Sheffield Wednesday: Chey Dunkley, Joe Wildsmith and Darren Moore on social media usage
It’s a bizarre place at times, social media. Not least in the world of football. And players have a decision to make as to whether they take part in it or not.
At Sheffield Wednesday, there is a clear divide between those that do and those that don’t.
There’s someone like Josh Windass, to one end of the scale, who seems to roll with the punches of social media. Some stay off these platforms completely. Some dip in and out.
Earlier this year club captain Barry Bannan re-joined Twitter after a period away. Chey Dunkley is a regular poster. Lee Gregory and others prefer Instagram.
When the going is good, you can imagine any tool connecting players with fans brings about a great deal of adulation and that it can be catnip. When it isn’t going quite so well, you can only wonder what effect that can have on a young professional.
The platforms are dominated by flash opinion, some more aggressive and inflammatory as others.
And while it’s important for players to pick their moments, Dunkley believes Twitter in particular can provide a vital link between pitch and terraces.
“I’m trying to stay off social media,” he said. “It’s tough, no doubt. But I get it. People forget that I’m a fan of football myself, we all are. Don’t think that when I was younger I wasn’t giving stick to some of the players on my team. I’ve been there.
“It’s hard because you’ve got players who want fans to have that engagement with them. That’s important for success. That community feel with the player, us finding out what a club means to a fanbase.
“When you have that connection between community and players, it’s a beautiful thing when it clicks.”
Asked about any level of abuse or ill-feeling that can be harnessed on these platforms, the 29-year-old defender reiterated his understanding.
He said: “We’ve heard it again and again and again, Sheffield Wednesday is a sleeping giant and so I understand the frustration. I get it.
“I’m a player that gets stick. It happens. Some are for you, some aren’t and that’s football. When it’s going well you get gee’d up, when it’s not you have people telling you you’re not the best player. No problem.
“If it’s good or it’s bad, sometimes I like to reply to people. I want fans to feel like they’re in touch with me.”
There’s an opposite approach felt by Joe Wildsmith, who prefers to stay away.
Like all of the Owls’ goalkeepers in recent times, Wildsmith has been a target of abuse from time to time and find it tough. If other players want to retain their social media presence, he said, that’s up to them. But he sees no value in it.
“Certain players are different to others,” he said. “I’ve never really been stuck into Twitter. I lean more towards Instagram to be honest.
“If people want to look for stuff, they’ll find it on there [Twitter], whether that’s positive or negative. That’s up to them, but I prefer not to take any notice of that sort of thing.
“I tend to focus on my every day life on social media rather than the football side of things. I just don’t want to attract anything negative comments that I might not want to see, so I stay clear of it.”
One Wednesday figure that has wider concerns about the effect social media can have on players is Owls boss Darren Moore, who sits on a number of advisory boards hoping to make change going forward.
Asked whether he used any social media platforms, he laughed.
“Honestly, I have absolutely no idea of social media,” he said. “I am absolutely oblivious as to what is going on on social media in terms of what is being said and what isn’t being said.
“I don’t need it. I’m in here working hard, delighted to be at the football club, trying to create a team this football club can be proud of.
“In terms of searching for that gratification on social media, I just don’t need it really. I simply haven’t got the time! Even when we’re winning games I don’t read it. And it will continue to be that way.”
Though he pays no attention to those platforms himself, Moore does harbour concerns over the way social media is used by his players and what impact it can have on them.
He said he appreciates the positives that can be taken in good times, but that players have no power over what is said to them in bad times.
“Players are human beings,” he said. “They’ve been given a talent to play football, but they are normal like you or I. Their talent allows them to play in front of crowds of 20,000 or 30,000 people and that’s wonderful, but they are still normal young men.
“It is a concern that they can get easily ‘got at’ and things can be said. My message to the players has always been that they are just words, you don’t want them to take it on board any deeper than that.
“I’ve sat on lots of boards with the FA and Premier League and I’m fully aware of what goes on with players and staff on social media. We’re trying to reach out to some of the platforms to see if they can work alongside us to try to curb some of these things.
“The biggest thing for me is getting to the next generation that these online platforms should be used for positivity rather than negativity.”