How many times you heard a top flight player or a manager say they don’t read the papers? It’s a line that has been trotted out so often than it has become a cliché. Perhaps there is truth to it, however I think a high percentage of players and managers check the press, especially when it comes down to player ratings etc. In today’s world, it is harder to avoid the media scrutiny, with virtually every player on social media. Even in the lower leagues, you can’t fully escape it. Via these platforms, anyone and everyone can contact you if you allow it. Which is why I am not surprised that a lot of high-profile players avoid social media.
What I don’t get, is the players that go looking for it on fans forums. In Scotland, the Pie and Bovril forum is an excellent vehicle for fan voice and opinion. Fans of any club at any level in Scotland can air their thoughts. Although not openly admitted, I believe players go looking at the forums from time to time. I believe this, because I was once sadly that guy.
In my early years as a professional at Forfar Athletic, I used to go looking for it. I’d have a peak at the forum after every game. “Denholm was terrific today” said Bridiemuncher75, “What a signing Denholm has been” said Loon82 and “Another goal for Denholm, what an important player” said StationParkUltra2000. I’d get a rush of serotonin hearing all those lovely things about me. What good did that do though? Today, I get a similar rush when one of my tweets about my penchant for swan watching gains 10 likes. Has either made me a better person or player? Probably not.
Then I found myself out the team in my first season. We would lose a game, and onto the Pie and Bovril I would go. “How can he leave out Denholm?” and “Get Denholm on from the start”. You tell them guys. It is now clear in my mind that ForfarBlue22 and BaxtertheBridie are correct and that they know more about lower league football than arguably the most successful lower league manager of all time.
I then play upfront and fail to score in a 3-1 defeat. I go on for a peak. What’s this? “Denholm was rubbish upfront”, “Denholm did nothing today” and “maybe Denholm needs more time out the side”. I thought these guys were my friends. Denholm superfans if you like. Despite this, one poster’s support remained unwavered, this contributor always had my back. “I thought Denholm did well today, he is a left winger and has been asked to play in an unfamiliar position, he’s been our best player this season”. That’s right, you tell him Venom62; I was having this conversation with my dad and he pretty much just said exactly what you have said. Funny though, he always seems to have the exact same take/opinion as you. Wait a minute… Venom rhymes with Denholm and my dad was born in 1962… no it can’t be…
I need to investigate this for real. I wait till my father is out the house and log onto his laptop. I crack his password at the third attempt. I crank open internet explorer and bring up search history. A weird irony sweeps over me, it used to be the other way round with my parents checking in on my (not at all embarrassing) internet history, the roles have now reversed. And there it is, multiple visits to the Pie and Bovril. I click the link. Confirmation of my fear. “Welcome back Venom62”. I was mortified. My dad to this day, will deny this happened. It did. However, Venom62 never seemed to pop up again. This was the beginning of the end of my love affair with the Pie and Bovril.
The reviews in the coming weeks and months were sometimes favourable and sometimes negative. The positive ones would blow smoke up my behind and the negative ones would crush me a little bit inside. It all slowly built up, until one day in my second spell at Forfar. I had played an excellent match; I hadn’t scored but I had put some good crosses in and weirdly coped well defensively. I was primed to check the Pie and Bovril to see all the lovely comments about me. “Denholm has returned from Livingston a worse player. He is slower and devoid of cutting edge. I would drop him”. My heart sank and at the age of 24 years old, I vowed never to return to the Pie and Bovril. A promise which I have kept.
I have not met a player who has openly admitted to visiting the fans forums, but I have my suspicions. I believe there are a few in most teams I’ve played with. When sharing a bus or a car, I’ve seen players browse their tablet and phone in a sneaky manner, I can see the font in the reflection. I know what they are up to. But it’s not for me to name and shame. You know who you are.
Take it from me, don’t do it. I’m honestly embarrassed by my younger self’s thirst for the forum and to be universally loved by everyone and every fan. We all make mistakes when we are younger. I cannot complain if I am now cancelled for this confession. Now please like, comment and retweet this column. I’m hungry for serotonin.