Ian Clarke: Luke Chadwick’s story must challenge us all over player abuse

Luke Chadwick is sent flying by Ipswich's Pablo Counago during his Norwich City debut Picture: Archa

Luke Chadwick is sent flying by Ipswich's Pablo Counago during his Norwich City debut Picture: Archant - Credit: EDP pics © 2007

When it comes to Norwich City players down the years who have made a real impact on me, Luke Chadwick would not be that high up the list.

Luke Chadwick made his name at Manchester United Picture: PA

Luke Chadwick made his name at Manchester United Picture: PA - Credit: PA

I was at Portman Road back in November 2006 when the loanee scored on his debut to put City ahead in the East Anglian derby.

There’s no better way to endear yourself to the Canary faithul than that.

Sadly he got clattered into a hoarding later in the game, causing a serious injury which meant we didn’t see him back in a yellow shirt for some time and never witnessed what he was clearly capable of.

Suddenly this week the midfielder, who was competing for a place with David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaaldo during his Manchester United days, has been thrust into the national headlines alongside whether football should return to this country.

Broadcaster Nick Hancock Picture: PA

Broadcaster Nick Hancock Picture: PA - Credit: PA

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Chadwick initially gave an interview to BBC Breakfast as part of Mental Health Awareness Week.

In it, he opened up powerfully about the very real impact the mocking of his appearance as a young player had on him.

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He is now nearly 40 and looked back two decades to the time when he was badly tormented by comments on the way he looked.

Chadwick particularly spoke about how he became a constant figure of fun on the popular TV show They Think It’s All Over.

Chadwick’s interview immediately got massive reaction and so many people were moved by what he said and how he had “dreaded” being featured on that programme.

He recalled: “I became a picture of fun, and that was probably the hardest thing. A popular TV show – the attention was magnified, so that’s what I was seen as by everyone off the back of that.

“I wouldn’t watch it but then I’d get a text off someone saying ‘oh you’ve been on that show again’ as if it was a joke.

“Obviously people were finding it funny, but it was eating away at me a bit inside while that was happening.”

That is so sad.

Chadwick was a young, promising footballer with such a great future ahead of him and playing for one of the biggest clubs in the world.

And yet it was the way he looked which shaped how he was viewed by so many.

I’m sure he was on very decent money, probably had a nice house and maybe a posh car - but that was overridden by mockery which left him in a bad place.

Nick Hancock - who presented the show - deserves credit for going live on breakfast TV and making a humble apology and admitting he was “appalled” at himself.

Gary Lineker - who was also a guest on the panel game - made his own apology.

Hancock said: “I’m full of admiration for the present Luke Chadwick and full of sympathy for the young Luke Chadwick. The terrible thing about comedians and comedy shows is that if you’re getting laughs, you think you’re doing a good job.”

I am really pleased that Chadwick is in such a good place in his life now and was able to be so brutally honest about such a tough part of his life.

Sadly there are so many other footballers who have also been subjected to abuse and mockery who have not recovered.

Chadwick’s story has really mad me think.

I used to watch They Think It’s All Over. I don’t particularly remember Chadwick being on there - but I’m afraid to admit I probably laughed at his expense.

All football supporters will know that “banter” is part of the game and always has been.

Whether it be chants, songs or social media posts, comments about players, managers and other clubs happen all the time.

So where does banter stop and bullying and abuse start?

I remember those really dark days when racist chanting was common place on the terraces.

Police and football authorities now absolutely rightly clamp down on any signs of racist abuse - and fans will call out the bigots.

What Chadwick’s story is more about is what may seem more like “that bit of harmless fun” which escalates and eats away at someone.

I know the argument that some players bring problems on themselves with bad behaviour, poor choices and unwise social media posts.

However, let’s remember however much they take home each week or however flash their motor may be, they are human beings.

Seeing and hearing Chadwick has made me think hard - and as football starts to come out of hibernation, I hope we’ll all learn valuable lessons.

Wunderbar or wonder why?

So did the German experiment at the weekend make you hungry for the return of football here or put you off more?

I haven’t got BT Sport so only saw very limited highlights of the Bundesliga matches.

I’ve never been a great fan of watching lots of European games, so had never expected that action across the Channel would suddenly grab me.

From what I saw, the matches looked fairly typical of the end of pre-season/start of a new campaign.

Players looked a little bit short of full fitness and there was a lack of intensity.

There seemed to be a real contrast in the way they celebrated goals.

While some stayed a distance away from their team-mates to perform their routines, others went in for some full-on hugs - and I even saw a big kiss.

Having no fans in the grounds remains a massive issue for me and until that can happen, football just won’t be football.

And none of us really has any idea when that may be.

City got it right over rebates

I think Norwich City’s top brass have got it spot on over the rebate system for the games at Carrow Road which fans won’t be able to see from the 2019/20 season.

It’s an horrendously difficult time for those in the corridors of power at our club.

As well as facing the very real prospect of relegation, there is a huge and totally unexpected black hole caused by the coronavirus, with predicted losses of between £18m and £35m.

The club has announced that fans can claim the money back for season tickets and other tickets/packages they have bought or donate it to the Academy or the Community Sports Foundation - both areas which are facing very real difficulties.

Everyone will have a different take on it - some who are blessed with a healthy financial position may chose to not retrieve their payments.

Others who have not been working and face an uncertain future will claim it back.

There’s no right or wrong answer - but the options are good ones.

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