Shock horror, footballers have opinions. Tottenham’s decision to fine Darren Bent a figure reported to be between £80 000 to £120 000 for his internet outburst against chairman Daniel Levy’s handling of his proposed move away from White Hart Lane: “Do I want to join Hull? NO. Do I want to join Stoke? NO. Do I want to join Sunderland? YES. So stop f***ing around Levy.” has highlighted two things. One, that the modern footballer is a lot better at spelling than many would imagine, and two, just how much technology could impact on the future of the game. We’re not talking about that endless debate about goal-line technology here, but more about the use of websites such as Facebook and Twitter, which we are obliged to call ‘social networking sites’ as opposed the un-PC sounding ‘celebrity stalking site.’
Bent’s Twitter outburst came in the same week that Australian opener Phillip Hughes told the world – or rather his 6 526 ‘followers’ – that he’d been dropped for the third Ashes test at Edgbaston via the website, before the teams were handed in, and last summer Crystal Palace ticked off teenage winger Ashley Paul-Robinson after his Facebook status boasted of how he was heading for a trial with Fulham, while still contracted to the Selhurst Park outfit. But why are clubs fighting it? Perhaps it’s time to embrace the new technological age, let it loose on our game and allow everyone in football to have free reign.
Why did Xabi Alonso have to submit a written transfer request to Liverpool this week when he could have just removed Rafa Benitez as his friend and become a fan of Florentino Perez instead? Surely it sends out the same message? Michael Owen could have changed his religious beliefs from Liverpool to Manchester United, whilst Carlos Tevez could de-tag all photos of himself with Alex Ferguson. Joleon Lescott and Everton’s Relationship Status? It’s complicated.
Most footballers’ Twitter pages are pretty bland stuff. Nelson Mandela will be happy to know that Stephen Ireland was pleased to meet him in South Africa, whilst Jermain Defoe thought it was going to rain one day last week, but was pleased that it didn’t. If these players and their contemporaries really embraced the technology then we could see what they really think about fellow professionals or upcoming matches. The Roy Keane-Patrick Vieira dispute would have been even more epic.
Mobile internet could encourage updates from pitchside. “Roy Hodgson is: going to take off Zamora if he misses another sitter; Andy Johnson likes this” “@ArseneWenger Bring me on now boss! My pink boots are ready and I’m better than van Persie!”
Of course the system could be abused, tactics could be revealed and cats let out of the bag, but would it not encourage greater performances if you knew everything about your opponents? From what they had for dinner to the last time they were out on the lash? Spurs appear to have strangled these hopes at birth by fining Bent and ordering all players to give a member of the club’s staff permission to edit individual Facebook and Twitter pages, i.e. to take out anything remotely of interest.
“I allowed my emotions to get in the way of my better judgement. I regret my actions and did not intend to offend anyone with the nature or the content of my posting,” was Bent’s long-winded, paper-written apology. Yeah right Darren, LOL.