NEIL ‘Razor’ Ruddock’s larger than life presence, both on the field and off it, all too often marked him out as one of the game’s eccentrics.
However, it belied a genuine talent at the heart of defence for teams like Southampton, Spurs, Liverpool and West Ham.
Born in Wandsworth, London in 1968, Ruddock’s professional career may have lasted 20 years, but it only yielded one trophy, a League Cup with Liverpool in 1995.
It was scant reward for a player who, at his peak, was one of the toughest and committed defenders in the English top flight.
He got a puglistic nickname…
Ever wondered how Ruddock got his nickname ‘Razor’?
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Well, it all goes back to October 1992 when the heavyweight boxing champion Lennox Lewis fought the American Donovan ‘Razor’ Ruddock at London’s Earls Court.
When his teammates at Spurs saw the fight, there was only ever going to be one nickname for Ruddock from then on.
And so ‘Razor’ was born.
He was no respecter of reputations…
Take his relationship with Eric Cantona.
When he faced the French legend in Cantona’s post-suspension comeback match in October 1995, Ruddock sneaked over and pulled down his trademark upturned collar, a move that, predictably, sparked a barney.
“He said, ‘Come on Fatty, tunnel, tunnel’ and I wanted to kill him,” Ruddock revealed.
“I’m walking after him and one of the boys said to me, ‘Actually he’s quite big’. Then there is a doubt in your mind.”
Enter Reds’ keeper David James.
“I said, ‘Cantona wants to fight me’. And David James was like a doorway with a head on. He takes his gloves off and runs after Cantona who runs off.”
He’s a bit of a raconteur…
Ruddock loves to tell a tale, especially when it involves embarrassing a teammate.
One of his favourite victims is his old Livepool mate Jason McAteer. He’s not the brightest,” he said. “Not the sharpest tool in the box.
Once, when Ruddock ordered pizzas for them both, he asked McAteer whether he wanted his cut into eight slices or four.
“Four please,” came the reply. “I could never eat 8!”
He’s still bitter about the 1996 FA Cup Final…
When he was dropped by then Liverpool boss Roy Evans for the Wembley showpiece in favour of Phil Babb, Ruddock was less than pleased. In fact, it still irks him to this day.
“Growing up as a kid, that’s what you live for, innit?” he divulged.
“It’s what every kid who plays football wants to do – play in an FA Cup final, and to have that opportunity taken away hurt.”
But though Liverpool lost 1-0 to Man Utd that day, it didn’t stop Ruddock from enjoying the day.
Later that night, he and Stan Collymore, dressed in their infamous white ‘Spice Boys’ Armani suits, hit London’s West End and even scaled the statue of Eros in Piccadilly Circus where Ruddock slipped his jacket over the landmark.
“I thought she looked cold,” he explained.
He fancies himself as a bit of a crooner…
After his stint in the jungle on I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! Ruddock teamed up with his fellow campmates, Peter Andre, Mike Read and Lord Brocket to form the group the Jungle Boys.
They released a charity single, ‘Jungle Rock’, too. And yes, it as bad as it sounds.
Ruddock has also appeared on Celebrity Stars In Their Eyes in April 2006 where he came through the famous doors as Neil Diamond and sang Song Sung Blue.
He lost to Del Dingle from Emmerdale who took the honours with her portrayal of Lulu.
He was married to the late Pete Burns for a week…
When Ruddock appeared on Celebrity Wife Swap, his wife Leah got to spend a week with the Dead Or Alive singer’s partner Michael, while Ruddock had to shack up with Burns.
His conclusion? “Pete Burns just isn’t my type,” he joked.
“I know you shouldn’t knock it til you’ve tried it, but I prefer the blonde with small lips.”
He’s struggled with money since he retired from playing…
In 2011, after a messy divorce, Ruddock faced bankruptcy and he’s still finding it difficult to get by.
“I’ve lost money because of my ex-wife and kids,” he said at the time.
“Not all of it but most of it. My advice is, don’t get divorced. Don’t get caught with your trousers down.”
Three years later, he also appeared on the Channel 5 programme Can’t Pay We’ll Take It Away! where he was confronted by baillifs seeking £3,000 he owed to a local dogs kennels.
And to think he used to earn £10,000 a week too.
He liked a tipple or two…
One of the main reasons that Ruddock’s first marriage collapsed was his drinking.
The defender battled the booze for years and his increasingly frequent binges finally helped to put paid to his relationship with Sarah.
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“I’d go on benders for three days,” he recalled. “When you’re that drunk you can end up risking your life.
“I’m surprised I didn’t have an accident and die. I’d wake up and wonder how I got there. It’s scary to think about. I feel lucky I got through it.”
Thankfully, a 30-day stint in rehab helped Ruddock get a handle on his drinking – even though it was too late to save his marriage.
He wasn’t just a bruiser…
Despite all the jibes and brickbats about his playing style, Ruddock still managed to win international recognition.
Not only did he won four caps the England Under-21 and captain the England B team, but he also picked a single cap for the full team when he was picked by Terry Venables for the game against Nigeria in November 1994.
He did well too, keeping the likes of Daniel Amokachi, Finidi George and Jay Jay Okocha quiet as England ran out 1-0 winners.
Yet he never played for his country again.