MICK McCarthy has joined Ferguson and the FA in warning players about the supposed dangers of Twitter. Ken Bates has banned it. And every now and again – after some mini-controversy – people say footballers will have to be taken off the social-networking site by their clubs.
This is a significant mistake. Twitter is saving grace of modern footballers.
The notion of rootless young millionaires who care not a jot for the clubs they play for is tough to escape; materialistic mercenaries in their profession and in their private lives? Dull at best, woman-roasting, gun-toting, toilet-seat-a-stealing maniacs at worst.
Why cheer them on? You are cheering an amoral automaton because of a shirt? You, my friend, are an idiot.
Then you discover Ryan Babel always wanted to be a bus driver because he was very impressed how the bus driver “handled such a big weal”. Now there’s an amount you can laugh at “weal”, but unless your written Dutch is a bit special, keep it tasteful.
The wider point is that this is wonderfully, joyously unhinged. Footballer or massive weal handler: you decide. Babel’s straddles the brilliant and terrible; ridiculously long stories with their sheer banality creeping ever closer, about such things as trying and failing to buy a computer game, his crazy quotation of some Dungeon Masteresque Rev Run figure and his recent head-shaking at Stuart Downing taking ‘his’ 19 shirt.
One can see that tweet “#smh” about Downing taking 19 as delusional and self-aggrandising. Or see it as a player who still has a vestige of pride, love and respect for his former football club, having a moment of realisation that the shirt in question is no longer his and, well, shaking his head.
He seems to do a lot of that.
What footballers on Twitter should achieve, and what Liverpool players mostly do, including Hoffenheim’s finest, is remind us they are just lads, cracking on. Getting by.
And what LFC players are able to do is take the example of the club’s owner and its manager and use Twitter to communicate with supporters directly, however banal it may be. It often isn’t though: to see Kenny tweet Suarez in Uruguayan prior to the Copa America final was to see leadership and decency in action.
The ex-players tweeting on April 14th this year reflected as well on the football club as it did on them. The club wants the supporters and players to be as close to one another as possible. It sees the potential benefits and trusts the players to avoid the pitfalls. Both owner and manager are happy to communicate on there and lead by example.
Twitter’s biggest pitfall is banter. Or for the purposes of this discussion #BANTA. #BANTA is what people like Piers Morgan do instead of communicate. They haven’t wit, they haven’t dignity, they haven’t style. What they have is boorishness by the bucketload.
They have the most overwhelming desire to win through in a contest of aggressive opinion fenced off by some opaque rules where failure to engage is weakness; where emotional honesty in rejecting the combatant results in “don’t know what your overreacting for, only a bit of #BANTA innit.”
Written into #BANTA’s own rules is always the backdoor escape. We’re only messing around. Nothing means anything (but really I hate your guts).
The distance between #BANTA and needle is not to be under-estimated. The needle is a wonderful thing. It’s much more open and it doesn’t allow for the “only joking” escape clause.
Glen Johnson’s response to criticism from the enormo-tounged Merson on Sky’s weekly Old Man-a-thon immediately threw him right up in any estimation despite him later withdrawing the tweet. That wasn’t #BANTA, it was bristling annoyance that someone so idiotic felt comfortable sniping from the sidelines about Johnson’s supposed lack of application.
After we drew with The Irrelevant Arsenal one of their supporters decided to use Twitter to launch into Lucas for cheating. Called him all sorts. Lucas’ response? “Unlucky lad” That’s not #BANTA. #BANTA’s a big blunt stick. Needle’s gentle poison. In 13 characters Lucas has given the unlucky lad in question insomnia.
That level of needle from The Lev is a rarity. Normally he’s full of semi-interesting loveliness in two different languages. He watches tennis (so do I), he watches football (so do I), he calmly tolerates RyBabz (so do I).
Indeed, Lucas’ manner on Twitter reaffirms my long-standing belief that he would be the gentlest and most considerate lover in Liverpool’s current first 11 and possibly the most generous for many a campaign.
Not for him the self-obsessed, mirror-gazing, ab-twitching, own-song-singing (with the words undoubtedly crudely changed) 100 mph hump-fest of former left back and nugget Yon Reece.
Rather the young Brazilian Bay City Roller would tenderly run his hand through your locks and ensure that everything was lovely and nothing hurt.
There’d be candles, mood music and the option of a glass of elderflower pressé.
Twitter’s become full of small insightful triumphs. The Fowler/Owen axis has been reinforced again with one cooler than your best mate on his best day and the other Partridge squared. It’s no longer Eastenders/Corrie, Blur/Oasis, Ovett/Coe. It’s more Eastenders/Eldorado, Blur/Menswear, Ovett/Joe Cole.
A few years ago Jamie Redknapp tried to launch Ikon magazine, a glossy magazine aimed only at footballers due to their wants and high earning habits and it collapsed.
I’m sure that Ferguson, Bates et al would rather players were only talking among themselves but players have rejected the narcissistic Ikon and embraced the rest of us.
We should embrace them back, show respect to the lot of them and let them show their true personalities to the world.
And, most of all, someone needs to get Balotelli using his account…