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Shipping Goals and Twitter Trolls

I'll be honest - when I found out that football was going to continue behind closed doors during this pandemic I thought it was brilliant. I was so happy at the thought of watching Rovers every Saturday at 3pm to get me through lockdown. It can be a welcome distraction and a mood-lifter if it goes well. However, we are Bristol Rovers, of course it's not going well. I'll be the first to admit I didn't see it coming that we would be in a relegation dogfight. Rewind to the summer and I thought it was the best transfer window we'd had for years. Signing the likes of Westbrooke, Nicholson and Captain Max filled me with optimism and after pre-season - we looked an exciting prospect. I predicted us to finish 10th this year at the start of the season. I regretted that wild prediction pretty soon into the Garner-ball season.


Well. Not great, is it? We looked brighter under Tisdale when we beat Wimbledon 4-2 and Plymouth 3-0 (7 goals across two games?!) but then we were hit with positive Covid-19 cases forcing us to take two weeks off with no training. It's fair to say our confidence and momentum has tumbled downhill since the MK Dons loss which we delved straight into after our mini break. It's not necessarily an excuse but momentum does go a long way in football. Maybe things would be different without the break but what do I know? I thought we'd finish 10th. Peterborough (A) was actually very encouraging. We kept a clean sheet against a team that have scored in every home game this season and if only that RVP style volley from Nicholson had gone in - we could have maybe snuck a win. Every defender played a blinder and kept JCH quiet. The slippery pitch was perfect for Ogogo and his partnership alongside Grant meant they complimented each other as a DM duo. I was happy with this performance. So what on earth happened next?

Fast forward only a few days later and we have a big relegation 6 pointer against Rochdale. Considering the performance we pulled off v Posh - surely we can win this? Nope. In classic Bristol Rovers fashion - we lost 2-1. I didn't watch this game but I just had to laugh at the result. Sounds like it was a poor show with perhaps a hint of complacency?

Maybe it helped that I didn't watch it because I found myself caring about it a lot less than others. It bothered me, but not enough to ruin my night. It was clear from what happened online on Saturday that I had massively misjudged the mood on Twitter after I wrote a light-hearted tweet poking fun at Wycombe's result. It was aimed at no one else but my Wycombe supporting pals who I have known for 7 years. We are always winding each other up and you can imagine the torment when we had our season in the conference. I'd love nothing more for Wycombe to go down purely for my own gloating rights towards them. I understand these back stories don't translate in to a tweet and when you have a large following - people start to like and retweet and they reach the wrong people.

I must stress that anyone bringing up the loss to Rochdale is fine, I agree with that as a comeback. Call Rovers sh*t because I also agree with that. I am the first to say that most of the time. However, it started to get out of hand and the sexism and body-shaming tweets started to surface. Rovers fans then started to jump on me too, as if it was my fault we had lost to Rochdale. Personally, if I had seen a tweet I didn't agree with, I wouldn't jump in on someone who is already getting tons of grief. I would simply just scroll past. However, social media becomes toxic when people see others getting likes and laughs out of sexist comments - they then jump on the bandwagon. They want those likes and laughs too. I became a target from a jokey tweet I didn't even think twice about. The amount of abuse I got, you'd have thought I'd tweeted something racist. It was incredible, really. I thought the excessive laughing faces were obvious it wasn't malicious but hey. Well done to those who didn't take offence.

I was forced to delete the app and put my account on private. The abuse on Saturday night made me feel like I was forced into a corner with people shouting all sorts at me. It was so overwhelming and the thought of returning to Twitter makes me feel sick. I didn't sleep well on Saturday night but I dropped off about 4am. I then woke up to tons of messages of support when people had woken up to see it all. I'm embarrassed people had to see it, especially friends and family. It's awful and uncalled for. How I look really has nothing to do with the football results, fellas. It would seem the days are gone where I can just write what I like on Twitter. There's always someone who would take it badly and retaliate in the worst way. SO.... just as I was starting to feel a bit better, the abuse had died down, I had a better sleep, work was going well... and then Bristol Rovers do the most Bristol Rovers thing in Bristol Rovers history. How could I possibly poke fun at the Wycombe lads for losing 7-2 when my team go and do (nearly) the same thing not even TWO days later?!?! Haha. Absolutely brilliant.

Unfortunately I did watch this dreadful game. Charlie's analysis above sums it all up perfectly. We were crap. Thank the Lord I was doing a watch party with a friend - who made me laugh throughout one of the worst performances in Rovers' history. I needed that more than you would believe. Each time a goal went in, he would say "we're getting closer to 7, Caz" and we would laugh. I was in real trouble here and I was fully aware of it. I went back on Twitter to laugh about it - then dipped back off again. I deserved the backlash for sure. Wycombe fans had every right to pipe up and laugh at me back. I have absolutely no problem with that. The whole 'tweets that precede unfortunate events' is really funny and that's my humour so I don't mind that either. Make me a meme, that's also fine. I've always wanted to be meme'd. Sadly though, here they came. The body-shaming personal attacks. I also had a couple of direct messages from Wycombe fans - one who said I was 'finished just like my football club'. Bit aggressive, but sure. The worst I saw was from a Bristol City fan who was insulting my body and more specifically my breasts whilst quoting the Rovers score. Sexism in it's true form and it's nasty. He continued on to Wednesday, still body-shaming me because Rovers lost. I went on a blocking mission, perhaps some people didn't deserve a block but I got to the point where I didn't want to take any more chances to read something nasty. Anyone who tweeted me or encouraged the tweets by liking them have been blocked, so maybe I can come back to peace. I do want to thank everyone who got in touch to offer support though. It really meant a lot and it felt like I was pulled out of a hole on Sunday morning. I've had lots of messages that have overwhelmed me (in a good way this time!). Some of these messages were from Bristol City and Wycombe fans too. I've also had Geoff Twentyman, Darrell Clarke and a couple of the Rovers players get in touch. It really warmed my heart and I hope to be back online interacting with everyone again soon. I would just like to remind some people to think twice about what they post online. It can be hurtful and I will fully admit I didn't sleep at all on Tuesday night and I'm still knocked by it now - a week later. If that's what you wanted then congratulations, I guess? I'm also sad to see Mark Little was victim to online trolls this week with someone sending him racist abuse. Please, if you haven't already, show Mark some support as it really does go a long way. There are many women like me who love football that are just vulnerable to verbal abuse and sexism if we even dare comment on the game. Here's to strong women like Laura Woods, Alex Scott and Michelle Owen who are battling to change the norm and thriving in a male-dominated industry. They are inspirational to me. We belong in football too. Let's hope the Gas do me a favour and stay up this year. It's sad to think I'll get more personal attacks once people use relegation as a reason to say more nasty things about my image. I'm looking forward to coming back with thicker skin once I'm over the Twitter detox, though. Here's to a better future for women in football. UTG and thank you for reading. Caz x

A blog by Jessica Furness that I'd like to share....

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