Parents are the most important role models for young footballers, not the professional players they watch on TV.
That’s the view of Robbie Savage, appearing as an ambassador at the brmb Grass Roots Football Show in Birmingham this weekend.
Savage, who has hung up his boots after 16 years as a player, admits that professional players don’t always set the right example but believes that the real lessons in how to behave should come from much closer to home.
“Don’t look to at Wayne Rooney or other players for an example,” Savage told Club Website.
“At that age, role models should be your parents. For me, a boy’s father should be a role model, as my father was.
“At eight or nine years old, if I had answered a referee back on a local park pitch, I’d have got home and my feet wouldn’t have touched the floor in that house.
“I wouldn’t have dreamed of swearing at a referee because I’d have had the biggest smacked bottom you’d have known.”
Savage, who took part in a discussion on role models in football at the NEC show, understands that players are in the public eye more than ever before, but he believes that their behaviour is generally positive.
“The example from the majority of professionals is very, very good. But there is the odd exception when, in the heat of the moment, playing in front of 50,000 people, emotions get the better of you.
“Mistakes are made by players because it’s a passionate game. You don’t say to yourself in the heat of the moment: ‘If I do that it’s going to look bad on kids.’
“It’s a difficult subject. Yes, people have done things wrong but some people forget that humans are human beings.”
Savage conceded that he would often "run 40 yards" to get in a referee's ear but, whilst admitting that his behaviour on the pitch was not always perfect, he feels it is his role as a father is more important when setting the right example.
"You know what’s right or wrong as an eight or nine-year old. If my little boy copies something that’s wrong, I’d say 'that’s wrong'.
"If the referee gives a decision that wrong, I think he’s within his right to question him, but if he swore at the referee then I’d punish him.
"I’d take his football boots off him and wouldn’t let him play for a week!"
Dan Pope, Club Website editor
Robbie Savage was appearing at the brmb Grass Roots Football Show at the NEC in Birmingham.