Does social media affect footballers?

Abuse hurled at football players used to be confined to the terraces where angry supporters vent their frustrations at what they are seeing on the pitch.

Yet the development of technology has triggered new methods of expressing opinions on anything and everything associated with the game.

But where do supporters cross the line and at what point is intervention required to stop unnecessary hurt?

The view that fans pay their money which entitles them to an opinion is true to a certain point. But when that opinion crosses into graphic abuse, then supporters have overstepped the mark.

The debate on social media abuse was thrown into sharp focus recently when Liverpool defender Dejan Lovren had his family threatened following the Reds’ 4-1 defeat by Tottenham at Wembley.

The Serbian defender is not the first and certainly won’t be the last player to be the subject of vile comments for something that happened on the pitch.

As much as we all love the beautiful game, it is only a game and not a matter of life and death, despite what the great Bill Shankly once declared.

Remember these players are human and do not deserve to be threatened and abused by fans hiding behind a computer.

Their salaries might eclipse anything the average worker can ever hope to earn, but they have feelings and emotions.

Exeter winger Lee Holmes refuses to use social media as he clearly feels it leaves players open to being attacked by fans. But the 30-year-old has jumped to the defence of players targeted by Twitter trolls and reckons something must be done to tackle the rising tide of on-line abuse.

Holmes came under verbal attack during a recent visit to Mansfield Town before ramming the taunts back down the Stags’ fans throats after grabbing an equaliser in a 1-1 draw.

“I feel some of the abuse massively crosses the line,” said Holmes.

“The things that were said at Mansfield shouldn’t be said to anyone. You have to sit there and swallow it up and take it.

“But for people who think they can come to a football game and say exactly what is in their head is not acceptable.

“I took the decision a long time ago not to use social media. I didn’t feel I needed to and I will stick by that.

“I don’t envisage that changing because of the stick people get undeservedly. People can go on there and say that what they like without any consequences.

“When you are sat behind a screen you don’t get to see the impact that might have on someone else. I don’t want to put myself in that position.

“Fans seem to be able to say what they like to any player. But when players step out of line with a simple tweet or something that is not looked at favourably, then the hammer comes down quite hard.

“It seems like one rule for one and one for the other. I don’t know how you tackle that, it is something I don’t want to get involved in.

“Some of the big boys have got millions of followers and you can’t help that some people have a very strong opinion. And you have to be strong mentally to blank it out.”

Holmes looks back to his best after a frustrating spell on the sidelines last season through injury.

His ability to play down the left or right flank, coupled with his eye for a goal, means he is an important part of Exeter’s attacking armoury.

Holmes added: “Obviously last season was a difficult one to take with the severity of the injury and the timing of it.

“With great medical help, a great operation and great staff here I am feeling as good as I ever have.

“It is nice to be playing with a smile on my face. Every game I tick off is a blessing. I feel in good shape.”

The Grecians are back at home this weekend when they entertain high-flying Accrington Stanley at St James’ Park.

Exeter have found it hard against the Lancashire side at home in recent seasons, losing three out of their last four games in Devon.

John Coleman’s side have won five and lost two of their nine away games this season.

Meanwhile, Exeter manager Paul Tisdale has been waxing lyrical about the impact City youth product Ethan Ampadu has made for both Chelsea and Wales following his summer switch to Stamford Bridge over the summer.

He said: “Here at Exeter we’re not that much surprised, we thought it would happen sooner.

“He’s an exceptionally young player with immense talent.

“He’s got almost every aspect in his game to be a top player and he’s not been fazed by anything.”

This article first appeared in the Independent. To get the latest articles when they appear, buy the print edition every Sunday or subscribe to our online edition HERE.