Early Doors

The footballers’ guide to #hashtags

Early Doors

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To see one Chelsea and England left-back forced into an embarrassing apology for a sweary tweet may be regarded as a misfortune; to see two in the space of a week attempt damage limitation after 140-character indiscretions looks like carelessness.

Almost exactly a week after Ashley Cole's splenetic reaction to the regulatory commission's written reasons for John Terry's punishment for racially abusing Anton Ferdinand, Chelsea team-mate Ryan Bertrand turned the air blue with an ill-judged reaction to suggestions a mere sore throat had ruled him out of Friday night's game against San Marino. This ensured Thursday's press conference saw a rather bemused Roy Hodgson quizzed about Twitter etiquette once more.

The England national team's new code of conduct — approaching the status of an oxymoron in the orgy of sin, greed and shame that is English football, where offences are frequent and repercussions rare — is on the horizon according to Football Association chairman David Bernstein and should help curb the Twitter Tourette's afflicting our elite players.

But until strict procedures are issued to help England's players avoid embarrassment on social networks — Andy Carroll will surely be instructed to discontinue his Bebo page immediately — Early Doors feels a bit of guidance is required, particularly in the field of hashtags. After all, this is the tricky art which, when abused, saw both Cole and Bertrand land themselves in trouble.

However, used properly, footballers' hashtags can be Twitter's most enjoyable feature, little nuggets of gold ready to be sieved out of the constant stream of effluent springing from the keyboards of millions of One Direction fans and dreadful parody accounts.

So, consider this to be an 'Eats, Shoots & Leaves'-style bible for any aspiring footballers hoping to expand their brand potential via social networking (looking at you here, Mr Cleverley). And if in any doubt, just remember David Cameron's famous advice that "too many tweets make a t***t". Mind you, he joined recently too, so quite what that says about him is another question. Anyway, here are a few pertinent case studies to get your teeth into…

BAD HASHTAGS

#BUNCHOFT**TS (Ashley Cole)

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The ultimate Twitter faux pas. Publicly slagging off your employers is never the wisest move, but to label them a collective of female genitalia is desperately unwise, even for a man with a sideline in shooting interns and cheating on the nation's sweetheart. At one stage Cole's astounding tweet appeared to be on course for a retweet record, racking up over 17,000, only for a crafted apology and belated deletion to stem the controversy, albeit only slightly. The lesson here? Don't use graphic sexual language to describe someone who holds your career in their hands. That should really be obvious, but remember, this is a guide for your average footballer.

#yourf*****gnuts (Ryan Bertrand)

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The poor man's Cole tapped out a somewhat less explosive tweet almost exactly a week after his Chelsea team-mate. Given this trend of enthusiastic yet ultimately inadequate imitation from the deputy left-back, ED expects Bertrand to be caught firing a water pistol at a groundsman and being unfaithful to one of The Saturdays within the month. As Hodgson said yesterday, the sentiment expressed was commendable, but the phrasing was as clumsy and unsubtle as an Andy Wilkinson tackle. And what is the moral of this story? Feel free to use naughty language on the pitch, frequently directed at a cowering referee, but not on Twitter please, or you might get a ticking off.

#lovedmytime (Grant Holt)

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The Norwich striker's tweets are usually somewhat hard to decipher, but the wording of his tweet in June was unambiguous and devastating, and sent shockwaves through East Anglia. Well, the portions of it with internet access at least. Spelling abuses aside — littered as it was with more sics than Freshers' Week - it was the hollow nature of the claim to have enjoyed himself at the club he was formally asking to leave that felt like a kick to the nuts. Basically, if you are going to tweet your transfer request, do it properly (see S Fletcher, below), and don't just end up staying anyway. #stilllovingmytime.

#imascapegoat (Jay Bothroyd)

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Footballers complaining about their lot is unlikely to elicit much sympathy. After all, what is there really to complain about if your lifestyle involves a couple of hours of vigorous exercise followed by a few more mooching round a mock-tudor mansion with only takeaway Nando's and Call of Duty to fill your time. Actually, that sounds pretty horrendous. In any case, the last thing the general public want to see is their ideal of the professional footballer's utopian existence being shattered, but that is exactly what on-loan Sheffield Wednesday striker Jay Bothroyd did when getting into a row with supporters in September. Hilarious, yes. Likely to make fans warm to you? Not so much.

GOOD HASHTAGS

#headsgone (Steven Fletcher)

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The undisputed king of the hashtag, Sunderland's Steven Fletcher is the ultimate example to follow for footballers. Recent examples of his unique hashtag use include "#unreal #cookies", "#pics #kicks #whips #chicks #hols #mates", "#bleugh #irnbru"and a casual use of "#marbs" to denote a lads' holiday to Marbella. Just imagine the bantz flying around on that trip. But Fletcher's finest moment was — in stark contrast to Holt's mixed message — the exemplary way in which he announced he had asked to leave Wolves on August 8: "#headsgone." Has a sequence of nine letters preceded by a typographical symbol ever captured so perfectly the complex psychological metamorphosis an athlete undergoes when anticipating a drastic change of environment? No, almost certainly not.

#GHETTOJUICE (Nile Ranger)

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Now, received wisdom would have you believe that the Newcastle striker is a lost cause, merely wasting his talent as second, third and fourth chances pass him by. Not a bit of it. Thanks to his expert utilisation of Twitter he has reinvented himself as something of an unlikely hero to foodies all over the country, beguiling followers with his culinary expertise and dazzling range of cocktail recipes. Either that, or he tweeted a picture of a bunch of ice lollies melting in an oven because he had run out of juice.

#thankmumforfreshsheets (Max Clayton)

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Almost single-handedly rehabilitating the reputation of a game sullied by the antics of its highest paid stars, Crewe's Max Clayton gave an insight into the homely attitude of a lower league player when saying a simple thank you to his mum for making him comfortable when suffering with a dead leg. Clayton's embrace of Twitter to convey such an emotion was touching in the extreme, destroying as it did the notion that all professional footballers are egomaniacs, detached from reality and with an army of butlers ready to cater to their every whim. The lesson here? Show your sensitive side.

#decodingbantertips (Marvin Sordell)

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The Bolton striker's unexpected tweet heralded his laudable decision to provide a valuable public service in unpicking the intricate and highly sophisticated linguistic conventions of 'banter', the secretive code by which modern footballers conduct their exclusive and secluded lifestyles. Subsequent banter tips have been thin on the ground though, suggesting Sordell suffered a backlash from fellow professionals. A shame, as his open approach was a model of supporter engagement.

There you have it then, a comprehensive guide to hashtag etiquette, and after all that we didn't even mention the #helmet himself.

(With thanks to @JamesDallESPN, @JamesMawFFT, @Callum_TH, @JackPittBrooke and @jonbirchall)

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: "I'm happy to explore my possibilities and share my knowledge and experience with Barnet Football Club. I am very excited about the challenge ahead." - Well, not so much the quote itself, as someone joining Barnet is hardly groundbreaking, but the person who said it: former Netherlands, Barcelona, Ajax and Juventus star Edgar Davids. Six domestic league titles, one domestic cup, a Champions League and a UEFA Cup are clearly not enough to sate the hunger of the dreadlocked midfielder, who now fancies a shot a battling for League Two survival. Even more incredibly, he has been named player-manager.

FOREIGN VIEW: "Jeremy!" "He's called Christophe!" - Admittedly, Paris Saint Germain defender Christophe Jallet isn't the most high-profile player in European football, but you might have thought Patrice Evra would know who he was. However, after shouting his 'name' in training with the French national side at Clairefontaine yesterday, it took Franck Ribery to make a quick introduction and smooth things over.

COMING UP: England should really run up a cricket score when they face San Marino, officially the world's worst side, at Wembley in a World Cup qualifier tonight. That kicks off at 8pm, while we also have live text commentary on the qualifiers between Wales and Scotland and Ireland and Germany at 7.45pm. At lunch we reveal the winner of our Goal of the Week poll, while Jim White also files his latest column.

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