Feb 6 2014 by Jamie Bowman, Ormskirk Advertiser
NEVER afraid of a dodgy tackle, or a pint or two, one of ‘90s football’s biggest characters is coming to Ormskirk’s Civic Hall later this month.
Former Liverpool, West Ham and Spurs defender Neil ‘Razor’ Ruddock came to epitomise the ‘Spice Boys’ era at Anfield – a time when players were becoming as well known for their off-field antics as they were for their displays on the pitch.
These days, Razor is far happier on the golf course than he is in the pub but he’s more than prepared to retell a few of the old tales for fans.
“I've been doing the after dinner speaking for almost ten years now and it's something I enjoy, especially coming up to Merseyside,” says Ruddock.
“I seem to have more of a laugh with people up there than anywhere else and I get paid to get drunk with the locals – it can't be bad!”
Despite having a cockney accent to rival Danny Dyer’s, the ex-Millwall player agrees he would have been more than happy staying in the North West.
“I was there for six years and I would have settled there if I hadn't come back to West Ham.
“It's a nice place – the golf courses help but I think Merseyside people actually have the same humour as a lot of southerners. They're very easy to get on with and very funny.
“I'm here to enjoy myself because this is all you get – I'm a bit of a clown I suppose and so are a lot of people from Merseyside.”
Ruddock was signed by Liverpool from Tottenham Hotspur on a £2.5 million transfer in 1993 and was soon making headlines for his uncompromising defending.
Early on in his Reds career, he became involved in an on-field scuffle with Manchester United star Eric Cantona after he responded to Cantona's taunts about his weight by turning down the Frenchman’s collar (in his after dinner speaking, Ruddock says of the incident- “trust me to pick the only Frenchman around who wanted a tear-up”) and he was never far from controversy in his time at Liverpool.
“We did enjoy ourselves off the pitch,” he agrees.
“This was before your dieticians and we were allowed to go and have a pint and enjoy ourselves.
“I think today footballers can't walk or breathe without people writing about it. We enjoyed ourselves but we did it at the right time – it was never the night before a game – or even two nights before.”
Despite only hanging up his boots in 2003 after a spell with Swindon Town, Ruddock is full of criticisms for the modern game, which he believes has lost its sense of fun.
“I don't think there's the same characters in the game.
“You don't see a player with a smile on his face unless his team has scored. We used to have a laugh with the fans and even have a drink with the fans before and after games. We enjoyed our football and could enjoy spending our money.
“It was a lot fairer too and there wasn't such a gap as there is now. There's the top four or five and everyone else, whereas before everyone could beat everyone so you had to really concentrate and play well.”
Unsurprisingly for a player voted the 17th hardest footballer of all time, Ruddock also misses the days when an old fashioned ‘reducer’ was a legitimate part of the game.
“I liked the odd foul but I could play a bit of football as well,” he laughs.
“I don't think there's room in the game for a player like me any more – you're not allowed to tackle, and it's becoming a non-contact sport as far as I'm concerned.
“I'm fed up of watching football now. It's stop-start, stop-start and it's becoming like basketball. It's not good to watch.”
As for his future in the game, Ruddock, who came fifth in last year’s Celebrity Big Brother, is quite content to sleep on it.
“I've got my coaching badges so never say never, but I like my lie-ins and I love my golf!”
An Evening with Neil Ruddock is at the Ormskirk Civic Hall on Saturday, February 15 at 7.30pm. For tickets call 0844 884 2920 or visit Skiddle.com