Theo Walcott gesture: Making yourself a club legend has more severe consequences than it used to

The Arsenal winger reminded us that footballers aren't always trained PR stooges; Twitter reminded us of the dangers of footballers exhibiting personality

Share
Related Topics

It’s been nearly fifteen years since then-Sunderland player Lee Clarke wore a t-shirt sporting the slogan “Sad Mackem B*stards” to the FA Cup final between Newcastle United and Arsenal; but the banter is still very much alive. Geordie born Clarke, who was playing for Newcastle's Tyne and Wear rivals at the time, couldn't resist a chance to show his true colours and sat with Magpie fans, only to be spotted and sacked by The Black Cats the next day. He is now a Newcastle legend. 

But at a time when football is becoming increasingly commercial and one where the divide between players and supporters is widening, this sort of personal loyalty to a team is uncommon. One club men and moves motivated by boyhood dreams are endangered phenomena;  it’s no great secret that most premier league sides don’t have a fan in their starting eleven.

So, how refreshing it was to see Arsenal’s Theo Walcott bridging the gap last weekend with his pert ‘2-0’ wave to the travelling Tottenham support. Walcott grew up following Liverpool, but I guess after eight seasons at The Emirates, something had to give. Stretchered off during the Gunners’ win, the winger goaded the away fans with a reminder of the score line. It was cheeky, innocent and I thought, pretty amusing.

Some Spurs fans, however, didn't see the funny side. Like a Blackpool arcade, Walcott was bombarded with coins from sections from the terraces, but to his credit never stopped smiling.

The FA didn't punish Walcott for his actions, and rightly so. He wasn't fanning the flames of hatred, he was having a laugh. Walcott's celebration was a rare moment of personality making itself known on the football pitch - a novel change from the PR posturing and hollow diplomacy that now characterises the modern game. And it was nice to see a bit of passion against the backdrop of a derby, as opposed to detachment from the cause.

Alas, a £3.50 shower has not been the extent of Walcott’s post game fallout. It was recently confirmed that the injury he sustained will keep him out of this summer’s World Cup.

Got any change? A steward collects the coins thrown at Walcott Got any change? A steward collects the coins thrown at Walcott

A wobbly indulgence in karma has seen some sections of Twitter speak about just deserts and a few Spurs fans poke fun at his misfortune. This is to be expected, if in a little bad taste, but that’s all part and parcel of supporting a football team.

What was not expected and is not to be tolerated, is the reaction that reaction has brought about in turn. A minority of shameless Arsenal fans have taken to the site with anti-Semitism. One account jokes, “I am not having it for one second that any Spurs fan is guilty of throwing coins at Theo Walcott... A Jew wouldn't ever throw money away.” Another posted a picture of Walcott’s clenched fist, which resembles a zero, to represent the number of Jews to survive the holocaust.

It’s a crying shame. Walcott’s actions should have encouraged camaraderie, not fuelled mindless tribalism. Lee Clarke, meanwhile, should just be thankful that Twitter wasn't around in 1999.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Project Coordinator

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: The Organisation: The Green Recrui...

Project Manager (HR)- Bristol - Upto £400 p/day

£350 - £400 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Project Manager (specializing in ...

Embedded Linux Engineer

£40000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Embedded Sof...

Senior Hardware Design Engineer - Broadcast

£50000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Working for a m...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The Lada became a symbol of Russia’s failure to keep up with Western economies  

Our sanctions will not cripple Russia. It is doing a lot of the dirty work itself

Hamish McRae
The Israeli ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer, has been dubbed ‘Bibi’s brain’  

Israel's propaganda machine is finally starting to misfire

Patrick Cockburn
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz