This is the public image of your average professional footballer and due to one or two infamous incidents down the years one that is difficult to dispel. So imagine my surprise when I tuned in to to the BBC’s ‘Question Time’ last night (do people still 'tune in'?) to see one of these footballers going toe-to-toe with such luminous minds as Alastair Campbell, Simon Hughes MP and of course David Dimbleby, the Oxford University educated host. But Burnley’s Clarke Carlisle is no stranger to such intellectual spheres. Back In 2002 he was awarded the accolade of ‘Britain’s Brainiest Footballer‘. (You might assume that there was not too much competition) Then in 2010 Carlisle not only competed in Channel 4’s ‘Countdown’ but actually won two matches before being narrowly beaten in the third. This got me thinking. Surely Carlisle can’t be a lone voice in the wilderness? Surely there must have been other footballers with IQs larger than their own boot size? Surely there must another player who did not literally possess a 'football brain'? To use an old, much-used phrase from the 1990s, the truth is indeed out there...
MacKenzie made it onto 'Countdown' whilst playing for Notts County, a full two years before Clarke Carlisle and outdid him too by winning six games on the spin back in 2008. Now orchestrating Tamworth's midfield, MacKenzie's Question Time invitation is presumably still stuck in the post.
The former Arsenal centre-back may have the appearance of a cave-dwelling troglodyte, who is waiting to bash his next stegosaurus over the head with his gnarled fist. But the Swiss International is more articulate then he looks and can speak fluently in English, French, Spanish, German, Italian and Portuguese. That's an impressive six languages! Looks can be very deceiving.
Which brings us very neatly to this fella. Dowie began to study at the University of Hertfordshire for a master's degree in Aeronautic Engineering after being rejected by Southampton as a 16 year old. Once he completed his degree Dowie was employed by British Aerospace, no less, before moving back into football. Nowadays he's often used as a pundit and during his managerial career Dowie favoured motivational books like 'Beyond Winning' and 'Chicken Soup for the Soul'.
Known to most of us as 'Calamity', James is a keen lover of art, both in appreciation and that as an artist in his own right. He also has his own AIDS foundation in Malawi and writes a regular column for the Observer of which he donates all his fees to charity. An all round nice guy.
The former Bolton defender returned to Iceland in 2003 where he studied to become a fully practising lawyer. Aside from the courts Bergsson also presents for the Icelandic TV show '4-4-2', which inevitably discusses the English Premier League.
Neil 'Shaka' Hislop
Another intelligent goalkeeper! Hislop played football at Howard University in the United States whilst he studied for a degree in mechanical engineering. (In which he gained full honours) Whilst not technically becoming an actual 'rocket scientist' he did an intern at NASA. Hislop covered the MLS for the Guardian newspaper and now works as a commentator on ESPN's Press Pass programme.
Steve Heighway and Brian Hall
Bill Shankly's teams of the early 1970s had not one but two University graduates. (Hall in Mathematics and Heighway in Economics) Somewhat inevitably their Liverpool team-mates nicknamed Heighway and Hall 'Big' and 'Little Bamber' after the then host of University Challenge, Bamber Gascoigne. (No relation of Paul)
Known by Celtic supporters as one of the club's worst ever signings. The Norwegian International, who's name rekindled memories of American teen flicks of the 1980s, amazingly became an airline pilot after his retirement. Probably to find some of the balls he skied out of Parkhead in his three years at the Scottish club.
Graham Le Saux
The former Chelsea and Blackburn man appeared on the front cover of Mensa magazine and has worked on the BBC's 'Working Lunch' as a reporter and presenter. Not a friend of Robbie Fowler.
With a name like that you have quite a lot to live up to and the former Brazilian International Captain does more than that. He is a doctor of medicine, actually qualifying whilst still playing professional football. Socrates also writes for newspapers and magazines on football and politics and is currently writing a fictional novel about the 2014 World Cup which is due to be held in his homeland. Not only is he a celebrated intellectual but he also captained probably the greatest team never to have won a World Cup. The great Brazil side of 1982. You can't get much better than that!