Michael Owen’s wooden Dubai performance and other awful adverts starring footballers

John Nicholson
Former footballer and pundit Gary Lineker poses with Walkers crisps
'Lineker' does not rhyme with 'vinegar'

Michael Owen in a chopper, the England pizza hut fun and Man Utd players try to get everyone to drink some Japanese tomato juice. Football adverts are weird.


Louise and Jamie Redknapp – Thomas Cook
In which we were sold the perfect couple who really weren’t, who made us feel slightly nauseous by ‘enjoying’ being on holiday, before getting divorced and advertising shoes that look like the cheap trainers you get in a retail park discount warehouse. I don’t understand what travel agents are? Why do they exist? Why can’t you book your own flight and hotel? What is this ad trying to tell us? Are they too stupid to book their own flight and hotel? I wouldn’t be surprised.


Kevin Keegan – Sugar Puffs
In 1996, Newcastle United were riding high, in part, on the back of Freddie Shepherd’s scrap metal money. The days of being shackled to an autocratic regime shaming the region were still unimaginable. Keggy appeared on the screen with something called The Honey Monster, dressed in full kit, heading a goal and looking frighteningly like Boris Johnson. It was all like a bad trip where logic and proportion had fallen sloppy dead. Quite why it was thought we would be encouraged to eat a breakfast cereal – which someone told me smells like your wee when you have diabetes – by associating it with Kevin is anyone’s guess but, typical of Kevin, he throws himself into the role with gusto.


Bobby Moore and Martin Peters – Licensed Victuallers Association
In more innocent days, when a pint cost a few pennies and not the GDP of Mexico, advertising drinking beer in a pub with your wife was considered the sort of thing international footballers did. And not the sort of thing that ended with fighting on the cobbles, stripped to the waist, as their missus shouts ‘he’s not worth it, Terry!’ or snorting cocaine off a stripper’s breasts. Happy days.


Tony Adams – Jaffa Cakes
This is like a fever dream in which a newly sober Tony, looking wild, over-acting like mad, and also bit disturbed seems to be held captive by actual Jaffa Cakes called the ‘Orangey Tang Gang’, which is something that you might think had actually happened when you’ve been drinking petrol. You’re held prisoner by biscuits/cakes. Of course you are. With a voiceover by Jimmy Hill, it appeared the Jaffa Cakes may have been laced with LSD.


Michael Owen – Dubai Promotion
In the unlikely event that you have to share a helicopter with anyone, pray that it’s not Michael Owen. In an advert for the oppressive regime which is pretending it isn’t, Owen looks surprisingly at home, despite an incredibly wooden performance which bears comparison to a glove puppet. More Partridge than Partridge, god only knows what good it did Dubai but given its popularity for footballers and their ‘warm-weather breaks’ perhaps it was successful and not absolutely laughable.


George Best – Sirdar Knitting Pattern
George did loads of ads on television and in magazines but posing in an awkward position, looking into the middle distance in a chunky sweater to be made by your mam in a cheap beige nylon double-knit was surely the nadir. Can you imagine Jack Grealish doing that? In the mid-to-late ’60s knitting patterns were almost unbelievably popular. Those of us who spent their childhood every evening with a click-click soundtrack of generations of knitting women, all of whom smoked heavily, can attest. Presumably men asked women to make them as sartorial as George but all of them looked terrible.


Stuart Pearce, Chris Waddle, Gareth Southgate – Pizza Hut
Possibly the first post-modern, knowing advert which was so successful because it seemed plausible that Psycho and the Waddler, as bigger, rougher boys, would bully nice Gareth over a missed penalty in exactly this way. A bag on the head of the future England manager still seems like a viable career move. It would be excellent if he wore it at a presser before an England game. One could only imagine the shock of the drooling, walking cliche that too often passes for the English press.


Rene Higuita – Fruitino fruit drink
This advert looks like a satire or a drug-fuelled imagining in which the Colombian goalie, apparently wearing an unconvincing long curly wig, in full kit, swigging juice and dressed for a game, appears standing in a supermarket, then playing unconvincingly in a garden with children and doing the ‘scorpion’ kick. Throughout, he wears the expression of a man who has been to the edge, so you don’t have to. The children look suitably over-excited, as you would if Higuita turned up in your back garden doing the scorpion kick.


Manchester United players – Japanese tomato juice
Of course, Manchester United, when they were not hopeless, had an official tomato juice partner. Ryan Giggs, RVP, Shinji Kagawa and Michael Carrick slurp their way through cans of juice in a rather noisy manner, even though I’m willing to bet none of them drink tomato juice. Ryan, in particular, throws the whole nine yards at it in an attempt to make Japanese viewers convinced of the deliciousness of said juice. Why would I, or anyone else care anyway? Who drinks anything because Michael Carrick (who looks like he’s a hostage) does?


Jason Scotland – IrnBru
The Tartan Army loves nothing more than laughing at itself. England fans take note. Jason was indeed going to the World Cup with Jamaica, so was an obvious pick for a p*ss take ad for what passes for mother’s milk in Scotland: IrnBru. It hits home the ‘Scotland is going to the World Cup ha ha, not really’ mark with all the subtlety of a flying mallet.


Gary Lineker, Paul Gascoigne – Walkers Crisps
In which Gazza, here in the ’90s and still looking vaguely human, tries to pick crisps out of Gary’s ‘salt and Lineker’, which sounds nothing like ‘vinegar’ but has the same amount of syllables, fails and ends up crying. Part of Lineker’s slightly perplexing obsession with crisps which some see as one of the causes of obesity. Given what we know about Gazza, it all seems a bit tragic now, though at the time it was part of a post-modern trend of amusing self-deprecation