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On the surface, Robbie Savage and Joey Barton are two footballers cut from the same cloth. Both are/were immensely physical players, tearing around the pitch like men possessed and picking up their fair share of bookings along the way. But something else now links these two: Twitter.

Savage and Barton aren’t the  only footballers to have joined the social networking site. It’s become very popular with sportsmen around the world as a way of communicating with fans without pesky journalists twisting their words and mining for quotes. Where these two differ from many others, and to a greater extent, is in how much Twitter has helped to change peoples opinions towards them both.

For example, were it not for Twitter then the lingering impression of Joey Barton would have been one of a violent thug. Instead, Twitter has allowed us to see him as a rather intelligent person, fond of quoting philosophers, who has quite a strong social conscience (see his campaigning for the release of documents relating to the Hillsborough disaster) and regrets his problems in the past, both on and off the pitch. Similarly, Robbie Savage has developed from one of the most loathed men in football to a top BBC pundit and has even got his skates on to enter this years Strictly Come Dancing.

I wouldn’t dare say that these two have gone from pariah to paragon in the eyes of all the public. That would clearly be nonsense. You only have to look at some of their re-tweeted messages that are full of abuse to see that they’re still divisive members of the footballing community. But I think it’s fair to say that they’ve changed a lot of peoples preconceptions of them. They’ve certainly changed mine and I can’t be the only one to have developed a far more favourable view because of their Tweets.

I guess it goes to show that Twitter can not only be an instrument for social change, but also a handy PR tool.

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