NOW the footie season is in full flow you can enjoy watching the sport’s pampered prima donnas.
But in our feature, we’re reminding you of the violent nutters, randy rebels and peacocking playboys who over the years have graced the beautiful game with their presence.
Every week we’ll look at a different one of the sport’s most mental mavericks.
And this week it’s the Cockney Rebel – Charlie George. THERE’S nothing very controversial about an Arsenal fan flicking the V-sign at rival supporters.
But when the Arsenal fan is also the club’s creative midfielder, it suddenly becomes an issue.
Long before Charlie George was gracing the hallowed Highbury turf in the red and white of Arsenal, he was standing on the terraces and cheering on his heroes with his pals from north London.
And even when he became the team’s main man, he never stopped acting like a fan.
And more often than not, that’s what landed Charlie in trouble.
After signing apprentice forms with the Gunners, Charlie was soon playing for the reserves, but struggled to follow orders.
On one occasion, he even called in sick to miss a match so he could travel to Bristol with his mates to watch the first team in action in the FA Cup.
George was a tall, powerful player, who was strong in the air and had excellent vision.
Born in Arsenal territory, in Holloway, Islington, he attended his first match aged five. His talent was obvious from an early age, but so was his temper, and he was expelled from Holloway Comprehensive School – where Arsenal star Bob Wilson was a master – at the age of 11.
Within 18 months of signing apprentice forms, George signed a professional contract, and although he shone under Bertie Mee, his rebellious side was as evident as his ability.
At the end of the 1970/71 season, with the First Division league title in the bag, George stole the show in the FA Cup Final against Liverpool – scoring and collapsing in a heap.
Afterwards, he claimed he was “just f***ing knackered.”
George’s stunning FA Cup Final performance should have sent him rocketing to the very top of the game, but his career from that point on was blighted by ill-discipline.
In the 1971/72 season, he was twice reprimanded by Mee – first when he headbutted Liverpool’s Kevin Keegan and then for flicking a V-sign at Derby fans after scoring at the Baseball Ground. Eventually Mee had enough and in 1975 sold George – who had to deny rumours that he was set to launch a career as a pop singer – to Derby for £90,000.
At first, George impressed in the Midlands and even got an England call-up.
But his international career lasted just one game – against the Republic of Ireland – due to a heated bust-up with Don Revie, who substituted him after just an hour.
By 1978, George’s career appeared to be petering out. After playing for the Minnesota Kicks in America, he had spells with Southampton, Forest, Bournemouth and Brighton and spent a season with Bulova in Hong Kong in the early 80s.
Since retiring in 1983, Charlie had two unsuccessful businesses – a pub and a garage – and became embroiled in a shooting at an Islington club, with police eliminating him from their enquiries.
He now works as a tour guide at Arsenal.
Reflecting on his time at the Highbury club, Charlie said: “I always got on fine with the Arsenal supporters because they saw me as one of their own.
“I liked a drink and a bet and they could either find me down the local or down the bookies.
“I was on first-name terms with half of them – I’d see them down the pub after a game and they knew they could come over and have a chat.
“If I’d had a bad game they’d say, ‘F*** me, Charlie, you were useless today. You couldn’t hit a cow’s arse with a banjo’. And I’d say, ‘Fair point. Now get the beers in’.”
HEY this ain’t what it looks like, honest V FOR VICTORY: Charlie in action