The Sins of Youth

It is hard to imagine the reaction of Gareth Southgate, and those closest to Declan Rice, as it emerged about his ‘banter’ tweet suggesting support for the IRA, sent when we was 15 years old.

The cool, calm, ‘he has apologised and he was only a young lad’ response is one that would have come second after kicking the wall or letting forth a stream of more heartfelt immediate response.

For there to have been so much public comment, both here and to a lesser extent in England, and for the background to be an ongoing issue with England fans chanting anti-IRA songs, some 20 years after the Good Friday agreement it must be said, is a perfect storm for someone having seen it, saved, it and decided on his full England call up that now was the time to reveal it.

What their motive was is unclear. Maybe a few quid from a tabloid journalist, maybe a perceived slight that he had gotten too big for his boots, who knows?

He will get over it and those sins of youth are given a fair bit of forgiveness but he has been served a warning that the life of privilege he has earned through talent and being in the right place at the right time does not come without its responsibilities.

Nobody thinks that a teenage tweet about the ‘Ra will encourage violence on the streets but it will provide ammunition, pardon the analogy, for the boo boys and the detractors at times in his career when things don’t go so well.

It could impact on a possible selection this weekend for England so that his international future can be set in stone. Perhaps England management will feel that it would be additional pressure that is not needed.

What then if a dip in form moves him down the pecking order?

How important was that action then? A social media message is on the low scale of the kind of trouble youth can find itself in. For the vast majority mistakes are made, lessons learnt and the world moves on.

Only really in the world of politics and sport is there no statute of society limitation on when what you did once upon a time be brought forward as evidence of character or lack thereof.

US Basketball Coach John Wooden’s words are perhaps the most relevant when it comes to this.

“Discipline yourself and others won’t need to.” There’s a lot to be learned from the wisdom of those who have gone before…

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