Social media enhances debate in football, but people should think who they are targeting - Sue Smith

Twenty-twenty has not been very nice, but I thought I would start the new year by looking at the ways 2021 can be better for football.

Was it a penalty?: 
United's Patrick Bamford is brought down by Burnley's Nick Pope.

Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe
Was it a penalty?: United's Patrick Bamford is brought down by Burnley's Nick Pope. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe

A lot of it has to do with us all being more patient and understanding.

One thing that has to be better in 2021 is social media – and not just in football.

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Debate is what football is all about, and I love the way social media allows that. This week I said on Sky Sports I did not think Leeds United should have been awarded a penalty in their game against Burnley because I felt Nick Pope had won the ball.

I then had loads of Leeds fans asking: “Are you joking?”

I had no problem with that at all, because it was one of those moments where I could see both sides of the argument and I loved having that debate with them.

It is when it gets personal and people are just having a go at you for being a woman or for how you look or speak that I have a problem with it. It is certainly not just a problem female pundits face.

I think the social media companies need to do more about the abuse on their platforms, and people who have accounts need to reveal their identities and be accountable because some people hand out abuse they would be arrested for if they said it to someone in the street.

People should think about the human being they are targeting. There are people with mental issues whose problems are going to be made even worse. It seems too many people either do not think about it or do not care.

We all have pundits and commentators we do not especially like but why target them with messages like that? It has to be stopped somehow.

Some people will say if you do not like it, just come off social media but why should we stop using a useful tool and cut ourselves off from the debates like I had with those Leeds fans just because of some idiots?

I would also like to see managers and players given more time in 2021.

I know results were not great, but for Sheffield Wednesday to sack Tony Pulis after 45 days was ridiculous. I was shocked.

You have to at least give managers a transfer window to try and shape their squads.

If I was a manager, even one who loves Sheffield Wednesday, it would make me thinking twice about taking a job there.

Anyone with a decent reputation would be wondering what they could do in such a short period. Managers are trying to learn about players and do not even get time to instil their philosophy.

It is not just managers, either.

Kai Havertz and Timo Werner are getting a lot of stick for the way they have started their Chelsea careers but they are adapting to a new country, new team-mates and a new style of play – it is going to take time for anyone, never mind those like Havertz who have suffered through Covid-19 and injury.

Players like Bruno Fernandes, who hit the ground running at Manchester United in 2020, are the exceptions to the rule. Most are more like Jordan Henderson and Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who initially took time to win over the fans at Liverpool and Everton, respectively, but have had a great 12 months.

We are too quick to judge, especially with players who cost big transfer fees, and sometimes there might be things going on in their background we do not know about.

Last year really hammered home the importance of fans, yet a lot cannot afford to go to games, or at least as many as they used to.

Clubs will be saying they need to get in as much money as they possibly can at the moment, but I would like to see ticket prices come down when the gates open again in 2021.

There are also fans who want to go to matches but do not feel comfortable in the stadia. That is why it is important football continues with its various campaigns such as players taking the knee and the rainbow laces. Fans need to feel safe in an environment where they can enjoy football and players must feel more comfortable, too.

No matter what your background, your skin colour or whatever, you should be able to enjoy it. It should not just be a male, white, working-class sport.

After what we have been through in 2020, we all have a responsibility to make 2021 better.