The United Kingdom’s Labour Party held their annual conference recently. Top of the agenda was selecting a new leader to take charge of the party as it begins to rebuild in the shadow of the ruling Conservative/Liberal-Democrat coalition government. Intriguingly, the race came down to two brothers, David and Ed Miliband, with the younger Ed edging his elder to the title by a most narrow margin. Following the result, David Miliband promptly quit frontline politics rather than serve under his brother in the new shadow cabinet. Imagine, working your whole life to climb the ladder, only to lose out on the penultimate rung to your younger sibling. In any profession it’s rather rare for siblings to shine equally and the dramatic political turn of events got me thinking of famous footballing brothers.
The following list is by no means meant to be all-inclusive, just a small sampling. Feel free to discuss your favorites in the comments.
- John Terry and Paul Terry: Despite recent injuries, John Terry continues to be the bedrock of the Chelsea and England defence. Older brother Paul has lighter hair but a similar widow’s peak. He currently plays midfield for Darlington in the Conference National, the fifth-highest tier of English football. He’s enjoyed prior stints in the Football League proper with Yeovil Town and Leyton Orient. Amusingly, chat show SoccerAM has tracked a brother-v-brother goalscoring contest between the two, with John coming out on top despite playing in the rear guard.
- Wayne Rooney and John Rooney: Wayne Rooney broke through on his debut for Everton at the tender age of 16 against Arsenal (“Remember the name—Wayne. Rooney.”) and continues to make headlines, on the front and back pages. Nineteen-year old brother John did not advance very far in the Toffee’s youth system. He is currently training with Tranmere Rovers following prior training with MLS side Seattle Sounders and minor side Portland Timbers and may enter 2011’s MLS SuperDraft.
- Ryan Giggs and Rhodri Giggs: Welshman Ryan Giggs continues to defy Father Time’s cruelties. In over 20 years at Manchester United he’s won the League 11 times, the FA Cup four times and the Champions League twice. Giggs was recently linked to the Wales job but has pledged his immediate future to Old Trafford where he remains as invaluable as ever. Younger brother Rhodri Giggs has had a rougher go at it, having been car-jacked in 2004, and overcoming false drug charges. He played for anti-Glazer side F.C. United of Manchester, and currently plays for semi-pro side Salford City.
- Rio Ferdinand and Anton Ferdinand: Rio and younger brother Anton Ferdinand are products of West Ham United’s justly famous youth academy. Some recent prominent players to emerge from West Ham’s youth system include Paul Ince, Frank Lampard, Joe Cole, Jermaine Defoe, Glen Johnson and Michael Carrick. Rio played for the Hammers between 1996 and 2000 whereupon he transferred to Leeds United. He was an integral member of the Elland Road side that reached the semi-finals of the Champions League before moving to Manchester United during Leeds’ descent into darkness. Today, in between injury spells, he remains a world-class defender and subject of Ryan Babel’s ridicule. Anton, 6 years Rio’s junior, helped the Hammers get back to the Premier League in 2005. In 2006 he missed a crucial penalty in West Ham’s FA Cup Final loss to Liverpool in Cardiff. He currently plays for Sunderland and failed to make the transition from Under-21 international to senior squad member. Both brothers have had their personal troubles. Most famously, Rio was suspended for 8 months in 2004 for failing to attend mandatory drug testing. Recently, Anton was briefly held by Newcastle police after turning himself in because a warrant was issued for his failure to appear in court on charges of driving while using a mobile. In 2007, during a break in the season, he told West Ham that he was visiting his sick grandmother on the Isle of Wight when instead he went on a bender in South Carolina.
- Sir Bobby Charlton and Jack Charlton: It may be hard to measure up when your younger brother is addressed as “Sir,” but Jack Charlton had a massive footballing career in his own right. The Leeds United legend enjoyed a historic run as Republic of Ireland manager. He led the Irish to their first Euro tournament in 1988 where they enjoyed a famous 1-0 victory over the English in Stuttgart. Jack Charlton led the side to even greater success at Italia ‘90. A rematch with England produced a 1-all draw on the way to the quarterfinals and a 1-0 loss to the hosts. Success under Charlton continued at USA ‘94 as the Irish reversed the scoreline to Italy at a raucous and divided Giants Stadium. Aside from a brief managing spell at Preston and and even briefer spell at Wigan Athletic, Sir Bobby’s fame came from the pitch. He survived the Munich tragedy of 1958 to become a star of England’s 1966 World Cup winning side, a side that included brother Jack. Two years later he scored twice in Manchester United’s epic European Cup final triumph over Benfica. Sir Bobby and Jack are the sons of a miner and Sir Bobby has promised the 33 rescued miners in Chile a trip to Old Trafford.
- Shaun Wright-Phillips and Bradley Wright-Phillips: Shaun Wright-Phillips, the diminutive dynamo for Man City and England, is the adopted son of Ian Wright, former striker for Crystal Palace, Arsenal and England. Shaun Wright-Phillips made a name for himself at Maine Road and Eastlands, later transferring south to Chelsea. Never able to truly fit in at continental Chelsea, Shaun returned north and continues to earn caps for England thanks to his impressive pace and skill on the ball. His younger half-brother, Bradley Wright-Phillips also made his start with Man City but spent the bulk of his career thus far on the south coast with Southampton. He currently plays up front for League One side Plymouth Argyle