Prison Break

In’s own version of ‘Mean Machine’, Neil Sherwin has put together a team of colourful footballers who have taken time out from their careers to see the inside of a prison cell.


Bruno Fernandes de Souza (Flamengo)

In one of football’s most shocking stories of 2010, Brazilian goalkeeper Bruno Fernandes de Souza was arrested on suspicion of murdering his girlfriend and mother of his child Eliza Silva Samudio. The Flamengo captain, who was instrumental in his side’s 2009 Brazilian Série A title, was also charged with kidnapping, hiding a body, forming a criminal gang and corrupting minors after Samudio disappeared in July. Bruno’s 17 year old cousin, who could not be named due to his age, confessed to being an accomplice to the murder and named all those involved, including a man who is believed to have cut up Samudio’s body and fed it to his Rottweilers. He is currently on remand pending trial.


Tony Adams (Arsenal)

Arsenal legend Adams served two months at Chelmsford Open Prison in 1990 having been arrested for driving under the influence. Despite his obvious problems with alcohol, it took until 1996 for the defender to admit that he had a problem. Adams set up the Sporting Chance Clinic in 2000 to help athletes dealing with addictions.

Peter Swan (Sheffield Wednesday)

Centre half Swan lost out on a large proportion of his career for his involvement in a match fixing scandal along with team mates Tony Kay and David Layne. All three bet on their Sheffield Wednesday side to lose to Ipswich Town on 1 December 1962. Wednesday went down 2-0, and despite Swan claiming they were defeated fair and square, the scandal was uncovered. He was sentenced to four months in prison and banned from the game for life in 1964. The ban was subsequently lifted in 1972 and he returned to action with Wednesday but was 36 years of age at this stage and on his way out. Having made his international debut in 1960, he played 19 consecutive games and would have been a certain squad member at the 1966 World Cup were it not for the ban. A classic case of what might have been.

Gary Charles (Aston Villa)

Another former England international, Gary Charles’ felony list extends to more than just a few extra pints. As well as a conviction for drink driving, Charles was also given a prison sentence for cutting off his electronic tag to go on holiday to the Costa del Sol. In 2005 he was arrested for assaulting a woman at a taxi office after she told him he was not good enough to play for Manchester United, but a retrial was ordered when the jury failed to reach a verdict in the subsequent trial. His problems with alcohol were ongoing and he was jailed between trials for turning up to court drunk. After admitting to his problems, Charles was given a nine month suspended sentence in October 2006 and had to complete 100 hours community service.


Jermaine Pennant (Birmingham City)

Once the most promising teenager in England while at Notts County, winger Jermaine Pennant gained notoriety in 2005 when he played a game while on probation following a drink driving conviction. He was found to be two-and-a-half times over the drink-drive limit while serving an existing ban and having no insurance after crashing his £70,000 Mercedes into a lamp post. Pennant lined out for Brimingham City against Tottenham complete with an electronic tagging device on his leg having served 30 days of a three-month sentence.

Mark Ward (West Ham United)

After a very successful career that saw him perform well for West Hame, Everton and Manchester City amongst others, Liverpool born midfielder Mark Ward turned to the drug trade once he had retired from the professional game. Once described by Stuart Pearce as the trickiest player he ever faced, Ward is deemed by many to be unlucky not to have won international honours. In 2005, he was arrested following a raid at a property that uncovered 4kgs of cocaine. He was jailed for eight years for possessing cocaine with intent to supply but was released in May 2009 having served less than four years.

Joey Barton (Newcastle United)

Probably the most talked about football jailbird in recent times, Joey Barton has served 77 days in prison for common assault affray and also received a four month suspended sentence after admitting assault occasioning actual bodily harm on former teammate. Barton’s first indiscretion came at the Manchester City Christmas Party in 2004 when he stubbed out a lit cigar in the eye of youth team player Jamie Tandy, before being sent home from a 2005 preseason tour for an altercation with a young Everton fan. 2007 was the year when it blew up for Barton as he was arrested on suspicion of assault and criminal damage after an alleged argument with a taxi driver, but was later cleared. In May he was suspended until the end of the season for a training ground incident with Ousmane Dabo which left the Frenchman with a suspected detached retina. Finally at the end of the year he was sentenced to six months for assault outside a McDonald’s, though he served less than half of that.  The midfielder’s talents have never been in doubt on the field, and he really should have more than just one England cap to his name, but sadly his full potential will never be realised thanks to his off field antics. A recent rejuvenation upon Newcastle United’s return to the Premier League has reminded people that he is more than just a thug, but it’s all too little too late.

Graham Rix (Arsenal)

In 1999, former Arsenal and England midfielder Graham Rix served six months of a 12 month sentence for having sex with a minor. The then Chelsea assistant manager was found guilty of underage sex with a 15 year old, who he is believed to have met in 1998 on the eve of a game between his side and Manchester united, and was placed on the sex offenders register for ten years. He was also banned by the FA from coaching youth players under the age of 16. Despite the nature of the conviction, Rix resumed his role at Stamford Bridge upon his release.


Frank McAvennie (West Ham United)

One of the game’s most colourful characters in the 1980s, former West Ham and Celtic forward Frank McAvennie lived the ‘Playboy’ lifestyle with countless women, drink and drugs. Having starred for St. Mirren in his native Scotland, he moved to London to join the Hammers in 1985 and a sense of lonliness in a big city turned him to the dark side. He denies having done drugs while playing but admits to having dabbled in cocaine while sidelined with a broken leg. In 1995, McAvennie spent a month on remand having been arrested by Customs at Dover who said he was planning to fund a major drugs deal, but he was released after having to forfeit to £110,000 that he had on him when taken into custody. In 2000, he again escaped jail after admitting to possessing cocaine. McAvennie returned to the headlines in 2009 when given a four month suspended sentence for head butting a man outside a bar on the Isle of Man.

Lee Hughes (West Brom)

In 2003, West Brom striker Lee Hughes was involved in car accident that led to the death of Douglas Graham. Hughes and his companion fled the scene before handing themselves in to police the following day. The striker was charged with causing death by dangerous driving but was released on police bail, helping the Baggies achieve promotion to the Premier League. The case went to trial in August 2004 and Hughes was convicted before being sentenced to six years in prison and receiving a ten year ban from driving. While incarcerated, he turned out for prison side Featherstone FC in the Staffordshire County Senior League before joining Oldham Athletic upon his release in 2007. He has since joined Notts County and scored 31 goals in the 2009/10 season.

Marlon King (Gillingham)

Tempting as it was to round off the team with Duncan Ferguson, the 14 offences committed by Marlon King are just too many to ignore. Dating from as far back as 1997, the current Coventry City striker has been convicted of theft, criminal damage, attempting to obtain property by deception, fraudulent use of vehicle licence document, driving without insurance, speeding, drink driving, a wounding incident while playing amateur football, and two cases involving assault of young women. He has received fines, driving bans, community service sentences, a rehabilitation order and orders to pay compensation. In May 2002, while he was a Gillingham player, King was given an 18 month prison sentence for receiving stolen goods, while in December 2008 he picked up the same punishment after being found guilty of sexual assault and assault occasioning actual bodily harm. He was also placed on the sex offenders register for seven years. King was sacked by Wigan following the latter conviction and showed up at the Ricoh Stadium on a one year deal at the start of this season.

Do you know of any more players who have been guilty of misdemeaners? Feel free to drop them and their stories into our ‘Comments’ section below!

Author Details

Neil Sherwin
Neil Sherwin

Co-editor of Writes mostly on Premier League and A-League with contributions to other sites including TheFootballSack, InBedWithMaradona and Bloomberg's BSports. Has featured on The Guardian's Football Weekly.

4 thoughts on “Prison Break

    1. I did mention Drunken, but he was only in prison for a head butt which is mild in comparison to 14 convictions (King) and actually killing someone (Hughes).

      Best is a good shout alright. I also could have gone with Luke McCormick in goal.

  1. I can’t believe they left out Mickey Thomas jailed for counterfeiting. He said he was rich until the police took away his typewriter, and George Best jailed in 1974 and 1984 for drink driving assault and jumping bail. Why weren’t these mentioned? I’ll tell you why, they played for Manchester United.

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