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Spice Boys (footballers)


Spice Boys (footballers)

The Spice Boys was a media term for a group of Liverpool F.C. footballers in the mid-late 1990s, seen typically as being composed of Jamie Redknapp, David James, Steve McManaman,[1] Robbie Fowler and Jason McAteer.[2] The term is sometimes used to include other members of the squad, like Stan Collymore, Phil Babb, Neil Ruddock, Dominic Matteo, Patrik Berger,[3] Rob Jones, Paul Ince, John Scales, Jamie Carragher, and Michael Owen, whose antics were also scrutinised as being of the "Spice Boy" stereotype due to association with their team-mates.


  • Term 1
    • Comparisons to the Spice Girls 1.1
    • Football and Pop Culture in the 1990s 1.2
    • Early Criticisms 1.3
  • Scandals and Controversies 2
    • Cup Final Cream Suits 2.1
    • Vandalism, Humour, Pranks and Orgies 2.2
    • On-Field Issues 2.3
    • Other Off-field & Image Issues 2.4
    • Break-Up & Later Revelations 2.5
    • Players' & Critics' Final Reflections 2.6
  • Changing football culture 3
  • Usage today 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6


The "Spice Boys" emerged as a term coined to characterise the antics and lifestyles off the pitch of the Liverpool 1990s players as high earning playboys who were underachieving in the game, based on a play on words on the name of the hugely popular pop music band, the Spice Girls.

Comparisons to the Spice Girls

The comparisons to the Spice Girls largely emerged in 1996, aided by unfounded tabloid rumours that Fowler was dating Spice Girl Baby Spice (Emma Bunton)[4] and after which, the Daily Mail coined the term, which then became synonymous with Liverpool F.C.'s team of the time, with all the other newspapers following subsequently in using the term. Other reasons for the nickname stemmed from the direct links between some of the players and the actual Spice Girls' members.[5] Jamie Redknapp and Steve McManaman were personally described by Mel C (Sporty Spice) as her personal favourite footballers,[6] and that she would always go to Anfield to watch them play.[5] McManaman meanwhile, had Simon Fuller (the creator of the Spice Girls and Pop Idol) as his sports agent,[7] sealing the links off the field.

Football and Pop Culture in the 1990s

The 1990s was not a successful era for Liverpool, in terms of footballing success, and the group were cast as "nearly men" and failed to oust Manchester United in both the FA Cup and FA Premier League challenges, winning little in spite of their talent, widely held to be due to a lack of discipline. The label is negative and highlights the players' focusing on partying and clubbing, sports cars, dating and groupies, fame and hairstyles rather than football, making as the Daily Mail describes, "inroads in the pages of glossy magazines than in the league table."[8] The term, though harsh, was the media's way referring to the negative side of the manner in which talented English Footballers handled new money and popularity and stardom, which the game of football suddenly brought them in unprecedented levels in the 1990s, compared with the 1980s and before.

In 1997, Malcolm Gladwell's landmark article on coolhunting, in The New Yorker discussed how the Spice Boys were seen as making the city of Liverpool "cool" because it involved "soccer blokes in the pubs going superdressy and wearing Dolce & Gabbana and Polo Sport and Reebok Classics on their feet.[9] It all began in the early 1990s, where photogenic players (not necessarily tagged as Spice Boys yet as the term had not emerged yet) like Jamie Redknapp and Ryan Giggs emerged as merchandising and mass marketed "poster boys" of the English football game, and fronted many football magazine covers and featured in advertisements. This carried on increasingly through the decade, and many good looking players like David Ginola achieved celebrity fame on unprecedented levels where certain football stars had become idols on par with rock stars and pop stars,[10] by and around the mid-1990s. The Liverpool team of the 1990s seemed to epitomise all the negative combinations of fame and fortune, and because unlike others, were a talented crew with top level potential in the game itself, were criticised for underachievement, and emerged as the face of the label; thus bearing the brunt of the innuendo. More than that however, the Spice boys were noted for also polarising public opinion, as The Daily Telegraph assessed it: "...Group of high-spirited, fun-loving young players who were a central feature of Liverpool's talented and entertaining, but perpetually under-achieving, squad of the Nineties. At least, that's the generous description. Others saw them as just an irresponsible bunch who were a bad influence in the dressing-room and should not be given house room."[11]

Early Criticisms

Criticism stemmed from perceptions forged in the media about the Liverpool players of the time. Steve McManaman and Robbie Fowler gave raunchy "birds, booze and BMWs" interviews to magazines like Loaded which went down poorly with the media, who labelled them as "scally" and "hedonist" characters shortly after.[12] Meanwhile, Redknapp (who also married pop star Louise Nurding) had already been the face of marketing and already fronted scores of magazines, then stepped up a level when he and James were involved in modelling for Armani. The pair flew over to Milan for catwalk shows, fashion shoots and missed training in the late 1990s, although James claimed the news media blew the incidents out of proportion.[13] McAteer was one of the first footballers to appear in hair shampoo advertisements since Kevin Keegan, and it seemed a new era was dawning. McAteer did commercials for Head & Shoulders, and together with Redknapp, appeared in Top Man catalogues, while James also became an official Armani underwear model in 1997.[14] In the 21st century, it is common for football stars to obtain such commercial deals, but in the 1990s, this was seen as unique, and the Spice Boys were criticised because the media and fans saw these new forays as affecting their results and performances on the pitch, leading to large amounts of criticisms in the press.

Scandals and Controversies

Neil Ruddock spoke in an interview in 2010, saying he was delighted to be in the "Spice Boys" team because "we were earning tons of money, driving Ferraris and bedding Page 3 girls before anyone else".[15] The reason Ruddock and the Spice Boys could say this, was because it is statistically accurate that the English footballers in the 1990s were earning at least ten times the amount footballers before then had been earning, widely due to the influx of television and revenue streams for the newly revamped and globally marketed, FA Premier League. Players' wages swelled to an average of 10–20,000 pounds a week in those days and was constantly rising each season until the present day. With the newfound money and fame, many players had to deal with these issues, but the Spice Boys were notable for their very public controversies related to how they went about it, with Stan Collymore stating in his biography that he believes that the television show Footballers' Wives is based on the stereotypes, many of which were perpetuated from the Spice Boys' antics, and that not only are the depictions very accurate, but that the whole show might have been based on the very idea of dramatising the documentation of the rise of footballers' dealing with newfound fame and wealth having been thrust into these lifestyles in the first place.

McManaman meanwhile, told FourFourTwo magazine that the Spice Boys was based on misconceptions, saying: "The Spice Boys at one time consisted of eight or nine players and the press just used to change the personnel as they fancied. It was unfortunate because when we finished third in the league we got a lot of stick for it. At the time I felt very sorry for some of the lads involved. But it didn't bother me personally as I was playing very good football at the time...When we finished third and people saw us having a laugh and a joke, they thought we didn't care. Nowadays, when you finish third, everyone is thrilled to bits...Everyone's excited about qualifying for the Champions League. Under Roy Evans we did that a lot, and did it by playing fantastic football, but because there were a few young lads who liked to enjoy themselves at times, people had misconceptions."[16]

The Spice Boys of Liverpool were notable for headlining several scandals covered to great extent in the British Tabloids in the 1990s:

Cup Final Cream Suits

Perhaps the most defining moment for the players was seen at the 1996 FA Cup Final, when the Liverpool stars infamously wore cream Emporio Armani suits and paraded around the pitch prior to kick-off, a game which they went on to lose to rivals Manchester United.[17] In their defence, McAteer and McManaman both claimed in interviews that they were not doing anything differently from the "lads at Manchester United or Arsenal", but that they were picked on by the media, because of their good looks and because they failed to win the titles and be successful.[4] Robbie Fowler also quipped to the Daily Mirror newspaper about its notoriety in an interview in 2008, 12 years later: "People still remind me about the white suits all the time. It's one of those things - if we had won the game nobody would have mentioned it but we lost and it has become infamous. It was David James' fault we wore white suits, it was his idea. He's bigger than everyone so nobody questioned him and at the time he was an Armani model."[18]

That year, Jamie Redknapp was also castigated by the media and fans for his reputation as chief prima donna in the Spice Boys team, and Redknapp said it was his good looks that caused deep resentment, even amongst a small minority of Liverpool's own fans. He said: "Don't get me wrong, the Liverpool fans are the best in the world, but there are always one or two who get on your back. They usually wait for it to go quiet then they shout some horrible abuse at you. When you look at them they are usually the ugliest people in the whole of the ground. I'm sensible enough to know that I'm not everyone's cup of tea but I sometimes think the way I look is my biggest problem. I reckon people find it easier to have a dig at a player with long hair because they think you are a bit of a tart. As for the Spice Boys tag - like hell we are the Spice Boys. Let's face it, the Spice Girls are at the top of their profession and we are still trying to get to the top of ours, so I hardly think it is a good nickname."[19]

However, the Spice boys situation was not helped because they also always seemed to get caught in compromising situations by the media, armed with photos and evidence, and because their reputations meant they were targeted and watched, it only exacerbated the negative publicity.

Vandalism, Humour, Pranks and Orgies

The Spice Boys were largely showcased in the media because they involved high profile players, many of whom played for their National Teams, where McManaman and Fowler had already been associated with the drinking games and "dentist's chair incident" prior to the Euro 1996[20] and the trashing of a Cathay Pacific flight cabin with Paul Gascoigne.[21]

This media focus meant that players were caught each time they were behaving like this and their behaviour and lack of decorum- such as their antics at the Liverpool Football Club 1998 Christmas party with drinking, sex toys and strippers[22] (labelled as the "most debauched Christmas party in the world...ever" by The Independent) highlighted for the nation their infamy, and got them castigated by the media to such a large degree that it warranted national attention and outcries for lack of discipline and effort, on the basis that these players owed a duty of care to their national team, and that their lack of discipline would affect their professionalism.[23] Older players like Ince and McManaman were also blamed for being a negative influence on the younger stars, like Jamie Carragher, who was photographed stripping his Hunchback of Notre Dame costume and cavorting with a stripper and wielding whipped cream, before having sex in front of revellers in Liverpool's 1998 costume party- an incident marked by newspaper The Guardian as one of the top 10 examples of footballers behaving badly.[24] In the aftermath of that notorious night at the Pen & Wig pub, press reports ran stories filled with lurid details of men tearing off their clothes to have full sex in the name of "unwinding" and "festive fun" in front of guests; the obscenity of which shocked the nation and even Liverpool's own fans claimed that Bill Shankly's original purpose of Liverpool's Christmas party (to "bond" the players) had been lost in a new generation, focused on debauchery.[25]

Fowler and McManaman were also labelled for being serial pranksters with a scally sense of humour that was not appreciated, reported widely in the media, with reports of them cutting up team mates' shoes, destroying team mates' rooms,[26] and doing pranks at Bisham Abbey before live cameras, which did not help their shedding of the negative labels,[27] and earned them a cult following of fans. Fowler was reported in the media for several controversies, some of which were on the pitch- including his sending off during an Under-21 game in Austria for swearing; getting punished by the FA for baring his backside to Leicester fans;[28] and an incident on an Under-21 trip to Portugal when a hotel room shared by Kevin Gallen was damaged, plus an infamous airport punch-up before tabloid cameras with team-mate Neil Ruddock in 1995/96 where Ruddock punched Fowler up for cutting up his 300 pound Gucci shoes, when Fowler claimed he only did that because he thought Ruddock had instigated players to urinate into his footwear.[29] Ruddock and McAteer meanwhile had also been making several tabloid headlines following a widely reported "Porsche incident" involving a coat hanger where Ruddock called the police over to McAteer's house to help him with his car, and the police told McAteer to get a coat hanger so they could help him open his car doors as he had locked his keys inside, and he went and brought out a wooden one. McAteer was also notorious for several other such stories that filled the tabloids,[30] including a "pizza" story,[31] where McAteer was asked if he wanted a pizza cut in eights and replied, "Nah, I'm not that hungry, just cut it in fours please", where after which, McAteer obtained a new nickname instead of "Dave"- "Double Trigger" (both based on Only Fools and Horses characters) for his perceived lack of intelligence.[32]

The Spice Boys were also popular for their tongue in cheek antics that were ahead of their time, with them ranging from anything from having half the squad dye their hair platinum blonde or with blonde highlights as part of summer pranks before the 1996 and 1997 seasons, spending countless hours practicing orchestrated goal celebrations (unheard of at the time), allegedly driving round the city singing whilst sitting on the bonnet of a stretch limousine, to antics at horseracing festivals, such as the Cheltenham festival and Aintree, where McManaman and Fowler led the Spice Boys to collectively purchase two thoroughbreds and called them "Some Horse" and "Another Horse", just so they could have a laugh (to the commentator's chagrin) when results and the commentary was broadcast.[33]

On-Field Issues

In 1996, Ruddock was famously involved in an on-field scuffle with Manchester United star Eric Cantona. Ruddock responded to Cantona's taunts about his weight by turning down the Frenchman's collar (in his after dinner speaking, Ruddock says of the incident- "trust me to pick the only Frenchman around who wanted a tear-up"). Ruddock said in 2011, that Cantona actually made up with him in 1996, by giving him his FA Cup Final shirt in the tunnel after the game, as he must have felt sorry for Ruddock not playing nor winning.[34]

In 1996/97, Ruddock also admitted to deliberately executing a malicious tackle against Andrew Cole, breaking both his legs, in a reserve game between Liverpool and Manchester United in 1996, saying he hated Cole[15] and shocking many fans.

In 1997, Fowler was fined by UEFA for pulling up his shirt after scoring against Brann Bergen, in a European game, to reveal a mock Calvin Klein T-shirt in support of striking Liverpool dockers. McManaman was wearing one, too, and they had agreed between them to swap shirts with the opposition at the end of the game to register their support for the dockers, but subtly.[35] Fowler and McManaman had also become infamous for pioneering (in the Premiership) several t-shirt related celebrations with political or arrogant slogans such as "God's Job's A Good 'Un",[36] largely in reference to Fowler's nickname, "god", and, together with a message, the pair would scribble these on t-shirts hidden under their shirts, and unveil them before live television cameras after they scored goals; something unheard of at the time. Fowler and McManaman were infamous for writing on their shirt, a good few years before many other players started imitating them, though manager Roy Evans did threaten to inflict club discipline on them if they continued with it. The trend eventually led to FIFA and the Premier league's banning or punishment with a yellow card for the removal of shirt tops during a goal celebration a decade later.[37]

In 1997, a spate of defensive errors in the run in for the 1996-97 FA Premier League title race, saw Liverpool fall away badly having led the league for much of the campaign, with David James earning the nickname "Calamity James" for a series of howlers. James responded by putting down his spate of errors to an overindulgence in playing computer games on his Sony PlayStation that in turn affected his concentration, due to his gaming addiction.[38]

In 1999, Fowler celebrated a goal by mimicking the action of snorting cocaine on the goal line, leading the Football Association to charge him with disciplinary action.[39] Fowler rebutted by saying that he was merely responding to opposition fans from local rivals Everton FC, that had repeatedly taunted him with drug abuse remarks and even vandalised his home.

Also in 1999, Fowler was charged for deriding fellow England colleague Graeme Le Saux with homosexual taunts on two occasions, with a report detailing Fowler's words- responding to Le Saux's statement about his sexuality, "But I'm married!" with the quip, "So was Elton John, mate!" Fowler was fined and banned by the FA for this behaviour, while Paul Ince also joined the stir when he too was penalised for his homophobic taunting of Le Saux during a 1997 Liverpool – Chelsea match- a verdict which resulted in a long running coolness between the two players, despite the fact that Le Saux is not actually gay.[40]

Other Off-field & Image Issues

In 2001, Fowler was assaulted and left with a broken nose in a Liverpool nightclub for the third time in four years, and though Fowler was hardly at fault in these incidents, the constant media and tabloid exposure to such stories describing off the pitch incidents, affected his reputations and some believe that Fowler's departure from Liverpool and lack of recognition with the England team in latter years were related.[41] Fowler also claimed, largely in controversial circumstances, both in his autobiography and in news reports, that a concerted media attack on him was waged by certain sections of the media, and by certain people who were out to slur his reputation and create an image of a person who was a drug abuser, when in fact, he stated, it could not be further from the truth and that he would never take drugs and knew its effects as he had a relative of his die due to its effects.[36]

Stan Collymore, notorious for failing to turn up for training, refusing to play for the reserve squad,[42] and simply ringing up the coach to inform him he was not showing up[43] meanwhile, claimed he was not one of the Spice boys, and left the club a year after the labelling began, but was still often lumped with the likes of Jamie Redknapp, Jason McAteer and David James even though he constantly attempted to distance himself from associations with them.[44] Collymore famously tried to argue that he was not like the Spice Boys at Liverpool and gave several press interviews where he bashed the Spice Boys culture, saying: "At Liverpool I sometimes felt I had to pretend to be somebody else. If I was out with the lads there, I felt I had to be like a 'Spice Boy' or something to conform to that image. Robbie Fowler and Jamie Redknapp had people around them I imagined were there just because of who they are, the reflected glory thing. I am not confident with that, trying to be something I am not.[19]

Collymore's statements angered some of his ex-Liverpool colleagues at the time, and Collymore constantly distanced himself from the Spice Boys image in the late 1990s, yet however, ironically turned out to be the most outspoken one on the Spice Boys' past in the 2000s: choosing to speak in a Channel Five television show Confessions of a Premiership Footballer in 2004,[45] and once again talking about the extent of the issues at the club at the time in his autobiography titled Tackling My Demons, in 2006- on both occasions revealing sordid details about a lack of discipline at the club, the Spice Boys' hedonistic sexual romps with women, threesomes in hotel rooms, and the problems they all faced, stressing his sexual addiction and confessing even to having sex with manager Roy Evans' daughter while the manager was next door in a Knightsbridge hotel where the team was staying, on the night of the 1996 FA Cup Final.[46]

Break-Up & Later Revelations

Whilst not nearly as controversial, the other "Spice Boys" had left Liverpool too by 2000/01, as new Liverpool coach Gérard Houllier undertook a radical reordering of the club and slowly transferred most of the Spice Boys out of the squad, or, reforming them, as the Daily Mail called it: "dragging Liverpool's Spice Boys out of the nightclubs and into the realities of modern football.".[47] In reality, the Spice Boys had been broken up. Many of those who departed the club remained in the public spotlight though, and had their own different sets of problems to cope with. In late 2001, McManaman and Fowler were reported to have gone out drinking late, the night before an England game, and this was reported in all the media as a betrayal of duty and role model leadership example setting, and an affront to the honour of playing for England.[48] However, Robbie Fowler and McManaman both claimed in their biographies that the media had made a mistake based on the past innuendoes they had associated them with, and they had merely gone out for dinner that night, though it is widely believed that their collective lack of squad selection in the England setup, was directly correlated to their Spice Boy image of the past. It is widely believed that controversies like these, regardless of the players' claims to innocence, did nothing to help the public image of both the players and their club, as well as the game of football's reputation. The fact that these controversies arose constantly in the national media concerning the Spice Boys shaped public opinion, and arguably affected the players' England and club careers. Over the decade ahead in the 2000s, many revelations were made by the Spice Boys as they reflected on their time in football.

Former Liverpool defender and senior player to the Spice Boys team of the time, [49] Others have suggested that such stories have led to an accountability and discipline failure both at Liverpool's management and club level on its players. Renowned Liverpool journalists like Paul Tomkins, Tony Evans, Tony Barrett and the like have been critical of the Spice Boys, saying their tomfoolery was linked to their priorities to make money and have fun in the game, and their tendency to "wash up and head on the highway to London" each Saturday after games.[50] Mick McCarthy famously told of how he bumped into half the squad at the airport on the same flight to London having just also come from watching the very game they were playing in, saying it was only possible if they must have skipped a post-match talk, and headed straight for the airport.

Jason McAteer also told a story about Neil Ruddock urinating during an important Premiership game while the squad were defending a corner,[51] while widely spread stories of players playing games like "pass the pound" (where players allegedly passed a coin to each other during Premiership matches and the player who ended up with the coin by the 90th minute would have to buy drinks at the pub after)[52] did not go down well with the media.[53] Rio Ferdinand added that Fowler brought the "Pass the Pound" game to Leeds United when he moved there as the Leeds team began playing that game during Premiership matches in 2001/02.[54]

Further stories of players allegedly parking their sports and luxury cars in the manager's parking space, writing cheques and placing it on the manager's table for a laugh (after directly asking the manager how much the fine was for missing training), or, of burning pound bills as part of "dares" in the pubs in front of fans, upset the Merseyside media further, with Daily Mirror reporter Brian Reade also heartbreakingly noting in his book, 43 Years With The Same Bird, that one of the final straws was when some of the Spice Boys mocked Roy Evans' tears (for the sake of a laugh) on the day he resigned. Many of these revelations left many fans upset with the state of the 1990s team's attitude, and justifying for them, Gérard Houllier's continental revolution of the early 2000s, which saw Liverpool instill much needed discipline in attitudes and diets and the way the players were managed, resulting in silverware in 2001.[55]

Even the players themselves were open about their own admissions, where Stan Collymore himself described the lack of authoritative respect for the management of the club, with the likes of players walking out of training when they did not agree with the regimen for the day, of players like Ruddock dousing himself with water just before the physio returned so as to pretend to have "trained", or of players like Fowler just playfully grabbing a hold of manager Roy Evans before gripping him in an armlock and then ruffling up his hair- ultimately saying that such behaviour would never happen under Alex Ferguson and that this summed up the difference between the talents on both sides and how they ended up.[56] Doubtlessly, such stories led to some outcries of lack of effort and letting down the Liverpool fans by taking the club and the fans for granted.

David James, meanwhile, stated that all the Spice Boys had in fact, always known that they should have been achieving more. "On paper, man for man, we were as good as United...We allowed ourselves too many distractions and once we'd won the League Cup all but switched off. We were seduced by things peripheral to football. I remember Robbie Williams travelling down to Aston Villa with us on the team coach, and he was strolling about on the pitch before the game. He was a decent bloke but what the hell was he doing being allowed on the team coach? Unlike Roy Evans, Fergie would never have let that happen."[57]

McManaman and Redknapp, however, had a different view for their lack of success, stating that it was not so much about the discipline, but that they had ran into a very good Manchester United side at the time, that was the reason for their lack of silverware in the 1990s. Redknapp said: "United were incredible. They had a crop of players that would never ever happen again: Nicky Butt, David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, the Neville brothers, Paul Scholes, one of the best footballers of any generation. That United team came through at the same time as us and we were always second best to them. That's how it is sometimes."[58]

In 2004, several of the Spice boys of the ex-Liverpool team found themselves reunited at Manchester City FC, under ex-Liverpool legend, Kevin Keegan, and the media were quick to point out that the "Spice Boys were reuniting", but Kevin Keegan[49] refused to comment and David James told reporters they had become "old spice": 'We may as well get the Spice Boys nonsense dealt with right from the start because I get the feeling it might be mentioned in a few headlines. Even if it was justified in the first place, and I don't think it was, it is now ancient history. Call us Old Spice.' That year, McManaman and Fowler also got caught up in a sex scandal with a single mother of three, after a failed attempt at obtaining an injunction, with facts emerging in the case that suggested that the pair had well rehearsed their routine of getting the woman in bed, with her saying: "They think they are gods, but they're vultures",[59] which then led to a naming and shaming scandal for both players, that further tainted their reputations.

In 2004, Stan Collymore, who had already been steeped in controversy over his career moves and over assault allegations surrounding his beating up ex-partner Ulrika Jonsson in Paris[60] years earlier, appeared in the press once again after he was involved in a court case where police had investigated CCTV footage amid proceedings where Collymore was allegedly assaulted by Bath Rugby players in Dublin after they accused him about his comments in his biography about an affair with Kirsty Gallacher (then dating a Bath Rugby player), which Collymore had revealed in his bestseller that year, and that he was then assaulted by six of them.[61] In the case, it was also revealed that Collymore had been warned by Princess Anne's daughter Zara Philips that the players were out to get him,[62] but the case was dismissed after a Garda investigation. A year later, Collymore found himself in the media again, this time for more controversial reasons again, after he admitted to having sex in public places with strangers in acts known as dogging, as well as for his battles with ongoing depression.[63] Collymore continues to battle depression and has been writing columns on the illness.[64]

Players' & Critics' Final Reflections

It is widely believed today by football fans, especially of Liverpool, that the Spice Boys of Liverpool remain a reminder to this day to the club, of a very prescient metaphor for what Liverpool Football club (as the epitome of success of traditional 20th century English football) was undergoing in terms of transitioning into the 21st century, and coping with the globalisation of the sport. It is also argued that the trajectory of the Spice Boys 1990s Liverpool team and the Manchester United team of the 1990s were metaphorical for the direction the two clubs took- one remaining in the traditions and not moving with the times, and failing to discipline and prepare the players for the 21st century pressure of a global sport, while the other (Manchester United), rode the wave of commercial capitalism and soared into the business and mass marketing and media side of things, compounded with discipline of a very similar core group of young players. One group won all the trophies, while the other ended up as a tragic footballing metaphor.

In 2005, Robbie Fowler responded by summing up the trappings and mistakes he made, and whilst he did not deny nor excuse the Spice Boys' behaviour, he explained the situation as part of "growing up", to The Guardian newspaper, saying it was only going to get worse with future generations of footballers: "When you're a teenager from inner-city Liverpool, you don't have any training on how to deal with the sideshow that comes with success. 'I've made plenty of mistakes, I know I have, and during my time as a footballer things have changed so that the spotlight is now even more intense. You have to be even more of a role model, a sensible, mature, intelligent professional, even if you're a cheeky little lad who's come from an inner-city council estate and put football before his studies...It strikes me that these days, clubs don't even want players who can truly play any more; they just want athletes, quick guys who don't have a football brain, can just run and run; some of them, Jesus. I can never imagine acting like that. Have a laugh, yeah, dick about, but don't give it the Charlie Big Bollocks. It's inevitable now, because everyone is a superstar, even if they're just an average player, and maybe that was part of the process set in motion when I signed that contract in 1994."[35]

In 2011, Dominic Matteo also explained this behaviour by the team of the 1990s (in his autobiography), as a result of the "traps" that befell many players from the era, saying: "I think lots of players from my era will read the book and relate to what I am saying. It was a time when there was lots of money flying about. Add that to the spare time a player has, and it is easy to fall into the traps I did."[52]

Also in 2011, due to widely fired protests by Liverpool fans regarding the antics that the Spice Boys were accused of, Neil Ruddock appeared on LFCTV's 60 Minutes, the club's official website television program, and categorically said that the game of "pass the pound" exclusively took place only during training, and not in competitive games.[65] Some fans however, highlighted that this was in stark contrast to what Ruddock had ghost written in his own autobiography years earlier where it was recorded that "pass the pound" took place during competitive matches "for a laugh", because it was there that the revelations came to light in the first place. The issue continues to upset or cause dissension amongst Liverpool fans till today, who are eager to find a scapegoat for the failures of the 1990s.

In 2013, David James told French Football Magazine, France Football that he hoped to use the mistakes he'd seen during the Spice Boys' era to make him a better future coach and manager. "As someone who wants to be a manager in the future, I can tell you that one of the worst things is to see players waste their talents and not do everything in their power to win games. I was one of those players. All of this is very ambivalent. You want to win; you just do nothing about it. At Liverpool, there were some really talented guys. In 1996, we played a Cup final vs Manchester United (Liverpool lost 1-0 to a Cantona goal). We were rubbish. People only remember our pre-match creamy white suits. This Spice Boys image didn’t come out of thin air, it had some foundations. You never once saw the Manchester United boys in the clubs. They didn’t have women surrounding them, never had any pictures in the press. We were everywhere. Even on television shows, on a Friday night before a game. The worst was the fact that no one was telling us anything, all the while losing games. Had I been the manager (Roy Evans at the time), I’d have said: “Guys, you will have fun when you win.""[66]

Prominent Liverpool reporter, Brian Reade however, had a much harsher take on the Spice Boys' lack of success, attributing the players' constant blame shifting as the very source of their entire problem in the first place. Using David James as his example, Reade wrote: "James also explained why he didn't get a look-in when Glenn Hoddle was England boss. Because they didn't get on. Glenn would offer James objective criticism and it shattered his confidence. So it was Hoddle's fault all along. We also heard from the great sage why Manchester United beat Liverpool in the 1996 FA Cup Final. Eric Cantona's goal, maybe? No. 'One group of young players was being given good, strong guidance and the other was not,' said James. Which dovetails with this assertion when Gerard Houllier showed him the door: 'All the mistakes I made at Liverpool were because they neglected crosses in training.' A statement which came as a surprise to Roy Evans, who had been told by the Armani model that it was down to playing too many games of Nintendo. Being David James means never having to take the blame for your calamitous nickname. So when the going gets even tougher at City, how quickly will he remind us that the problem with Keegan is that he's a smashing gaffer but he's too soft on the lads entirely."[67]

Reade also added that overall, on reflection, it would seem that the Spice Boys' fundamental problem was one of attitude, ego, pride and mentality. Using McManaman as his second example, he writes: "NOW that the final Spice Boy has sashayed out of Anfield it's time to put on a Kate Thornton mask, waffle about why we all loved 1997, and ask where are they now? Whatever happened to Jamie Redknapp's white-suited compadres, whose alleged Saturday-evening ritual was to wash 'n' go straight onto the Manchester-Heathrow shuttle while the Kop was still emptying? Steve McManaman? Sat in his sumptuous villa on the outskirts of Madrid, refusing to watch England's under-strength midfield attempt to cope with the loss of David Beckham. Chewing over the fact that just as he reaches his peak, his England career is finished. And probably not giving a flying Figo. If McManaman was half as proud as he is gifted, he would have been devastated to know that when Beckham's broken foot set a nation talking, his name never once cropped up as the man whose talent and experience could fill the gap. He would feel ashamed that with Paul Scholes and Steven Gerrard the only proven international-class players in midfield, Sven Goran Eriksson hadn't asked him to lead his country out at his old stamping ground and show us why a few years ago Pele called him one of the best players in the world. But that's our Shaggy. So laid-back he's doing a permanent limbo dance...When it has come to showing he is worthy of his shirt his attitude has been: "I scored in a European Cup Final for the biggest club there is and I can't see why I'm sitting on a bench behind the likes of Nick Barmby. If you throw me on as sub, I go on with nothing to prove. And if you don't like my attitude, fair enough." Nowhere did that come across more than in his 25 minutes against Albania when his apathy was so great, every time he went down the paramedics did not know whether to bring on a stretcher or sun-lounger. He has complained that Eriksson only plays him in fits and starts and thus hasn't appreciated his true quality. But a player of his class should never have allowed that to be a problem. He should have been bursting a gut to embarrass the coach whenever he got the chance. It seems baffling that the most successful Englishman to play abroad (medals-wise) had his international career terminated at 29 when his country was crying out for his brand of skill. And it begs the question - have England made a blunder by discarding a world-class player? Or is the fact that he couldn't care whether he's discarded or not proof that McManaman never had the mental toughness to be a world-class player in the first-place? Like Sven, I'll plump for the latter." [68]

Finally, in page 41 of his bestseller, "44 Years with the Same Bird", Reade also stated that he believed that critics who labelled them the Spice Boys had got it absolutely right: "Look at Liverpool's Spice Boys who turned Wembley into a catwalk in 1996 to model cream Armani suits. Jamie Redknapp, David James, John Scales, Stan Collymore. They may well have been [69]

Changing football culture

At the time the Spice Boys emerged, certain players like Lee Sharpe, Jamie Redknapp and Ryan Giggs had become icons in football already, and football stars had become idols on par with rock stars and pop stars,[10] in and around the mid- to late 1990s. Though this trend has largely carried on and is normative in football these days and where it is common for modern day footballers to be associated with scandal, women and drinking culture, the reason why the Spice Boys are notable is largely down to the fact that they were doing this en masse in the public eye for the first time, and a good decade before concepts of footballers exploiting their fame, getting caught up in scandal and doing modelling became mainstream media material and widely accepted in football culture. The obsession with celebrity, fashion and hairstyles also raised a new side to footballers as icons, a decade before the era of the metrosexual and several years before the rise of David Beckham, and a decade before the rise of Cristiano Ronaldo and the era of the marketed footballing fashion icon.

The Spice Boys of Liverpool have been listed alongside some of the most widely known scandal hit footballers in the history of world football, in a list of the Top 50 Most Controversial Players of All Time.[70]

Usage today

In recent times, the term has become a conjectural phrase associated with humour today, rather than pejorative innuendo, and has even seen fans of the popular social networking site Facebook, launch an application for it.[71]

See also


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