WINGER Lee Croft has revealed he has been subjected to threats from fans since being falsely accused of racially abusing a ball boy at Sheffield United.
South Yorkshire Police recently cleared the Oldham Athletic player of racism allegations relating to an incident which happened during the 1-1 draw at Bramall Lane earlier this month.
Croft, on-loan from Derby County, went to retrieve the ball for a throw-in as the Latics pressed for a late equaliser. The 27-year-old became angry when the ball was kicked back on to the field beyond him by the unnamed ball boy. But following an investigation, Croft faces no further action from the police.
“I’ve had a few threats - people saying they hope I break my leg, they’d love to bump into me in the street and see if I’d say it to them,” he said.
“People who don’t know me think I’m a racist. I couldn’t be anything further from that. I can laugh about it now but at the time when you are getting a lot of abuse, and being accused of such a terrible thing, it’s not nice.
“Fans should police themselves. It was the other team’s fans who accused me of this. They’ve obviously got no obligation towards me. On that day come 3 o’clock, they hate me and hate all my team-mates.
“They have got to realise they are doing damage to these causes by coming out with such ridiculous allegations, trying to get me into trouble.
“From now on, people are going to be wary. When racism does appear in the game, people are going to doubt that.”
However, Croft has written a letter of apology to the ball boy for the language he used after the match.
“He (the ball boy) is with Sheffield United and he’s trying to let the clock run down and I kind of understand what he’s done,” he said.
“In the heat of the moment, I’ve said things perhaps I shouldn’t. I’ve sworn at the lad, which I regret now and I apologise for. What came after that was beyond a joke.
“When the policeman told me there was allegations of racism, I was a bit shocked. It was all a bit surreal.
“It’s one of the worst things, in my opinion, you could be accused of. I’m just glad it’s over and I can put it all behind me. Although I’m happy they did the investigation, it is a waste of police time. I’m glad they have got the truth.”
Croft reckons football’s anti-racism drive has been damaged by the false claims.
“There was no accusation whatsoever from the ball boy of racist abuse. It was always from a minority of fans at the United end,” he said.
“It makes the whole kick racism out of football [campaign] take a step back.”