8 times footballers made hilarious TV appearances (including that time Keown wanted to be more like Zola)

Nick Moore

1. Gary Lineker (All In The Game)

They say that you should write about what you know, so when Lineker decided to pen a TV drama back in 1993, he wisely decided against doing something about a troubled New York cop who uses unorthodox methods but gets results, and instead opted for a script about an English footballer who plays up front, makes a big-money move to Barcelona and, er, gets results.

Lloyd Owen – who later went on to star in Apollo 18 and Monarch of the Glen – starred as Darren Matthews, and Gaz naturally popped up in a cameo, as himself, to offer valuable tips like “don’t forget rule number one: score some goals, you dope!”

2. Robbie Keane (Mrs Brown’s Boys)

How do you make a sitcom so risible that it was once described as “Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps – only not as cerebral” even worse? Add an inexplicable but mercifully brief cameo from then-LA Galaxy and Ireland goal machine Robbie, that’s how.

Keano 'played' a Mormon with a deeply dubious American accent, visiting the Irish matriarch in a DVD 'special episode'. His sidekick is portrayed by snooker player Ken Doherty with almost as much gravitas.

“Robbie is a huge Mrs Brown fan, and he rang up looking for a small part,” explained Brendan O’Carroll, the show’s star and creator, later. “So I made them Mormons, who call at her door to convert them. Robbie often rings up and leaves me messages in a Mrs Brown voice.” Banter, eh?

02:03 for Keane's appearance

3. Kenny Dalglish (Scully)

Playwright Alan Bleasdale’s radio-series-turned-play eventually became a classic slice of eighties comic drama. Its Liverpool-obsessed teenage hero dreams about running out in front of a Kop chanting “there’s only one Franny Scully”. 

Among other surreal flights of fancy (including the school caretaker becoming a vampire) he memorably hallucinates famous Liverpool players – including King Kenny, who appears in the street, shop windows, and – marvellously – dressed as a fairy godmother, dispensing advice. “They didn’t want me originally, because it had been written for Kevin Keegan,” Dalglish revealed to FourFourTwo. “But Kevin left, so I filled in. I can honestly say I don’t think I’ll ever be a thespian.”

06:48 for the first flash of King Kenny

4. Luis Boa Morte (Grange Hill)

The gnarly Portuguese winger, who had spells at Arsenal, Southampton, Fulham, West Ham and Chesterfield – and is currently manager of Sintrense back in his homeland – received one of the ultimate London accolades: a 1999 cameo in Grange Hill.

He managed to dodge getting involved in any of the show’s big 'issues' – knife crime, heroin, disability, homosexuality – instead landing the plum role of footballer Boa Morte, handing out prizes on a school sports day with a cheesy grin on his face. Why not?

Boa Morte presents the trophy at 20:48

5. Gianfranco Zola and Ian Rush (Renford Rejects)

A comedy about a five-a-side team of misfits with a chip on their shoulder, you say? Theme tune by The Manic Street Preachers? Regular appearances from Tony Slattery, David Baddiel and Alexei Sayle? Somehow it worked, and the Nickelodeon teatime vehicle attracted an impressive array of player cameos, including John Terry, Harry Redknapp, Shaka Hislop, Roberto Di Matteo, and Martin Keown, among many others.

They were uniformly dreadful, but special accolades must go to Ian Rush – who muttered some unbelievably awkward lines about the potential readiness of a mooted Rush statue – and Zola, who produced a sensationally out-of-character turn as a cheating foreign swine. Childhood gold.

4:11 for the arrival of some famous faces

6. Dean Sturridge (Dream Team)

A gruelling 416 episodes of the Sky footy soap were churned out between 1997 and 2006 – and by the bitter end, the programme had gone quite mad, with ever-more elaborate deaths a speciality.

But the format allowed for some decent cameos, including turns from Ron Atkinson (who resigned as boss and moved to Madrid with a dramatic “hasta luego!”), Matt Le Tissier, Les Ferdinand and Dwight Yorke. Probably the best was Sturridge, the diminutive Brummie goal poacher best known for his decade at Derby, who signed for Harchester United – as himself – for a whopping £5m. Dreamland.

7. Graeme Souness (The Boys From The Blackstuff)

Another gritty Bleasdale cracker, Blackstuff was a brilliantly bleak exploration of the economic impact of Thatcherism on Merseyside, and went far deeper than the “gizza job!” catchphrase that many vaguely remember it for now.

Bernard Hill put in a tour de force performance as disgruntled jobseeker Yosser Hughes, driven near-mad by unemployment, but amid the desperation there was plenty of humour: Yosser running into LFC midfield destroyer Souey was a special highlight. “You look like me… Magnum as well,” Hughes hisses at the Scot, who gives him an uninterested “oh aye” in an expression rich with potential violence, suggesting that he might have done a good turn in Trainspotting.

12:30 for Souness (and keep your eyes peeled for Sammy Lee)

8. Sol Campbell (Footballer’s Wives)

Swapping Spurs for Arsenal, dropping three tiers to join Notts County, trying to become the Tory mayor of London – big Sulzeer has always marched to the beat of his own drum, so a wooden stint on Footballer’s Wives, a show so trashy it made Dream Team look like Panorama, was hardly surprising.

He joined the pantheon of theatrical greats – Peter Stringfellow, Katie Price, David Seaman, Teddy Sheringham – to crop up on the ITV dramatisation of Earls Park FC’s exploits. Even Jim Rosenthal got in on the act.

“I did the cameo, in Croydon, on my birthday and played myself,” he confessed to FourFourTwo’s Ask A Silly Question. “They never invited me back, but I still get royalty cheques for £26.”

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