The Football League Paper - - NEWS -

HAVE you seen hordes of teenagers re­liev­ing them­selves in glass­ware this week? Didn’t think so.

That’s be­cause kids care only that Samir Car­ruthers can make a tackle, not where he puts it on a day out at the races.

To the sur­prise of no­body with a mem­ory of child­hood, a study con­ducted by the Univer­sity of East Anglia has found that young peo­ple don’t view foot­ballers as role mod­els and pay no at­ten­tion to what they get up to off the pitch.

“What we found, pretty much across the board, was that elite pro­fes­sional football play­ers are re­garded only for their skills,” said UEA’s Dr Michael Skey.

“There was no real ev­i­dence that football play­ers are seen by young peo­ple as role mod­els, be­yond want­ing to be as good as them at football.”

As adults, we are con­di­tioned to worry. Scare­mon­ger­ing and lazy stereo­typ­ing teaches us to think of teenagers as gullible sponges gorm­lessly ape­ing their heroes. But, as Skey and his team dis­cov­ered, it isn’t the case.

“Young peo­ple aren’t stupid,” he added.“They un­der­stand the role of the me­dia in hyp­ing play­ers’ in­dis­cre­tions. They show a healthy de­gree of cyn­i­cism to what is said and done.

“So, un­less we find some ac­tual ev­i­dence that a high-pro­file pro­fes­sional foot­baller smok­ing in a LasVe­gas jacuzzi is en­cour­ag­ing young peo­ple to smoke, then we should give up try­ing to pre­tend that foot­ballers have this sort of power to in­flu­ence young peo­ple.”

Young peo­ple have an in­cred­i­bly nar­row sphere of in­ter­est. At 13, I liked football, play­ing out­side and com­puter games. Ev­ery­thing else was ir­rel­e­vant.

Gazza wasn’t an al­co­holic. He was the bloke who be­witched a floun­der­ing Colin Hendry to score that majestic goal at Wem­b­ley. Tony Adams wasn’t a drink driver who did time. He was the Arse­nal skip­per.

As an adult, I can’t help but view their ca­reers through the prism of ex­pe­ri­ence. As a kid,I saw them only as fab­u­lous foot­ballers.

Skey’s study il­lus­trates that noth­ing much has changed in 25 years. The kids, as ever, are all right. It’s ev­ery­body else who has a prob­lem.

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