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Love football, hate footballers

As Wayne Rooney nets another £9m over the next five years, the least that millionaire footballers could do is treat their fans with a pinch of respect.

Chris Nee

by Chris Nee of TwoFootedTackle.com

If this week’s Wayne Rooney saga has done anything other than earn the Manchester United striker a huge pay rise and, presumably, an even huger grudge from his manager, it’s added yet another hammer blow to the wedge that is being driven relentlessly between players and supporters. The nutshell version of the story is that Rooney allegedly nailed a hooker, not-only-allegedly disgraced himself at the World Cup and allegedly briefed journalists that he wanted to leave United.

His intentions were confirmed, death threats daubed on grotesque corporate icons and a u-turn secured with a reported five-year, £180,000-a-week contract – and a pair of false smiles. But it’s not just the saga itself that’s given football another swift kick to the nuts this week, with its brinkmanship and agent chicanery. It’s not even the obscene money that players earn, amounts that are really brought into sharp relief when an under-performing talent makes transparent demands of one of the biggest clubs in the world. No, there’s something else: the attitude of the players so many of us try to love because that’s just how we’re used to thinking of footballers.

In the immediate aftermath of the announcement that Rooney would be signing a new deal (excuse the Tiny Andrew Collings moment here, but Aside: If you think United and Alex Ferguson have caved without first plotting their long-term retribution, you’re probably mistaken), his United team-mate Rio Ferdinand went on the offensive on Twitter. Here are some highlights:

@McIlroyRory its the real deal bro! All u doubters need 2 sit and have a look at yourselves! A lot a people had strong opinions let’s see their stance now…

(Incidentally, McIlroy’s “Sir Alex is the man. He has to take most of the credit for this surely?” makes him look (a) like the worst kind of football fan and (b) stupid.)

It was never in doubt in my mind tweeps, wazza is Man utd through and through there’s no way I could have seen him playing for another club,defo not a prem club anyway.

What does stan collymore know…he’s talking like what he thinks is the gospel truth. For some1 who “loves the game” soo much NOW where was his love for the game when he was a player playing the game???

You’ll notice that Twitter’s 140-character limit has been flagrantly ignored by Ferdinand, meaning that followers have to click every time they see him tweet (although why anyone would follow him anyway is beyond me), the issue I have with high-profile footballers these days is that they earn so much money that they could at least be dignified and polite on the rare occasions when they deem it worthwhile to interact with the people that fund their excess.

Instead, any criticism is viciously slapped down and the role of the untouchable footballer played with unswerving accuracy. On October 6th, Twitter user @Garionmoore was subjected to the kind of reaction that would likely have earned Ferdinand a bloody good shoeing if he’d had the balls to conduct the encounter face to face:

@Garionmoore READ the text u #EGG…lounge tickets I said…and they don’t have a price. Now pipe down and read b4 u tweet such stupidness !

RT @Garionmoore: @rioferdy5 well if they dont have a price why dont you give them to children from local schools..»»#EGG stop assuming s¤±*!

I tell u what, all da comps I’m doing from now on that #PUNK is deleted from for he’s foolishness! I’m giving away lounge tickets twitfam!

I know I don’t need to crystallise this for you, but I will anyway: what a pr*ck. But both Ferdinand and Rooney are symptom not cause. Footballers really do think they’re above us dirty proles, turning their back on what was for most a very ordinary upbringing to buy chrome-plated Range Rovers and use idiotic terms like ‘twitfam’, the ultimate hallmark of internet dickery. This isn’t just the game we love, it’s the game we support, in every sense of the word, propping it up with our hard-earned cash while the arrogant so-and-sos on the pitch laughingly stick two figurative fingers up at us week after week.

Think about it. The superstar who let himself and the rest of us down, held his club to ransom and has been rewarded – or so it seems at the moment – with a monstrous new contract. The talented youngster who is consistently in trouble with the law and bought the aforementioned twatmobile to celebrate his new contract with Newcastle United. The legend-in-waiting who turned his back on the supporters who afforded him adoration far beyond what he actually warranted.

The Premier League is full of diving, cheating, preening, chest-waxing, smug, hateful tossers with no concept of the real world. And while most of them probably don’t think that’s a problem, they’d do well to remember that the further away they get from the supporters, the more we’ll turn our back on both them and top flight football. I already have, and I won’t be the first or the last.

Chris Nee is the founder and editor of football culture blog TwoFootedTackle.com, which produces a highly-regarded weekly podcast.

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