According to anyone over the age of 50, the top flght footballers of yesteryear would head straight to the local pub after a game to share 10 pints and a bag of pork scratchings with their adoring fans before heading to the local chippie for pie and chips and stumbling onto a bus home. Somewhere along the way, however, the modern Premiership footballer is said to have lost touch with the people who fork out good money to go and watch them play.
Could it be that in social media, and Twitter in particular, footballers have found a new way of connecting with their fanbase? Keen footballer Twitterers such as Rio Ferdinand and Landon Donovan have huge numbers of followers and are seemingly happy to interact and share even the most mundane parts of their lives with their fans. Rio Ferdinand in particular has gained kudos for in the eyes of many for using his Twitter account to promote good causes and generally appear be an all round good egg.
Unfortunately, however, as is true of many things left in the hands of footballers, things can go awry. In the tweet of the moment, things can be said which can land our heroes in a little hot water. Here are some classic examples of when footballers should have perhaps bitten their tongue:
One of the earliest examples of a footballer making a Twit of himself. Frustrated by a perceived delay in his transfer from Spurs to Sunderland in 2009 by Spurs chairman Daniel Levy, Bent tweeted the following:
"Seriously getting p***** off now"
Followed soon after by:
“Do I wanna go Hull City NO. Do I wanna go stoke NO do I wanna go sunderland YES so stop f****** around levy”
After being summoned to the chairman's office, Bent was forced into a grovelling apology on the Spurs website and temporarily forced to delete his Twitter account before eventually gaining his dream move to, er, Sunderland.
Ryan Babel and Glen Johnson
The Liverpool pair both found themselves in trouble this weekend over their Twitter exploits. In the aftermath of Roy Hodgson's demise as Liverpool manager, Sky pundit Paul Merson dared to criticise Liverpool right back Glen Johnson's attitude. In a none too subtle dig at the well publicised past personal problems of the former Arsenal player, Johnson tweeted, and was later forced to delete, the following:
"Comments from alcoholic drug abusers are not really gonna upset me and who is Paul Merson to judge players, he was average at the best of times"
Babel's Twitter target was Howard Webb, referee for Liverpool's FA Cup defeat to Manchester United at Old Trafford on Sunday. In reference to a controversial first minute penalty award, Babel decided to show off his Photoshop skills and tweet a picture of Howard Webb in a Man U shirt along with the text:
"And they call him one of the best referees? That's a joke. SMH."
Although Babel later apologised, he looks set to be fined by the FA for crimes against Photoshop.
As a striker for struggling League 2 side Aldershot, Marvin Morgan was destined to be confined to the dustbin of English football history. That is until he posted the following on his Twitter account after being jeered by his own fans during a 2-1 defeat to Hereford:
'Like to thank the fans who booed me off the pitch. Where's that going to get you! I hope you all die.'
For this breathtaking disregard for player-fan relations, Marvin was immediately transfer listed and is currently on loan to Dagenham and Redbridge. Let that be a lesson to him.
Finally, an example of why footballers not only need to hold their own tongue but also need to try and control the social media exploits of their nearest and dearest. Following soon after the recent Facebook rantings of Liverpool player Paul Konchesky's mother on Facebook, the wife of Spurs player David Bentley, Kimberley, aimed the following tweet at the Spurs manager to vent her frustration over the delay in a possible move away from the club:
‘What’s happening? F*** all and its starting to wind me up!! Sort it out Harry for f*** sake.’
She later deleted the offending tweet and posted:
‘People taking tweets far too seriously! Calm down.’
Oh, it was a joke. That's alright then, innit.