THE BBC approached a number of footballers to appear in Monday night’s documentary, The Last Taboo.
Only one agreed, Burnley’s Clarke Carlisle. It was typical of the man.
The programme was about the lack of openly gay competitors in sport.
Carlisle is straight, but he understands all too well the criticism a footballer can receive if he dares to be different.
Disillusionment has grown among fans. The bond between footballers and supporters has been lost.
Personalities have disappeared from the game, it is said, and we have been left with a collection of aloof, cliché-spouting individuals who give little thought to those who pay their wages.
We must wonder why that has become the case. Money is a factor, but so is the risk of being different. Carlisle is now something of a rarity.
The fact that he was once crowned Britain’s Brainiest Footballer on a television quiz show is often scoffed at.
To many, this was the equivalent of being crowned Liechtenstein’s player of the year, Britain’s most popular traffic warden or the new leader of the Labour party.
But Carlisle is undoubtedly intelligent, by any standards, and is not afraid to show it.
Hopefully, he will gain more respect for speaking honestly on Monday’s documentary than he did for appearing on Countdown earlier this year.
Such is the profile of a footballer these days, though, that appearing on a jolly old programme like Countdown, or as a pundit for Sky, or writing his own blog, or talking candidly about his previous alcohol problems, serve to make him a target.
He should ignore the critics. In these days of media training and mumbled platitudes, Carlisle is unique. That has to be a positive.
If it is not, we know what direction things will take from here.