In wake of the news that Shay Given has announced his retirement from professional football, we thought we'd reshare one of the maddest stories we've ever read in a football autobiography.
Shay Given's autobiography is one of the more enjoyable we've read from a former footballer in recent times as you get the feeling that the 134 cap Ireland international had to leave a lot of good stuff out of the 400+ pages that went to print.
Whether he's talking about his days at Ireland, Newcastle, or Man City, there are some barely believable stories about the teammates he played with and the antics they got up to in their spare time, but two, in particular, stood out as examples that sum up how crazy the dressing room at Newcastle United was at the turn of the millennium.
Having finished the 90s as one of the stronger teams in the Premier League, playing some thrilling football under Kevin Keegan, the club's momentum slowed and while Bobby Robson provided some stability after the disaster that was Ruud Gullit, the signings at the time were a tad erratic.
Given gave an account of the typical behaviour of two of his teammates at the time, Lomano Lua Lua and Temuri Ketsbaia, and it paints a picture of a bit of a mad-house.
From the start it was clear to me that LuaLua was off his head. We were in training one day and he came and sat down next to me afterwards, looking all serious and devout. Just as we were getting changed, he piped up. “Shay, I have something to tell you,” he said. “I once saw a man turn into a snake.” What the fuck?! I was like, “Lua, seriously. That’s enough now.” “Shay, SHAY, I promise you, promise you, it’s true. A man became a snake.” Lua was blessing himself, everything. “He was stood in front of me, and the next thing – he was a snake.” “Shut up, no chance, no chance,” I was telling him. He was deadly serious. “I know you won’t believe me but I would never lie to you Shay.” I never did get to the bottom of it.
Another one was Temuri Ketsbaia. He is best known for the night he lashed his shirt into the crowd while he was kicking the hell out of the sponsor board after scoring against Bolton in January 1998. That wasn’t the half of it. We went paintballing on a teambonding day in the middle of nowhere once and we got split into two teams. Straight away, Rob Lee shot Harps straight on the hamstring. No problem with that I suppose, apart from the fact they were on the same team. We were all crying with laughter from the off, taking the piss, but Temuri, being the Mad Monk, just legged it straight for the opposition base and was so pumped up he kept firing at everything and everyone he could see, screaming his head off. “TAKE THAT MOTHERFUCKERS” he was shouting, completely lost in the red mist.
After training one day, Temuri was not happy about getting overlooked and he was having a go at Bobby outside. Don’t mistake Bobby’s softly-spoken Geordie tones for a gentle person; he was hard as nails and was giving Temuri as good as he was getting. The next thing, Temuri dug around in his pocket and launched a mobile phone at Bobby. It somehow missed him before he stormed off. Bobby knew it was best to leave it – some Mad Monk battles could not be won.
Ketsbaia at paintball sounds like a truly terrifying thought.
The Georgian will forever be remembered as a madman for the aggressive and wild celebration that Given mentioned above, but he has since expressed his regret while admitting that he can't bring himself to re-watch the goal for fear of what he will see. Very much a 'heat of the moment' kind of guy by the sounds of things, who throws a phone at Bobby Robson?
Lua Lua, meanwhile, is somehow still playing football with Merit Alsancak Yeşilova in the second tier of Cypriot football, where hopefully he has not witnessed any more men turn into snakes.
You'll meet some truly odd characters with a career in football.. Although, to be fair, Gary Kelly sounds just as mad as anyone.
Any Given Saturday is in shops now and it's well worth a read if you haven't already checked it out.