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Footballers and Social Media: What Goes Through Their Minds?

CHASKA, MN - AUGUST 11:  Ian Poulter of England uses his phone during the second preview day of the 91st PGA Championship at Hazeltine National Golf Club on August 11, 2009 in Chaska, Minnesota.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Scott Halleran/Getty Images
Matt LadsonFeatured ColumnistMay 9, 2014

Imagine the scene. You are a professional footballer, an experienced one, 29 years old, played over 50 internationals for England, won the Premier League before and one of the elder statesmen in your current squad.

Your current club, one of the most historic in Europe but without a league title in 24 years, are in the midst of an unexpected title race and have just thrown away a 3-0 lead to draw the penultimate game of the season 3-3, thus giving your fellow title challengers a major advantage.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 05:  A dejected Luis Suarez of Liverpool reacts following his team's 3-3 draw during the Barclays Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Liverpool at Selhurst Park on May 5, 2014 in London, England.  (Photo by Jamie McDonald
Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

Your teammate, one of the most talented players in the world, is in tears, beyond consolable. The rest of the squad are shellshocked, stunned into silence. Emotions are all over the place. Fans outside cannot believe what they've just witnessed.

Within an hour of the match ending, what would compel you to think it's a good idea that now is the time to check the social media network Twitter?

Forget the media training, forget the small matter of Twitter being a place that gives everyone a worldwide platform to voice their opinion no matter how bizarre it may be.

Not only though must you check Twitter itself, but, being a "verified account" on the network, means you must actively click to view the tweets of people you do not follow. What would drive a footballer to do that?

Glen Johnson did it.

Absolutley clueless.....

— Glen Johnson (@glen_johnson) May 5, 2014

Twice.

So many sofa experts in this game.... Absolutely no idea about football what so ever! #Jokers

— Glen Johnson (@glen_johnson) May 5, 2014

 

Twitter

Twitter has become a phenomenon. It quite clearly can serve a very good purpose for certain reasons. It's brilliant for brands to engage with their customers. It's a great way for the people to stay up to date with news at the their fingertips.

However, there is a very sinister side to Twitter, too. One which enables anybody, anywhere, to post completely anonymously and to do so however they wish. Abuse and mockery are commonplace, laughed off as "lad banter".

Before social networks such as Twitter were around, those who felt the urge to take out their frustrations on Johnson after the Crystal Palace collapse, would have merely vented at their bedroom walls, to their friends down the pub, their wife or their dog.

Not now, they feel empowered to be able to go tell the world and throw obscenities at the very person which their anger is aimed. Power to the people but is it really the correct type of empowerment?

 

Johnson

The Daily Mirror's Brian Reade wrote a response to Johnson's Twitter outburst, writing that he hoped Johnson "had time to study his role in those last 10 minutes against Palace, and worked out who looked 'absolutely clueless.'"

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 05:  Glen Johnson of Liverpool and Yannick Bolasie of Crystal Palace compete for the ball during the Barclays Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Liverpool at Selhurst Park on May 5, 2014 in London, England.  (Photo by Cl
Clive Rose/Getty Images

Johnson became the scapegoat at Palace, thanks largely to Yannick Bolasie being made to look like Cristiano Ronaldo in those final 15 minutes. Truth is, Johnson was just part of the problem but that's a whole other topic.

The England full-back is out of contract after next season and this summer Brendan Rodgers will have a decision to make on whether to keep him at the club or allow him to leave while he retains some resale value.

Johnson will be 30 by the time next season starts and Liverpool have two players who Rodgers may feel can provide the solution to the right-back area; Jon Flanagan and Andre Wisdom.

 

Footballers and Twitter

No doubt that this week will have seen Rodgers sit down with Johnson and advise him to stay off Twitter in the aftermath of such games.

It would also be a very wise idea for football clubs to ensure that their players' accounts are set to only display tweets from people the player themselves follow.

The modern media is one which loves an outburst such as Johnson's and it creates a PR nightmare for the club involved.

There are, of course, numerous other instances of footballers falling foul online. Who can forget Ryan Babel tweeting a picture of referee Howard Webb wearing a Manchester United shirt. An action that was actually pretty humorous but landed him in bother with The FA, as per The Guardian.

If footballers are going to put themselves out there to be shot at by being on Twitter, they need to understand the consequences of doing so, but really they need to ask themselves, is it really worth the bother?

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