Dark Fruit lads: 11 footballers that can’t get enough of their indie music

Footballers aren’t renowned for their earth-shattering music taste, but former Chelsea, Liverpool and Real Madrid legends are among those to have developed listening habits significantly cooler than their peers.

While few could forget Steven Gerrard lamping a Southport DJ for allegedly refusing to play Phil Collins or Roberto Martinez busting out moves at a Jason Derulo concert, other players have delved deeper into the music world than humming along to Capital FM on their morning drive.

We’ve identified 11 footballers with enviable musical taste.

Pat Nevin

During his playing days, Nevin listened to John Peel, was dubbed “the post-punk footballer” by the NME and once asked to be substituted at half-time so he could catch a gig by ethereal dream pop merchants, Cocteau Twins.

This all during an era of steak and chips, George Benson and Costa del Sol footballers made the former Chelsea and Everton winger stand out like the sorest of thumbs.

Having DJ’d since his younger days in Glasgow, he was also spinning the decks for a club night in Dalston well into his 50s. Top man.

Leighton Baines

Behind Nevin, Baines is arguably the least surprising addition to our list.

The former England defender used to pen a blog for Everton in which he waxed lyrical about the charms of Tame Impala, The xx, Can, Lana Del Rey and The Black Keys.

He’s also good mates with Miles Kane. Speaking to The Independent in 2013, Kane said: “He’s quite shy, a real quiet lad. But as I got to know him it became clear he was a massive music fan.

“We started talking music, listening and swapping tracks. He put me on to [Australian rock band] Tame Impala before they hit it off. And we’re both massive Lennon-heads.”

Peter Crouch

In October 2021, Crouch shared a photo of himself, wife Abbey Clancy and their 10-year-old daughter Sophia backstage with Bring Me The Horizon at the band’s sold-out PRYZM gig.

A keen indie aficionado, the former Liverpool and England striker regularly attends the Isle of Wight Festival and made a quick cameo in the ‘Gen Strange’ music video by indie band Peace in 2015.

Meanwhile, Clancy starred as an angel in The Darkness’ music video for ‘In Another Life.’

Xabi Alonso

Alonso was the heartbeat of every team he ever graced. But what was the soundtrack to this midfield orchestration? Dinosaur Jr, My Bloody Valentine, Pavement and Wilco.

In fact, any iconic act that was blaring out from any self-respecting underground indie club in the ’90s. This isn’t too surprising considering Alonso is from the Basque Country, arguably the most punk corner of Spain.

The Bayer Leverkusen manager has also been known to tweet about his love for the Velvet Underground.

Gaizka Mendieta

Another majestic Spanish midfielder with an equally sublime music collection; The Stooges, The Jesus and Mary Chain and Velvet Underground are staples on the Mendieta stereo.

To further enhance his indie credentials, Mendieta once tweeted about some bands from Glasgow – The Pastels, Frightened Rabbit and Franz Ferdinand were all mentioned – before playing a match in the city.

He’s also DJ’d indie-pop club nights at the Shacklewell Arms in Dalston and his eclectic mix was documented by The Athletic.

Joey Barton

Barton may have been controversial on the pitch, but his music taste is unquestionable; the Bristol Rovers manager is a Smiths obsessive.

He even once made a vow to get the group to reunite, telling The Sun: “If I could get The Smiths back together, that would top anything I could achieve on the football pitch.”

Joey Barton during his appearance on Question Time, a political programme produced by the BBC, in May 2014.

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Kieran Tierney

“I think of him at the back of the coach with his music on,” Brendan Rodgers once said about Tierney during his days at Celtic. “It’s real old school music, too – he plays Fleetwood Mac, everything.”

The Arsenal defender, now on loan at Real Sociedad, created a public Spotify playlist (called “absolute scott broons”) that included the likes of Red Hot Chilli Peppers, The White Stripes and Arctic Monkeys. Very down to earth.

Brian McClair

“The SFA stuck me in the same room with Brian McClair,” Nevin recounted in 2010, and the usual awkward silence ensued. “’What’s your name?’ ‘Pat. Yours?’ ‘Brian.’ Silence.

“So I took an NME out of my bag and started reading it. He took out his copy of Sounds.” Inevitably, the two became good friends.

The former Manchester United forward lists Psychedelic Furs, David Bowie, Velvet Underground and the Mighty Wah as his musical heroes

He also once claimed that: “One of my proudest achievements is being a clue in the NME crossword, though, which was something like: An Elvis Costello song which you’d often see Brian McClair and Paul McStay in.

“And the answer, of course, was Green Shirt, which seems obvious now, but it had a few people stumped at the time.”

Slaven Bilic

Bilic has always been one of football’s more maverick personalities. His favourite bands read like a holy grail of hard rock and heavy metal; Slayer, Metallica, AC/DC and Iron Maiden.

Shortly before West Ham’s 3-0 win against Liverpool at Anfield in 2015, Bilic played Megadeth in the team dressing.

His assistant Julian Dicks, not exactly a shrinking violet himself, said: “The gaffer’s got me and him tickets (to a Megadeth concert). He put on a couple of their songs at Liverpool. It seemed to lift the mood of the dressing room.”

The former Croatia manager is also the rhythm guitarist of Croatian prog-metal outfit Rawbau. Ahead of Euro 2008, they recorded the unofficial national team anthem ‘Vatreno Ludilo’ (‘Fiery Madness’) which became a number one hit in his home country.

Slaven Bilic during ITV's coverage of the 2018 World Cup match between Brazil and Switzerland in ITV's World Cup studio, Moscow, Russia, June 2018.

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Jay Rodriguez

The former Southampton striker got married to the delicate sounds of The Smiths’ There is a Light That Never Goes Out, presumably with the permission of his very understanding wife.

Around the time of his England debut in 2013, The Independent wrote: “Rodriguez may also have the best taste in music of any Premier League footballer.

“Not just a big fan of The Smiths, he says he has also commandeered the dressing-room iPod dock to play “This Charming Man” to his team-mates.”

Shaun Barker

Barker had to retire in 2018 having failed to recover sufficiently from an horrific injury sustained six years previously.

But the former Derby captain hopefully found solace in his extremely erudite music collection – his love of Nick Cave, The Cure, Leonard Cohen, Mogwai, Explosions in the Sky and Holy Bible-era Manic Street Preachers is well documented.

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