David Preece: I hope these idiots will not make local hero Jordan Pickford think twice about coming home

England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford during the press conference at Wembley Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday March 21, 2019. See PA story SOCCER England. Photo credit should read: Steven Paston/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Use subject to FA restrictions. Editorial use only. Commercial use only with prior written consent of the FA. No editing except cropping.
England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford during the press conference at Wembley Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday March 21, 2019. See PA story SOCCER England. Photo credit should read: Steven Paston/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Use subject to FA restrictions. Editorial use only. Commercial use only with prior written consent of the FA. No editing except cropping.
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No messing around this week - I’m getting straight to the point. When are we going to stop making excuses for people acting like idiots?

Seriously. When the world is asking about why a footballer is out in his home town enjoying himself with his friends, rather than the strangers who goaded Jordan Pickford into reacting the way he did, then you know we are doing this life all wrong.

SAFC coverage in association with John Hogg.

SAFC coverage in association with John Hogg.

The sheer amount of people who think ‘What does he expect? Going out in Sunderland, something like this is always going to happen’, not - as I always have thought - why should footballers not go out and enjoy themselves in public spaces like everyone else?

Aren’t people always complaining that footballers are no longer accessible to the person in the street, as far removed from their fans as ever in their luxury five-star bubbles?

Sure, the money they earn which affords them the lives they lead has taken footballers out of pubs and into Michelin star restaurants and private members clubs, but that’s only one reason.

Another huge slice of that pie is that wherever you go, even in these VIP fun vacuums behind a red velvet rope, there are idiots everywhere.

I was corrected by someone on Twitter, who said I should refer to these people as I have in the opening paragraph; individuals who act like idiots, but to be honest, the more words I type, the angrier and less inclined I am to be tolerant of such behaviour.

The idiot can easily be recognised by their outstretched arm which holds a smartphone, their penchant for ‘banter’ and the idea that trying to wind up a stranger they’ve only ever seen on a pitch or on TV for a reaction is fun to them.

What’s ironic is that they themselves are actually a barren land, devoid of anything resembling banter, and in reality what they are doing is hassling a public figure in their private life.

Contrary to popular belief, footballers aren’t public property to be treated how an idiot sees fit. I don’t know about you, but it would never enter my head to shout abuse at someone famous, no matter how Piers much Morgan I hated them. (It’s Freudian, honestly).

That’s not to say you shouldn’t go up to someone you love and admire to say hello and tell them how much you like them. Of course, do that as much as you like.

It’s a mutually beneficial experience, but what does it say about our society that you must have the right to say what you want to anyone in public?

Don’t start spouting anything about “free speech” either. Just because you can say it, doesn’t mean you have to.

I’ve had my fair share of trouble when I’ve been out in the various places I’ve played. You tend to get that response when you’ve put in some of the performances I have, but I always just saw it as a challenge to front up to the people who wanted to tell you how they really felt.

And when it was genuine fans who wanted to air their grievances I generally listened, spoke to them at length, and more often than not we ended up shaking hands, even if we din’t see eye to eye.

But every so often, there’s always one. There’s always one who wants to look big in front of his friends. There’s always one whose own insecurities make them look at themselves as inferior and try to bring you down a peg or two in their own eyes.

There is always one who wants to capture the moment he pushes you too far so he can post it on social media for the world to see and give him his big moment in the limelight.

I had more than just the one. Dozens. So imagine what players like Jordan have to put up with.

Over time, those ones become a few, and those few become the tipping point to you losing your patience and giving them exactly what they want.

Then they’ve won - and you could punch yourself in the face for letting them get under your skin.

I’m not really bothered by the details of what was said but what I do know is that I totally understand why Jordan reacted the way he did. But for the cretins who goaded him and wouldn’t just let him have a nice time out with his mates, I have no understanding at all.

What’s most disappointing is that this happened in Sunderland.

Whenever things weren’t going well for me or I needed to get away from football, I could just come back to Sunderland knowing I could find refuge there. I could see my family, see my mates and relax, knowing I was home.

I hope Jordan still thinks Sunderland is the place where he can come when he needs to get away from the pressures of being England’s number one and just be like every other Mackem lad his age. Because underneath that England shirt and away from Goodison Park, that’s all he is.