JUST as a salute to your former club’s fans would have been laughed off in better circumstances, a couple of holiday snaps took on more sinister connotations at Wanderers this week.
Days after Jermaine Beckford had been castigated for his on-the-field gestures in defeat at Leeds, captain Jay Spearing found himself at the centre of an internet storm when pictures of him partying in Ibiza surfaced on the social media networks.
The fact the players were given two days off after the 1-0 reverse at Elland Road sits uneasily with some, given a poor start to the season.
But seeing the skipper strutting his stuff at the luxurious Ocean Beach Club resort provoked yet more fury from a set of supporters whose relationship with their club appears to be stretched thin.
Spearing wouldn’t have been alone in using the time off for a quick sunshine break, although the smarter ones kept their pictures off the web. That was his real mistake.
And like any typical 25 year old, he didn’t opt for a round of golf and a sherry in the Algarve.
The Champagne Spray weekend attracted hundreds of partygoers, and it can be reasonably assumed few of the attendees stuck to Perrier.
But whether the midfielder’s behaviour was acceptable for a professional footballer should be judged by his employers, and after the matter was raised with manager Dougie Freedman and the club’s communications team, we are reassured it will be dealt with swiftly in-house.
Some reports suggested several players had made the trip – but no evidence supports that claim.
Spearing was back at Euxton on Tuesday along with the other players who are not on international duty.
At times like these, the club’s coaching staff are limited in the preparations they can make for the next league game and so sessions are kept to general upkeep.
Like it or not, it is standard practice to give players a few days off at the start of the week, regardless of the situation in the league.
Freedman has not escaped criticism on that front either. The manager has reportedly travelled up to Scotland at the SFA’s request to lend a hand coaching the Under-19s.
Had his side been sitting prettier in the Championship this would surely have been something to shout about.
The fact the Whites are third bottom and the manager’s popularity has taken a potentially fatal hit on the terraces means his trip just becomes another stick to beat him with.
Yet to pass it all off as an over-reaction would be wrong, and would miss the point entirely.
There is a much bigger problem to solve than a young lad blowing off steam.
Be it Beckford’s gesture or Spearing’s pictures, it all boils down to responsibility and neither situation reflected well on a proud football club.
Talk of disconnection between the fans and the club is worrying, and this is where Wanderers need to buck up their ideas.
A generation will not have known times this hard, but those with a few grey hairs will recall it can get much, much worse.
When the club trolled the lower leagues in the early eighties they only started to become upwardly mobile again once they had re-established a relationship with their fans.
That bond blossomed in the Bruce Rioch era and it is no accident the famous Whites boss built his reputation at Burnden Park by putting the supporters first.
Wanderers’ Premier League years created some very special memories for those involved but you might suggest they are now enduring the nightmare after living the dream.
Fans understand the days of top flight excesses are gone.
Things have been stripped back just about as far as they can go.
But after relegation, when all that glitz and glamour disappeared, we also find that some of the local bonds enjoyed by the football club in the past have worked loose.
Mending those bridges and moving a club forward requires work on both sides. But while the supporters feel disenfranchised and fail to relate to the players on the pitch, it becomes a much more difficult task.
Spearing’s situation was a snapshot of a much bigger issue for the Whites; and it’s not a pretty picture.