TWITTER can be an angry place at the best of times.
But throw in the extreme emotions triggered by football and it is a wonder any players or club officials dare take a peek at the social media site after a bad run or even a solitary defeat.
Bradford City goalkeeper Richard O’Donnell, however, insists on taking the rough with the smooth when it comes to interacting digitally with supporters.
“Social media-wise,” he says, “you have to take the good with the bad. It can be a great place or a dark and lonely place.
“We had a tough week recently. We lost to Barnsley, went out of the (Carabao) Cup against Macclesfield and then lost poorly at Southend.
“You get a bit of backlash on social media after a week like that. I am on there so see that sort of thing.”
The trip home from Southend was not nice,” said 29-year-old O’Donnell. “The bus was quiet. There was not a lot anyone could say. You just have to try and move on.Richard O’Donnell
A glance at O’Donnell’s Twitter feed last Saturday evening, in the wake of him thanking the fans for making the long trip to Southend, illustrates just what a footballer can face.
Among a few tweets praising his performance and suggesting the margin of defeat would have been much bigger than two goals without him were comments such as ‘same old s***’, ‘can you stop coming on here with your platitudes’ and ‘we heard (head coach Michael) Collins say the same after Tuesday’.
“If on there, you have to accept there will be good and bad comments,” adds O’Donnell to The Yorkshire Post. “That is what happens. The key is getting rid of the negative comments as much as you can – and focusing on your job. I have had no problems with it since I came here, the fans have been different class with me.
“The support we have is brilliant – and, providing we put the effort in, they will stay right behind us.”
If things had panned out differently, O’Donnell could be in his fourth year with the Bantams rather than having just four appearances to his name.
The Sheffield-born goalkeeper was wanted by then City manager Phil Parkinson during the summer of 2015 but he, instead, opted to join Wigan Athletic.
O’Donnell managed 10 outings at the DW Stadium before moving on to, first, Bristol City and then Rotherham United. He arrived at Valley Parade from Northampton Town, where he had a break clause in the two-and-a-half year contract signed last January that stipulated the goalkeeper could leave if the Cobblers went down.
Signing for City, therefore, felt to be a natural step, even though West Bromwich Albion were also interested in O’Donnell.
He has since started every league game under new head coach Collins and already has two clean sheets to his name, the latest helping Bradford to a much-needed 1-0 win over Burton Albion in midweek.
It was the ideal response to the poor performance that had so upset Bantams fans on Twitter just four days earlier.
“The trip home from Southend was not nice,” said 29-year-old O’Donnell. “The bus was quiet. There was not a lot anyone could say. You just have to try and move on.
“There was no point us coming in on Monday morning and being all down. We had another game to prepare for on the Tuesday.
“So, yes, while it was quiet and people were down on that bus, we also had to put it into context. We signed 15 new players in the summer and that is always going to take a bit of time to gel.
“Don’t get me wrong, there is no-one more frustrated than us when we lose – and especially in that manner (at Southend).
“But, as I said to (captain) Josh Wright this week, when you strip it down and look at how many came through the door in terms of recruitment this summer, it was always going to take time.
“I haven’t been at a club before where there have been this many changes. Maybe eight or nine at previous clubs, but nothing like 15. It is a new experience for us all. A whole new squad. That puts it into context.”
If City can follow the midweek triumph over Nigel Clough’s Burton with another three points at home to promoted Wycombe Wanderers today then, suddenly, the outlook will be much brighter.
“What Southend did do was make us all realise we don’t want to go through that again,” added O’Donnell. “We let a lot of people down.
“There were a lot of fans who made the long trip and what they saw wasn’t good enough. We didn’t compete all over the pitch. It was unacceptable.
“But we have that out of our system now. It was really important to start well against Burton and we did that. The fans were right behind us and that shows what will happen if the commitment is there on our part.
“Take away the technical ability of the players, if fans see the players running around and working hard for their club then they appreciate that.
“After Saturday, it would have been easy for a few not to come along against Burton. But they did and that was great.”
Wycombe, meanwhile, are yet to win following last season’s promotion from League Two with their four outings having yielded two points.
O’Donnell, however, added a warning ahead of the game. “Coming here will put a spring in their step. When I came here as an opposition player, you think: ‘This place is unbelievable, what a great place to play football’.
“Teams take one look and they want to impress, due to wanting to play at this sort of place week in and week out.
“That will happen to every team in this division. But we have our pride, too. In both home games, I have walked out and thought: ‘This is the place to be’. It inspires you.”