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Opinion Piece: Current Premier League Pantomime Villains!

Is a player, event, or club all hype or the real deal? Welcome to the home of The Hype Train's opinion pieces, where members of our team discuss a wide array of footballing matters. Here, Ben Hunt discusses the current pantomime villains in the Premier League. All aboard.

He’s behind you! Discussing the Premier League’s current pantomime villains:

Watching Bruno Fernandes’ petulance against Liverpool recently, it’s not hard to understand why he riles up so many fans across the country. But it got me thinking, where have all the Premier League pantomime villains gone? Players everyone loves to hate, like Roy Keane, Joey Barton and Luis Suarez. The game needs players like this, but, sadly, I believe they are a dying breed.

So, in the hope of avoiding the extinction of this endangered species, I’ve scoured the Premier League to find this generations cheaters, biters, kickers and all-round nasty b******s.

Bruno Fernandes – The Sublime to the Ridiculous

Just search his name on Twitter and you’ll see for yourself just how despised Bruno Fernandes is. On his day a fantastic player, but at his worst, detestable.

Born to pay the role of chief-antagonist, Fernandes’ propensity to whine, dive and play act has been winding up rival fans (and, on occasion, his own fans) since his arrival at Manchester United in 2019.

Unaffectionately known as ‘Penandes’ after scoring 8 goals from the spot in his first 22 games for the Red Devils, the fact Fernandes scores and assists so regularly no doubt adds to the widespread loathing.

However, his inclination to pull off something fanatstic, only to undo all his good work by diving, moaning or scowling makes him incredibly frustrating to watch.

As a Manchester United fan I love Bruno, but I have to admit, if he played for a rival team he’d have me close to bursting a blood vessel.

Diego Costa – Professional s***house

Now onto a Pantomime Villain Hall of Famer, Diego Costa, who has been enraging fans, managers, and referees alike, on and off, for nearly a decade.

An elite striker in his heyday, upon his arrival in the Premier League the Spaniard had a reputation for s***housery, no doubt honing his craft under the master of the dark arts himself, Diego Simeone.

The burly striker had an electric start to his time at Chelsea, and, if he wasn’t banging in goals for the Blues, he could be seen gnawing at the neck of Gareth Barry, conspiring to get defenders sent off or fighting literally everyone who stood in his way.

Yet, since moving back to the Premier League with Wolverhampton Wanderers, the Spanish wind-up merchant has struggled to hit any kind of form, failing to score in his fourteen Premier League games so far.

However, for those of you concerned Costa has lost his edge, you’ll all be glad to hear the former Atletico Madrid man has been up to his old tricks, inexplicably headbutting Brentford defender Ben Mee and deservedly seeing red in an October 2022 clash with the Bees.

Never change Diego, never change.

It’s…………..Jamie Vardy

Let’s be honest, a player known for downing a double espresso and three cans of Red Bull before every game was never likely to be obedient.

Renowned for winding up opposition fans and players, Jamie Vardy has all the hallmarks of a legendary pantomime villain, but in truth, I can’t help but quite like him.

This might have something to do with his meteoric rise from grassroots football or the part he played in the Foxes incredible title win in 2016, either way he’s hard to dislike.

However, Vardy’s tendency to go out of his way to celebrate elaborately in front of opposition fans does make him a worthy member of this list. Below I’ve listed a few examples for your enjoyment:

Howling like a wolf in front of Wolves fans

Flapping his arms like an eagle in front of Crystal Palace fans

Laughing in the face of a particularly furious Baggies fan

Shushing the Bournemouth fans

Bowing in front of West Ham fans

Cupping his ears to Sheffield United fans

Fly kicking and obliterating the corner flag in front of Sheffield United fans (Vardy grew up supporting Sheffield Wednesday).

As Vardy’s career gradually draws to a close and his form wanes, we are witness to these provocative celebrations less and less, but I for one hope he still has a couple more up his sleeve.

Andrew Robertson – The Laughing Scotsman

No one gets my blood boiling quite like Andy Robertson. Here I’m going to try to rationalise why that is, because when I see him in off-field interviews I find him quite likeable.

One explanation for my hostility towards the left-back could be the manic grin he wears when faced with any kind of confrontation. We’ve seen him perform the same act to Tom Davies, Kyle Walker, and Jordan Pickford, but in almost every instance the Scot has done something to incense the opposing player, which only makes his reaction more galling.

Roberston’s nasty side only adds to the dislike. The Scot regularly leaves one in on opponents to either injure or anger them, and generally succeeds. In fairness however, I do this all the time when I play, but mainly because I’m rubbish. Robertson, on the other hand, being one of the best left backs in world football over the past 6 years, doesn’t have this excuse.


Voldemor… sorry, Jonjo Shelvey’s appearance on this list isn’t solely down to his resemblance to the Harry Potter villain, but it sure does help.

Shelvey’s a hot-head, and his five Premier League sending offs make him the most red-carded player still playing in the competition, and 21st in the all-time list.

There’s also the time when, still very early in his career, he went toe-to-toe with a furious Sir Alex Ferguson after receiving a red-card for two-footing Jonny Evans, claiming the legendary manager was the reason behind his sending off.

Or there’s the time while playing for Swansea he confronted an angry fan and invited him to meet him outside the stadium, presumably for a scrap.

Shelvey still has a long way to go to become a legendary pantomime villain, but I firmly believe that if he keeps up with the red-cards and ridiculous confrontations, he could be well up there.

Let’s hope so.

Want to join in on the discussion? Ben Hunt is a new Contributor at The Hype Train in 2023, and you can have your take on our latest opinion piece by finding the Train on Twitter at @HypeTrainHQ, and Ben at @BenHunt1238

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The Hype Train is an entertainment website founded in 2015, specialising in general football and Fantasy sports reporting, starting with Fantasy Premier League (FPL), before expanding to MLS Fantasy coverage in 2018.

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