It should hardly come as a surprise that players require something to get themselves up for an England game. The shock is they still perform so poorly even when the medicine cabinet is opened. Pro-Plus, essentially caffeine pills, is apparently the stimulant of choice. Two would typically contain 100mg of caffeine, equivalent to a strong cup of coffee. Recommended for armchair fans at soporific World Cup qualifiers. But what did the players of yore take to get them going?
Raw eggs Everton's Dixie Dean liked a pre-match tonic of a glass of sherry mixed with two raw eggs, followed by a cigarette. It seemed to work; he scored 443 goals in 505 games, a record 60 of them in one league season (1927-8).
Monkey glands The pre-war Wolves manager Major Frank Buckley sportingly tried out a course of monkey gland injections on himself and was impressed enough to commend them to his players. After losing the 1939 FA Cup final 4-1 to Portsmouth, he discovered the Pompey players had had them too.
Cigarettes The England manager Walter Winterbottom used to say that if a player smoked all week – as many did in the 1950s – "why deprive him at the time he wants it most of all – before a match?"
Roast beef and Yorkshire Terry Venables once described a Saturday lunchtime with Jimmy Greaves when both were playing for Chelsea: "Jim disappeared behind a mound of roast beef, Yorkshire pudding, three roast potatoes and three huge boiled potatoes... followed by steamed pudding and custard. We won 6-1 that afternoon and Jim scored five."
Caffeine tablet Paul Merson recalled his time at Arsenal under Arsène Wenger: "Just before kick-off for a game against Blackburn, Arsène gave us a dark tablet. It was pure caffeine, the equivalent of 10 cups of Starbucks. My heart started racing, and 30 minutes later that was still the case."
Creatine Glenn Hoddle, like his mentor Wenger, was a believer in the controversial muscle-strengthening powder Creatine, which Arsenal stopped using after some players complained of stomach upsets.
Vitamin injections Hoddle revealed in his diary of the 1998 World Cup: "At least 12 [England] players took the option of vitamin injections to boost the supplements they had taken. Most recognised how valuable the supplements had been. Some mentioned how full of energy they felt, even in the last five minutes of a game."
Mother's little helpers Gary Neville said of that World Cup tournament: "We'd taken a lot of pills every day – so many that it felt like a meal in itself. There were all sorts of different coloured smarties."
Brandy Paul Gascoigne was keen on a tipple whether he was on or off the wagon: "I got in the habit of a brandy before I went on the pitch, just to relax me. The club [Rangers] knew about this but obviously thought if I was doing the business, it couldn't be doing me much harm."
And again "Just before kick-off [Everton v Sunderland, 2002] I had a double brandy. We won 1-0 and I was voted man of the match. I had been off the booze for about six months before that."
Coco Pops Wayne Rooney told Four Four Two magazine of his favourite preparation: "Coco Pops and a banana as a pre-match meal; when we get to the stadium there are cereal bars and energy gels."Reuse content