Times when fans’ abuse can be a crying shame

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BANTER. It’s the new black.

Good humour, if my recent journeys through cyberspace are anything to go by, is old hat. Replaced by a strain of supposed ‘comedy’ which allows the person cracking the gags to be as anonymous and offensive as they like.

But denies the subject of their ‘hilarity’ the right to take offence.

A frankly ridiculous notion highlighted during Sheffield United’s visit to Scunthorpe last weekend - where opposition manager Alan Knill revealed ahead of kick-off that striker Bobby Grant had suffered a “breakdown” after becoming a target for terrace wags - and which could be brought into focus again when Danny Wilson’s side host Bury at Bramall Lane tomorrow. Should, of course, some poor soul drop a clanger which directly influences the final result.

Admittedly, it can sometimes be difficult to feel sorry for those fresh-faced millionaires who breeze through life in the mistaken belief that the ability to manipulate a bag of air means they can do as they please and b****r the consequences.

Grant seemingly does not fall into this category. Nor does former United midfielder Stephen Quinn who, despite never being exposed to the type of criticism his fellow professional endured, gave an insight into how footballers are acutely aware of the flak they receive by acknowledging he wasn’t “everyone’s cup of tea” after completing a move to Hull.

Rather Grant, despite one brush with controversy, seems a decent young man trying to forge a career in the game and who, having previously made the grade at Accrington Stanley, does not, one is safe to assume, have limitless pots of money in the bank.

“Bobby, when he came off, was distraught at the crowd’s reaction to him,” Knill, reflecting on events during an earlier match against Yeovil Town, said. “He’d had some abuse through the game and on (the) Monday he more or less broke down.”

I imagine Grant’s family didn’t feel exactly tickety boo either.

The internet is a wonderful tool which has enhanced our ability to communicate with others but had a detrimental effect on some folk’s ability to do so in a decent and responsible fashion. It’s influence, as the polarised opinions surrounding those appearing on so-called reality television shows, has seeped into all areas of our life.

We are not encouraged to be indifferent or just a little but angry anymore. We’ve either got to love or hate.

Football is a wonderful game precisely because it is played and officiated by fallible human beings rather than robots.

So, just as managers and coaches are being asked to be more respectful towards one another, how about a similar code of conduct for supporters?

It will never happen of course. And nor should a ban on the right of fans across the globe to have a ‘have a pop’ or vent their spleens.

But wouldn’t it be great to think everyone could do so in a way which doesn’t reduce a 22-year-old to tears.

Fortunately, I’m betting the vast majority of folk reading this column still agree.