "It was about two yards behind the line. We'd done loads of crosses and stuff but then [Everton goalkeeping coach] Chris Woods clipped one in that was just looping over my head. As I've gone to push it over the bar, my momentum has taken me back into the net. That's when my ankle twisted on the sign.

"It was an absolute nightmare. It kept being shown on TV the next day and my mates have been watching it on YouTube ever since. What it has made me do is make sure everything gets cleared from my goalmouth now. You learn from your mistakes, don't you?"

Kirk Broadfoot's egg (and glass) on face (2009)

Rangers defender Broadfoot became the subject of widespread mockery in 2009 when, inspecting freshly poached eggs in his microwave, the dish he was using exploded. Gers boss Walter Smith played the incident down at the time - "He's got some facial burns but he should be okay" - but Broadfoot felt he deserved sympathy.

"The accident was no joke," he said. "I think everyone looked upon it as something funny, but I could have lost my eyesight. There was boiling water and glass in my face. It was serious and I could easily have ended up losing my sight.

"Bits of glass had to be cleaned out of my eye. When I opened the microwave door, it exploded. In the end, I was lucky it was not even worse."

His desire for the incident to be taken seriously had the backing of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, which highlighted the 500 Britons hospitalised as a result of "egg-related incidents" in 2002.

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