Darren Bent counts Duncan Ferguson and Roy Keane among the toughest players in Premier League history.
The talkSPORT host played in the top flight in a golden era of talent for the English game, but he also rubbed shoulders with some of football’s toughest cookies.
Speaking to Andy Goldstein, Bent discussed his toughest opponents, including Kevin Muscat.
Muscat spent much of his career in Australia and then with Wolves, but it was during Bent’s time at Ipswich that he faced the tough-tackling midfielder as a Millwall player.
“This guy, I promise you, is awful,” said Bent. “Some of the tackles – I think he got banned in Australia for potentially ending someone’s career. Some of the challenges were disgusting. Absolutely disgusting.
“He was at Millwall. He’s a player who [former Ipswich manager] George Burley said, ‘if he’s anywhere near you, let him take the ball’.
“I wasn’t scared but there’s certainly scenarios where you just think ‘no’.
“There was one particular time when the ball was going out for a throw and I was running and I slid to try and keep it in and missed it.
“As I slid to keep it in, as I turned he went whisking past me and I remember Marcus Bent went, ‘I know what you tried to do, Muscat’ – he tried to finish me off.
“He assumed my body would be in a certain position so that he could two-foot my legs, but I didn’t turn that way so he just went sliding past me. Nasty.”
As well as recalling stories he’d heard about Neil ‘Razor’ Ruddock and Duncan Ferguson – who famously thought he’d killed someone who had broken into his house – Bent discussed what it was like to face Roy Keane.
The Manchester United legend goes down as one of the Premier League’s toughest ever players, leading Bent to explain: “He’s got to be in there, hasn’t he?
“He was a lunatic, angry…some of the tackles and his whole demeanour on the pitch – obviously there’s some rumours about him being quite tough off the pitch, I wouldn’t know anything about that, but that’s what I heard…
“He was my coach at Villa and I got on really well with him.”
The final player who made Bent’s top five was one of the toughest characters ever to grace the Premier League.
Andy Todd played for Bolton, Charlton and Blackburn during his top flight career and as someone who saw his prime years during the early 90s, the defender was someone to be feared by an up-and-coming striker like Bent in the 2000s.
“My god, this guy was so hard,” recalled Bent.
“There were stories about him beating up Phil Brown and Dean Kiely – people used to tell me stories about him before joining Charlton and even playing against him and seeing his face and his demeanour, I was thinking, ‘I’m not sure about this’.
“But then he tackled me and I got up and he went, ‘well played, fella’ and I thought, ‘what a nice guy!’
“He was at Blackburn too, but anyone who played with him would say that he was hard as anything.”
The Premier League has changed markedly since the early 2000s, meaning like characters like Keane and Todd are something of a dying breed.
But let’s not pretend that we don’t miss that side of the game, just a little bit.