Football has always been a sport where fans have voiced their opinions, and rightly so. Supporters are essentially the ones who keep their clubs afloat, and spend countless time and money in doing so.

Even since the early days of the sport, fans have always been very vocal from the terraces, whether it’s positive or negative. It’s all part of the game. As the media grew into the game, and reporting of the sport gained popularity, Journalists would join in with their views and opinions.

As human beings, footballers have to deal with a lot of criticism and abuse, even from their own supporters.

But during recent times, everyone has been given a voice, not just at the stadiums, or journalists in their papers – anyone can voice their opinions and get them heard. Social media has given everyone a platform, a platform that now means players find it near impossible to get away from peoples views.

Many players and managers chose to not read newspapers back in the day. Many now choose to not even click on any forms of social media. But as times go on, it is a hard task to ignore things that are written about you as a footballer, or a manger. Most players have and enjoy social media pages, and why not? It’s a great way for them to also keep in touch with distant relatives, just like us.

But today, you will see more and more players choosing to disable comments on their pages, to avoid reading such abuse and criticism aimed at them.

As a Chelsea supporter, I’ve seen some horrific and pathetic abuse aimed in the direction most recently at players such as Willian and Alvaro Morata. It’s unacceptable, it’s sick, it’s disgusting.

I always believe that as supporters we have every right to criticise a players performance, and voice our views whether they are positive or negative. As long as we do this in a respectful way, without personally attacking the players in question.

But unfortunately, the world is not a perfect place. You will always get those disrespectful individuals who chose to troll, and offer constant abuse at these professionals. This will not change, it doesn’t matter what campaigns you launch, these people will always exist, and will always have a platform to troll. Some platforms supposedly clamped down on it, and maybe so – but it will always be out there in some form or another.

I’ve seen things said like ‘well they get paid enough, they can deal with the abuse’. No, they can’t. First and foremost, they are human beings, with families. They don’t deserve you making fun of their dead mother, just because they missed a chance to score a goal. No, NO, NO!

Some people are blessed with a strong mentality, others aren’t. Some players read what is written about them, and it affects their performances. Some can ignore it. Some are driven by it, and it will even make them perform better to prove people wrong.

People like the fore mentioned Morata, have been visibly affected by receiving abuse, and criticism. I believe that his performances and lack of confidence, is largely due to the constant criticism and abuse he has received. He looks deflated and defeated, and will often feel sorry for himself. I’m sure a penny for his thoughts would get you something like “Why should I play well for this lot, they all hate me anyway”.

So I’m encouraging players to stand up and ignore the trolls, otherwise their careers will fail miserably. Because you will always have trolls, no matter how wrong it is. They will always be there. So you have two options.

1. You ignore them, stand up to them, and let your feet do the talking.

2. You go down as that player who ‘just wasn’t mentally strong enough to get past the criticism’.

Criticism (fairly) and abuse (disgraceful) will always be around. You can disable comments, you can try and ignore it. But for me there is only one way of dealing with the trolls, and that’s by standing up and fighting them. You have to be resolute, you have to be tenacious, and you have to be strong willed.

I believe many more footballers will come out and publicly talk about the mental health side of the game, and the torrents they suffer from trolls and abusers. If someone can tell me how this can ever be squashed from the game, and from life – I’d love to hear it. But until then, I want footballers to stand up, or risk career failure.

Simon Phillips

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