Of cabbages and celery, pigs and pies
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Of cabbages and celery, pigs and pies

Steve Bruce was not a happy bunny when a cabbage was thrown at him by a protesting spectator at Villa Park recently. The Aston Villa manager was even less happy shortly afterwards when he got the sack for his team's recent cabbage-like performances, highlighted by throwing away a 2-0 lead in a 3-3 draw with bottom-placed Preston.

Bruce was none too pleased by the flying cabbage, but at least should be thankful it did not hit him. "To say it is disappointing is an understatement," he complained. "Unfortunately it sums up the society we are in at the moment. There is no respect for anyone."

Photographs suggest it was quite a healthy-looking cabbage, although reports that the Bruce household enjoyed cabbage soup for supper could not be confirmed. Perhaps he should give up managing and stick to writing his thriller mystery novels.

The best of luck to Villa's new gaffer, Dean Smith, who had done pretty well at Brentford. Hopefully the cabbage throwers will give him time to settle in.

The cabbage is not the first vegetable to be thrown onto a football pitch in anger. In fact just about every item from the grocer has appeared at some time or other. Chelsea fans will recall that the ancient art of celery throwing was regularly observed at Stamford Bridge for many years until it was banned in 2007 after opposition players taking corner kicks were bombarded with the vegetable. The celery throwing was usually accompanied by a rude chant known as the Celery Song.

But it is not just groceries. One of the more famous incidents involved Portuguese star Luis Figo, who after completing the controversial move from Barcelona to Real Madrid had a pig's head thrown at him when he went to take a corner at the Camp Nou in a 2002 El Clasico match.

Pigs of a different kind were in action in 2016 at the Valley in London when fans of both Charlton and Coventry threw pink plastic porkers onto the pitch to protest their respective owners. More recently packets of crisps were thrown onto the Valley pitch in another complaint against the owner. Apparently a club staffer had earlier got into trouble for eating crisps at his desk.

Spectators will throw anything they can get their hands on if they feel suitably aggrieved. During the infamous Eric Cantona Kung Fu exhibition at Selhurst Park in 1995, the most humiliating experience for the Frenchman was that the crowd vented their disgust by throwing cups of tea at him. You can't get a more fearsome combination than an angry English spectator with a cup of lukewarm Liptons.

During his early days at Newcastle, Paul Gascoigne was known to be partial to chocolates and sweets. Fans would sometimes shower him with Mars bars and on one occasion in the middle of a game he picked up one of the chocolate bars and ate it.

In a similar vein, there was a tense moment when an apple whizzed past the ear of referee Kevin Howley many years ago. He quickly defused the situation by picking up the fruit, polishing it and taking a few big bites. The crowd loved it and he had no problems for the rest of the match.

But we must not overlook the traditional meat pie, which is held in high esteem in football culture. For the true connoisseur you can't beat a freezing day at a stadium with a soggy half-time meat pie, maybe topped with mushy peas. The pie could also be a handy weapon. In the old days, spectators would derive particular pleasure in throwing pies at players and referees who didn't come up to scratch. It was not really regarded as hooliganism, but more like valid spectator self-expression.

It was certainly more fun than simply hurling abuse. There was no finer sight than watching Knocker Knowles belting down the wing with bits of gravy and mushy peas running down his nose.

There was an entertaining incident at Oldham some years ago, when referee Paul Durkin was hit by a hot dog thrown by a spectator during an FA Cup match against Chelsea. Some said it was a sausage roll, but Durkin insisted it was a hot dog, claiming he tasted the mustard and ketchup on his face.

But it could have been a lot worse. Oldham manager Andy Richie commented at the time: "If it had been one of our meat pies, it would have done more damage than a brick."

When it comes to pie-throwing, even club mascots get in on the act. A few years ago, Cyril the Swan, mascot of Swansea City, was red carded after hurling pork pies at West Ham players in an FA Cup match.

The respect the meat pie attained in football was reflected by fanzines. Preston's fanzine was named the Pie Muncher, while that at Rochdale was called Exceedingly Good Pies. A book was also written about pies at the 92 league clubs, with the imaginative title, 92 Pies.

Even managers have been linked to food-throwing incidents. Topping the list was the infamous contretemps at Old Trafford in October 2004, following a "lively" game between Manchester United and Arsenal, which left Gunners manager Arsene Wenger not in the best of moods. It became variously known as the "Battle of the Buffet" or "Pizzagate".

In the tunnel after the game, tempers flared and somehow a combination of pizza, soup and sandwiches landed on Sir Alex Ferguson, forcing him to change his suit for the after-match interview. Within days, pizza outlets in the Manchester area, included on the menu a "Flaming Fergie" and "Wenger Wobbler".

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