Belfast Telegraph

Why footballers should have a Twitter of sense and keep quiet

By Robert McNeill

I want to ask you a personal question here. Do not be alarmed. Your answer will go no further than these pages and, perhaps, subsequent television coverage. My question is: do you Tweet?

You say: "That's none of your business, bogie-breath." A fair point, well made, madam. But, if you do Tweet, you make your life everyone's business.

Tweeting is leaving short messages about yourself on the internut. It seems to me you'd need a conceit of yourself even greater than that of a newspaper columnist to do it.

Unlike a newspaper columnist, you probably also need a brain, however pocket-sized. Which brings me to Wayne Rooney. Poor Wayne, a top footer player for Manchester Rovers, woke up one morning after a troubled sleep, looked himself in the mirror and said: "To Tweet or not to Tweet, that is the question."

His Rovers colleague, Rio Ferdinand, has already made something of a name for himself in the genre, posting urgent messages about important matters such as shirt-tugging and the correct celebration to be deployed upon scoring a goal (the main point at issue here is whether to make rude gestures at the opposing supporters).

So Wayne thought: "Sod it, I'll give it a go." Bad move, mate. He was pilloried by no less a pillock than Piers Morgan - the leading, er, personality - who pulled him up immediately "for repeated fouling of grammar and spelling". I've no intention of repeating the mistakes here, as there may be children reading, but what an embarrassing put-down for Wayne.

Worse happened to another Manchester colleague, Darron Gibson, whose misspelling of his own first name was not a hopeful sign.

He had to delete his Twitter account after just two hours when it was inundated with allegations that he was not particularly good at his chosen profession and complaints that he'd chosen to play for the Republic rather then Northern Ireland. Many of these latter criticisms came from citizens with a strong intellectual interest in 17th century theological disputation.

So it goes. Why would anyone expose themselves to such a thing? Why not keep your own counsel? Why do you have to keep saying stuff, putting yourself "out there"? You say: "Well, you do, with your fat red face in the paper every week." I accept the spirit of your remarks, madam. But I've a trump card up my fashionable anorak sleeve: I do it for the money (or, in a bad week, as much fruit as I can eat).

As a chronically shy person, whose dominating fear is being the centre of attention, I'm ambivalent about being a newspaper columnist. Even when I was a reporter, I used to like witnessing events, but wished I didn't have to write something about them afterwards, with my name appended for all to see.

My ideal job is to turn up at important events, and then just go home. But it's becoming increasingly difficult to find anyone who'll pay for that sort of expertise.

So, why do people put themselves out there for nothing? They must think they've something valuable to say, which is fair enough, or maybe they're just being sociable.

But, like columnists, they risk ridicule, when they could be unknown but knowing, unwatched but watching, far from the madding crowd and its hollering keyboards.

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