Let's look to the home team for a good example

PUBLISHED: 18:09 28 October 2008 | UPDATED: 15:53 11 May 2010

I VE never been comfortable with the idea that footballers have to be role models for children. Personally, I believe youngsters take more inspiration from people they know and interact with on a personal level, rather than someone they only see fleetin

I'VE never been comfortable with the idea that footballers have to be "role models" for children.

Personally, I believe youngsters take more inspiration from people they know and interact with on a personal level, rather than someone they only see fleetingly on the television, or in newspapers and magazines.

Similarly, I don't think footballers should champion themselves as role models. They live life in a bubble, earning more money in a week than most people will get in a year.

How can they possibly relate to the problems and issues faced by young people today?

This is why I raise a big cynical eyebrow in the direction of Newcastle midfielder Joey Barton, after he stated that he'd like to become "the role model he's never been".

Barton, whose litany of offences both on and off the pitch include stubbing out a cigar in the face of a fellow player, and a six-month prison sentence for assault and affray, has just returned from a six-game ban after assaulting his then team mate Ousmane Dabo.

He told the BBC: "When I speak from experience about the things I've done wrong in my life and how I've tried to change them, I think they respect that. Hopefully I'll be able to reach people who, maybe before, were a little unreachable."

Admirable sentiments, but of course, we've heard it all before from Barton.

Only last year he did an in-depth interview on television, telling us how he knew he was his own worst enemy, and that he'd got a raw deal from the world, and that now he'd changed for good.

Unfortunately there's been little evidence of this so far.

Unlike some, I have no problem with giving Barton as many chances as he needs to get his life in order, be that two, five, or 500.

However, I do think that before he starts talking about what he can do for other people, he would be well advised to get his head down, do less spouting off in the media, and make sure he is doing as much as he can to help himself, otherwise this could turn out to be the latest in a long line of false dawns where he's concerned.

And if we are going to insist on holding sports people up as role models, perhaps we should look a little closer to home.

In the Royston area we have a glut of prodigiously talented young sports men and women.

Royston's Louise Shortland is one of the country's top pole vaulters.

Boxer Bradley Evans recently turned professional after (literally) beating all before him on the amateur scene.

Bowls starlet Matt Coppen has been winning national senior titles regularly, while Great Chishill's Georgie Stoop is set to make a real impact on the WTA tennis tour in the next 12 months.

They, like many of our gold medal heroes at the recent Beijing Olympics, achieve their success thanks to years of hard work and dedication, without substantial financial backing or the prospect of huge rewards.

If we do want to show the younger generation a good example, we would be much better off pointing them in their direction, rather than towards the pampered princes of the Premier League.

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