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Neil Ruddock - Still a Hell Razor

Neil Ruddock described himself as a "Hell Razor" but it is difficult to comprehend now how he got that reputation as today he is a very much grounded and a quiet person who... that couldn't be further from the truth actually... Ruddock is still the same way as LFChistory.net learnt beyond any doubt. Love him or hate him... there doesn't seem to be any middle ground. You know when he's around as you can hear his voice for miles. 

Most wonder, including Razor, what could have been for him and Roy Evans' Liverpool if the squad had been better disciplined. The penny game being the finest example - the Liverpool defenders passed a penny around in the middle of matches and the one ending up with the penny had to buy the drinks afterwards. This would have been unthinkable under Houllier or Benítez but went on in Roy Evans' regime. 

Photo for LFChistory.net - Arnie

Ruddock's career until his move to Liverpool was an interesting one. Ruddock's first team was Millwall. He went there when he was 12.

At school I was left-winger, don't laugh, and a striker. I went to Millwall and when I was 16 George Graham put me centre-half and that was it. It was George Graham's first managerial job. He was a very disciplined man. He was great friends with Terry Venables. Terry was a very man-to-man manager. They were close friends and had been at Palace together before that.

Tottenham bought Ruddock when he was 17. He had been at Tottenham for one year when David Pleat got sacked. Terry Venables took over at Spurs and his first game turned out to be against Liverpool on White Hart Lane on 28th November 1987. Ruddock was delighted to be named in Terry's first starting XI, but the game turned out to be a disaster for him.

Gary Gillespie stamped on my leg. I went off but I didn't know I was broken for about a week, so I was hobbling about with a broken leg for a week. Steve Hodge got sent off, he elbowed Ray Houghton early on.

Liverpool won 2-0 and Ruddock was out of action for a couple of months, hardly got a look in after that and was sold to Millwall in the summer. Ruddock spent six months at Millwall and then went to Southampton for four years. Still Ruddock is very fond of Venables as they were reunited at Spurs four years later, in 1992 and has a favourite story of the colourful manager. Ruddock was sent off against Crystal Palace in his second spell at Spurs in the 1992-93 season and Venables was not amused by Philip Don's decision.

He sent me off. At the end of the match in the tunnel Terry said: 'Mr. Don, if I call you a cunt, would I be in trouble?' He said: 'Yes, you would, Mr. Venables.' Terry said: 'If I thought you were a cunt would I be in trouble?.' He said: 'No, you wouldn't.' Terry said: 'I think you're a cunt.' It's great [laughs heartily].

Liverpool paid a record fee for a defender 2.5 million pounds for Neil Ruddock on the 22nd of July 1993.

I was on holiday in Spain. Sammy Lee got in contact with me. I remember eating lunch and the waiter saying: 'Mr. Ruddock, there's a phone-call.'  I knew Sammy Lee. I played with him at Southampton. When he said, 'Sammy Lee.' I thought: 'Bloody hell.' He was a reserve coach at Liverpool at the time. He said: 'Souness wants you.' When I came home I had Souness and Liverpool waiting, Glenn Hoddle at Chelsea, Brian Clough at Forest, Kevin Keegan Newcastle, Walter Smith Rangers and Kenny Dalglish Blackburn. They wanted to sign me, no doubt. I promised to meet every club. I met Blackburn, met Kenny on Monday. Tuesday was Liverpool and I was going to Newcastle on Wednesday. When I met Souness at Liverpool, I thought: 'This is it.' When I grew up Liverpool were a great team. The old Kop was still there. Nothing is better than this. When I used to run out at Anfield with 25,000 scousers singing. Hour and a half before the game the Kop used to be full. Going to the ground you could hear the Kop already in there singing. That's the thing I remember most and take away from football.

Controversy as ever followed Ruddock around. After only making two appearances for Liverpool Ruddock featured in Ronnie Whelan's testimonial against Newcastle. When only two minutes had passed of the match, Peter Beardsley fractured his cheek bone in three places after a clash with Razor who later scored the only goal of the game. Beardsley wrote later in his autobiography that Ruddock had deliberately broken his cheekbone to prove he was a hard man to the Liverpool fans. Ruddock replied in his autobiography that "If anything the slight rearrangement of his face did Pete a favour..." This can't have been the start Ruddock wanted at Liverpool.

That wasn't a free-kick, it was play-on. Peter Beardsley was going to sue me but his surgeon said: 'Wait for the swelling to go down' and and I am still waiting for him to sue me.

Ruddock was fond of SounessGraeme Souness had been in charge at Liverpool for two seasons when he bought Ruddock. Liverpool ended sixth both seasons, a far cry from the glory days. Liverpool won four out of their opening five games in the 1993-1994 season with Mark Wright and Neil Ruddock at the heart of their defence, losing only to Ruddock's former team, Spurs. Liverpool then lost three in a row and it was downhill from then culminating in a humiliating FA Cup exit at the hands of First Division Bristol City at Anfield. Souness was sacked only 6 months after Ruddock came to Liverpool.

I think he should have had longer. He was honest with me. When we played five-a-sides he was still one of the best players there. Souey was coming back and he was managing his friends. Whelan, Grobbelaar... He's come back and telling his mates not to do what he used to do with them. He wanted really to do the right thing. He wanted it right now. He couldn't wait. He couldn't see the full picture. The players were talking behind his back. That's what I'd seen.

Roy Evans who had been at the club for 28 years was chosen as 14th full-time Liverpool manager. In Evans’ first full season in charge, the 1994-1995 season, Phil Babb and John Scales arrived from Coventry and Wimbledon respectively within 48 hours of each other. Evans decided to play three at the back, Ruddock, Scales and Babb claiming "it's been beneficial for Razor to be guarded by these two guys." Did you like the 5-3-2 formation?
 
I liked playing with Mark Wright and then Nicol. He never seemed to have a bad game. Scales and Babbsy... I didn't know what the fuck they were gonna do. Half the time Babb didn't know what he was doing anyway.

"It was strange really, because one week we were calling him 'Eddie', his nickname for years,
and beating him up on the training ground, and the next he was manager and we were calling him 'boss.'"
(Ruddock in Hell Razor on his new boss Roy Evans.)

Ruddock only won the League Cup in his time at Liverpool. His dream of winning the FA Cup against Manchester United at Wembley was shattered at training, as he explains in Hell Razor: "I was running past Roy at one point and he said to me: ‘I don’t know how to tell you this, but...’ and that was it, I was out of the final. I was so upset I told him to fuck off and stormed off. I might be a big bloke and have the reputation of being a hard man but I cried like a baby when he dropped that bombshell."

I'd done well. Roy admitted after that he made a mistake. At that time I was getting the better of Cantona and he wasn't playing too well against us. It was my birthday as well. My day was fucking brilliant. What a birthday present. Happy birthday. Thank you, guv'nor [laughs]. We ended going to Swindon together. He was manager and I was assistant coach. Some people say he was too soft and that but he wasn't too soft on me, the bastard. Very knowledgeable man. He had his way. I think some players did take the easy route. Get away with what they thought they could. Collymore could have become a great player but if he'd had someone right there kicking him up the backside I'm sure he would have. 

Fowler and Razor are great friends

Which players did you hold in most regard at Liverpool?

Johnny Barnes. Jan Molby, fuckin' magnificent, Rushy, Steve McManaman, Robbie, me...

Fowler and Ruddock had their disagreements at the time as Ruddock describes in his book "Hell Razor":

"We were in high spirits after victory and enjoying a celebration drink on the plane home when Steve Harkness thought it would be a good idea to relieve himself in Robbie’s shoes as our young striker slept amidst the mayhem. When Robbie woke up, by which time I was fast asleep, he put his feet back in his shoes and quickly realised what had happened. Understandably, he wasn’t too pleased and when he demanded to know who’d done it, the lads pointed to me. As a result, he went into my bag and pulled out my new pair of £300 Gucci boots and proceeded to cut them up, thinking he’d got his revenge on the dirty culprit who’d pissed in his shoes. Bad move. When I woke up as we came in to the land, the lads were still in hysterics and it didn’t take a genius to work out why. It wasn’t until we were going through the airport I confronted Robbie, told him that I’d had nothing to do with the original stunt and demanded that he bought me new pair of boots to replace the ones he’d ruined. There was a big argument, a bit of pushing and shoving and having had enough of his bravado; I decided to teach him a lesson by punching him on the nose." At the time Robbie was getting a bit loud and above his station. I think, me doing that, a lot of people think he deserved it and it calmed him down and brought the best out of him. We love each other. We still talk about it. He is the greatest finisher I've seen.

Who were your most memorable opponents?

Three come to mind. There's Cantona, Zola and Dennis Bergkamp. Ian Wright had two years at Arsenal when he was a bastard. He'd come up to me: 'Hello, big man' and scratch you. When you're sweating, it stings. 'Eh, big man, your wife makes a lovely breakfast.' He tried to work you up. We'd become good friends in the end me and Ian Wright especially when I was playing with Tottenham and he was playing with Arsenal. Then we ended up at West Ham together.

Ruddock clashed with Cantona in the Frenchman's return game on the 1st of October 1995 after his 9 month suspension.

"Eric used to wear his collar up; it was a friend of mine, a Scouse, who said: ‘Why don’t you go and turn his collar down, see how he reacts?’ I thought it was a good idea so when we played I turned it down once and he grinned at me. Then I turned it down a second time and he smiled, I turned it down a third and he lashed out and just missed me, turned it down a fourth time and he chased me and kicked me right up the backside." (From Hell Razor)

[Ruddock smiles]: It was just about putting him off his game. He lost it. Eric was my height. People don't realise that.

Ruddock added later that Eric came up to him after the game in the players' bar, tapped him on the shoulder, carrying two cans of lager and offered him one. Ruddock reacted by trying to pull Cantona's pants down.

I have a few quotes of yours I've been collecting at LFChistory.net that are really incredible. Regarding Andy Cole when you broke both his legs in a reserve game in 1996: you replied: 'I can only assume it was the way he fell.'

Ruddock laughs: 'I can only assume he fell.'... [laughs for a good minute].

Cole wasn't very happy with Ruddock's reaction and said at the time: "He says he played the ball but if I am in front of him by two or three yards, then how could he have played the ball? I was chasing after a good ball from Paul Scholes when suddenly I was sent flying into the air. If challenges like this occur in every game then people are going to get seriously hurt. I'm shattered by the injuries and disappointed with what Neil Ruddock has said."

In September 1996 you had a bit of trouble with the police regarding your Porsche. [then I showed him the press article about this incident]

NEIL RUDDOCK, the Liverpool football player, was fined £300 with £200 costs yesterday for obstructing a police inquiry into a crash involving his Porsche. Magistrates were told that one officer accused him of telling "blatant lies".

The central defender, aged 28, who was in the Anfield squad against Finland's MyPa-47 last night, is considering an appeal. Ruddock, in a statement read outside Southport Magistrates' Court by his solicitors, said the case had caused him, his family and Liverpool Football Club a great deal of distress and embarrassment.

The court was told that in January Ruddock spent all afternoon in The Grapes pub at Formby, celebrating a friend's birthday. Anthony Clarke, from Ainsdale, took the keys to Ruddock's £57,000 Porsche Carrera 911 for safe keeping. He drove off at speed but lost control on the A565 Formby bypass. Witnesses said the car, which was written off, crossed the central reservation and hit trees.

PC Ian Barlow of Merseyside Police said that Ruddock, of Formby, Merseyside, twice told police that the car had been stolen. The footballer was arrested after providing a positive breath-test. Deborah Birrell, for the prosecution, said: "Police believed, erroneously, he was the driver." On February 1, Ruddock had admitted to police he had given the car keys to Mr Clarke and had not told them. "I didn't want to get him into trouble," he said. "I didn't want to be a grass. I know I was wrong but I had had a few beers." PC Barlow told Ruddock that his earlier statement had been blatant lies. He replied: "Not blatant lies. I just didn't tell you what I knew." Clarke admitted obstructing the police, careless driving and driving without insurance."

Ruddock's agent, Anthony Clarke, yes the very same as mentioned in the article all those years ago, was also present in the room when I was interviewing Ruddock.

[Ruddock points towards Anthony:] 'Tony Clarke smashed it up. It was him!'

What I picked up on was: "PC Barlow told Ruddock that his earlier statement had been blatant lies. He replied: "Not blatant lies. I just didn't tell you what I knew."

I love that. Clarky! [brings the article to Tony, who clearly enjoys reading it now after all those years.]

Tony: 'I was on the 10' clock news.'

Ruddock injured his knee badly in the opening game of the 1997-98 season. Around that time Ruddock had a six month spell which by his own admission made Gazza look like a saint.

I was very disciplined from sixteen, you're locked away and your mates have found beer and they've found women. I got married very young. It was just a crazy time...Girls, drink, girls and drink. I was injured and the marriage was like that [points his thumb downwards]. Looking back I was very stupid but it was a good six months...

I loved the lifestyle. Sometimes I was easily led by my friends. It was my friends. See how I get away with it [laughs]. My friends led me astray... gladly.

Hammers offered Ruddock a way out after a of Liverpool. Harry Redknapp wanted to bring him to Upton Park and Razor ended up proving his fitness to Harry by playing at QPR in the Football League championship. Ruddock explains.

My kids were that age it was the right time to move for me. I had two years left on my contract. I was playing for Liverpool reserves. I went to QPR, Ray Harford was manager. I didn't want to go to QPR. Ray rang Harry Redknapp and Harry Redknapp rang me up and said: 'Get down here [to QPR], prove your fitness to me and we'll sign you.' Vinny Jones was there and Iain Dowie. I went down there for the last seven games of the season. We were struggling for relegation. We had six draws and stayed up by a point. Man City went down. We went to Man City and drew 2-2 when Jamie Pollock scored the greatest own-goal in the world. He flicked it over someone's head and headed back to his goalkeeper. There was a pool about "Who was the most influential person in the world?" Jamie Pollock won and Jesus Christ got second because every QPR fan voted for Jamie Pollock. I proved my fitness and we stayed up. I moved to West Ham and had two great years there.

Then Crystal Palace and Simon Jordan. I had a bit of a bad knee at the time and it was coming to the end of my career. Harry said: 'He's come in for you. This rich lad has taken over at Palace and he's got a few bob. We know your knees and your career is on the way. Go and nick yourself a few quid.' I didn't really know who Simon Jordan was at the time. I went there and had a fall-out with Simon Jordan after a year or so.

Ruddock joined forces with his former Liverpool boss, Roy Evans, in August 2001. Evans would be boss and Ruddock player-coach, signing a three-year deal.

One of my pals, Danny Donegan, was at Swindon. He was the chairman. So he said: 'Get Roy Evans as manager....' We had a year and a half and it was good. Then the money ran out and promises ran out. I went straight into coaching. I'd rather had a two year gap and then go into coaching. It was very frustrating trying to tell a Swindon player to do something and he can't do it. Roy Evans said: 'Listen, son. That's why they're playing for Swindon.' If they could do it, they wouldn't be playing for fuckin' Swindon. [laughs]

What have you been doing in recent years?

My main income is after-dinner speaking and I am the best as my mom tells me. I have been doing loads of TV shows like "I Am a Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here." They get ten celebrities and put them in the jungle and basically leave them. Jordan and Peter Andre were in the same show as me. I lost 18 pounds in 11 days. I should have done my pre-season training there! It was a big show so that go my profile. Women in England know who I am now. Women say: 'I know you. You was in the jungle.' Not the fuckin' 400 games I played and 20 years of hard work.

Gerard Houllier arrived at the club in July 1998 to become joint-manager by Roy Evans' side, Houllier introduced himself to the players. Ruddock wasn't impressed.

Houllier came into the dressing room and he went to Fowler, 'Ahh, Robbie Fowler,' went to David James: 'hello, David', he comes to me and said: 'I'm sorry, what is your name?' I said: 'Have you been in a coma for 15 years?' Everyone laughed. He didn't get my sense of humour. I think it was about a week later I was gone.

Tell us about Jacko?

At home, everyone calls me 'Jacko.'  I used to have a little toy monkey. I couldn't go anywhere without Jacko till I was about twelve. Thank you for embarassing me. Thank you for ending this on a fuckin' high note, you bastard.

Interview by Arnie for LFChistory.net ([email protected]) - Copyright - LFChistory.net

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