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Football and social media: a turbulent 12 months in review

Joey Barton applauds fans as he is substituted

An attempt by the train operator to have a little fun at Aston Villa’s expense in October didn’t quite pan out as planned.

Virgin Trains gift Villa an open goal

It began with Virgin tweeting a picture of an empty train accompanied by the caption: “With Roberto Di Matteo leaving, the next batch of potential #AVFC managers have just left for Birmingham New Street …”

On what was clearly a slow day at the office in the Villa Park comms department, the club shot back: “Would our managerial candidates actually get here for interviews on time if they arrived via @VirginTrains?”

Still, Virgin’s response was a “boast” as inept as it was underwhelming: “We’ve had more trains arrive on time in the last week than you’ve had wins in 12 months,” it trilled. The number of wins Villa had recorded in the preceding year had been a princely four, so it’s debatable whether commuters would be enormously impressed that the train operator, which runs hundreds of services across the UK each week, seemed happy enough that at least four of those hundreds had been punctual.

Villa missed that particular open goal, instead snapping back with “1 European Cup, 7 League Championships, 7 FA Cups, 5 League Cups”, though Virgin are not believed to have entered any of those competitions. The social media equivalent of bald men fighting over a comb.

The wheels come off for Lescott

It’s been quite the year for Aston Villa and social media embarrassment; who can forget Joleon Lescott’s sensitive reminder that though he was embroiled in a humiliatingly doomed battle against relegation, and his team had just lost 6-0 to Liverpool, he was still getting around in style:

Whether this was more of a gaffe than his subsequent explanation – “I would like to add that the tweet sent out from my account involving a picture of a car was totally accidental, it happened whilst driving and my phone was in my pocket” – is for others to decide.

Benteke blames it on the little guy

If you’re going to begin an exciting new chapter at a club whose plans impress you etc etc, best get their name right. Christian Benteke inexplicably got Croydon confused with east Lancashire when he signed for Crystal Palace in August, changing the club details on his Twitter biography to “Burnley FC”. He swiftly apologised, with the explanation that “the person that manages my Twitter got a little confused”.

Anichebe and Sunderland show their working

It may shatter our innocence, smash our fragile faith in the game’s beauty and honesty, to discover that not all social media comments by footballers are spontaneous outbursts of passion and honesty. As Sunderland fans, and others, discovered after their defeat by West Ham in October. As the Black Cats slid to another loss, what was actually an internal PR memo was tweeted from the account of their striker Victor Anichebe: “Can you tweet something like Unbelievable support yesterday and great effort by the lads! Hard result to take but we go again!” Going again, being something that someone in Sunderland’s PR department may have had to do come the Monday morning.

LA Galaxy take it all too lightly

When you’re getting shellacked 4-0, it’s always best for a club’s social media face to remain stern and serious. Alas, LA Galaxy’s people enraged fans by declining to take the fact of their 4-0 leathering by Santos Laguna seriously enough, with this self-deprecating tweet:

It drew a furious reaction from angry fans and the club’s account later apologised to the LA Riot Squad and the AC Brigade, the Galaxy’s two main supporters’ groups.

Cellino’s family fight back against Leeds fans

The massively unpopular Massimo Cellino continued to be a target of Leeds fans’ ire over his chaotic chairmanship at Elland Road, inevitably coming under fire on social media. Whether he needed his sons to fight his battles for him was another matter, as Ercole and Edoardo bit back at critical supporters: Ercole stepped down as a club director after calling one woman a “whale” and told her to stop eating in an exchange on Instagram, and also described his haircut on Instagram thus: “Alternative lunch break.... Yes I did... Welcome to Calabria #gestapo#ss#army#military#guerilla#warrior.” “It was not my intention to offend anyone,” he inevitably added later.

While in a separate exchange on Facebook, of which the Daily Mail has photographs, Edoardo called another fan a “moron” during a heated exchange and also used another derogatory term. He later apologised: “I believe the messages were private but I know I should not have done this. I did not fully understand the severity of the words used as English is not my first language. Again, I can only apologise.”

Brondby chairman’s messageboard mess

Managers can expect to be criticised on fan forums – everyone can expect to be criticised on fan forums – which exist after all to give disenfranchised punters the chance to let off steam. Chairpeople, on the other hand, have other, more powerful means of expressing their displeasure. You would have thought so, anyway. Brondby’s chairman, Jan Bech Andersen, however, slummed it with the online herd by logging on to the club’s forum, SydSiden Online, using his son’s account and a pseudonym, to let rip on the performance of his coach, Thomas Frank. Andersen fessed up and apologised, but Frank, unsurprisingly, decided that this felt like the right time to call it quits. Andersen followed him out the door shortly afterwards.

Barton rubs Old Firm up the wrong way

The phrase “Joey Barton Twitter storm” is pretty much a tautology, so it was no surprise that his decision to sign for Rangers in May had social media in a kerfuffle when his 2012 tweet – “I am a Celtic fan” – was dredged up so that it might be subject to calm and sober scrutiny from all concerned. To the surprise of no one, it didn’t work out so well for Barton at Rangers. A training ground set-to following September’s drubbing by Celtic led to a classic Barton apology, laced with the qualifier: “I cannot apologise for caring deeply about winning.” His suspension, then his departure, followed swiftly.

Charlton’s war on dissent

Grumbling about your team’s performances – alongside making things up and shouting about them – is one of the reasons social media was invented. So you’d think posting critical comments about football clubs would not constitute a Twitter gaffe, but it does if you’re a Charlton fan. Supporters of the crisis-hit League One club found themselves being told that the success of their season ticket applications was contingent on them not being too unkind towards the owners.

Neymar’s impeccable timing

The Brazilian caught the mood by responding to Barcelona’s surprise defeat to Alavés in September by assuring fans he would be releasing a single the following Wednesday on Facebook: “We will have #Neymusico. Share it,” he tweeted.

And praise the Lord …

“#thelordisdead”, “therebootison” were the characteristically humble Instagram hashtags with which Nicklas Bendtner chose to trumpet his arrival at Nottingham Forest in September, stressing he was at the City Ground for the love of the sport, not “fast cash”. He has scored two goals from 12 appearances thus far.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Tom Davies, for theguardian.com on Saturday 31st December 2016 10.21 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010

 

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