AS protests from NFL stars against police brutality, and indirectly Donald Trump’s presidency, have grown in scale and significance in the United States, it has been easy to suggest that footballers on this side of the Atlantic would be unlikely to ever follow their American counterparts in such a widescale demonstration.

More often than not our sports stars are reluctant to be drawn into political or social issues, preferring instead to tread a delicate, neutral line that will anger and interest no-one. When they do speak out, such as Andy Murray, they can be vilified for it. Sometimes you can’t win.

But perhaps that picture is beginning to change and a characterisation is unfair. While NFL stars have led the way with their ‘take a knee’ protests, there are footballers in this country determined to use their profile for the greater good as well.

Burnley goalkeeper Anders Lindegaard is one. You could never accuse the Dane of not saying what he thinks, or of not being true to himself.

From discussing the lessons Nelson Mandela left on society, to his own issues with Trump’s rise to the Oval Office via a blog on homosexuality in football and why the game needed a gay ‘hero’, Lindegaard is not your average footballer.

After discussing his first couple of months at Turf Moor in a room at the Barnfield Training Centre, as well as reflecting on the highs and lows of a career that includes a Premier League winner’s medal, Lindegaard is happy to talk about his own interests in political and social issues, and why football can make a difference.

“I enjoy looking at things in the bigger picture and comparing football to broader society,” the 33-year-old explained. “I think it’s interesting.

“Football is so powerful in England and you can do so many things with it, more so than anywhere else in the world probably, and you can affect the whole of society by the things you do and the campaigns you make. How you let people treat each other is going to shine through the whole of society, I think that’s quite interesting.”

Footballers making a difference has been a hot topic recently with Juan Mata launching his Common Goal project. A number of high profile names have signed up, donating one percent of their salary to a collective fund, with the money raised then allocated to football charities that can have an impact across the world.

Lindegaard’s description of Mata’s project and the influence it can have is certainly heartwarming - ‘I think it’s a beautiful thing when you try to use your power to create something better in society’ - but he stresses it is an individual choice.

“I think it’s great when a person like Juan Mata uses that power he has from being a footballer and being the personality he is to create something good,” he said.

“You have a lot of footballers that have done the opposite in the past through their behaviour, so being conscious about your responsibility in society and the power you have can create something beautiful.

“I’m not saying you should do it, it’s not an obligation, at the end of the day football is a job like any other job. You have to write good stories and I have to play well on a Saturday, it doesn’t really have to go further than that. Apart from that we can both go home to our families and not really care about anything else, we’ve done our job.

“But I think it’s a beautiful thing when you try to use your power to create something better in society.”

Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have both criticised NFL players for their protests, with Trump calling for owners to sack any players taking a knee during the national anthem, while Pence walked out of a game during a protest.

But Lindegaard insists sports stars have every right to discuss and challenge political and social issues, pointing out the hypocrisy of politicians who say sports and politics don’t mix.

“Politicians say sportspeople shouldn’t involve themselves in politics, but they involve themselves in our sports, which is rubbish,” the former Manchester United goalkeeper said. “Of course we’re allowed to involve ourselves in politics if that’s we want, or in racism, or in gender, whatever. Of course we can involve ourselves in whatever we want, as they can.

“We’ve got the freedom of speech and we can do what we want. For me it’s never been a problem for a footballer to have political views or have strong opinions about controversial subjects.”

Lindegaard showed he had no concerns in facing up to significant issues during his time at Old Trafford when he wrote a passionate, engaging blog on the issue of homosexuality on football.

In his November 2012 blog, he said: “As a footballer I think first and foremost that a homosexual colleague is afraid of the reception he could get from the fans. My impression is that the players would not have a problem accepting a homosexual. Homosexuality in football is a taboo subject.”

He added: “To turn a blind eye only indicates that one is not recognising that there is a problem. Of course there is a problem if young homosexuals, who love football, have to quit the sport because they feel excluded.”

The words travelled across the world and Lindegaard admits now he was surprised at quite how much attention the blog received, but he stands by what he said almost five years ago.

“I never expected it to get the impact it got, but I stand by the words I wrote,” he said. “It got a lot of attention all over the world, that’s fine for me, I don’t have a problem with that.

“I was surprised by it. I was contacted by ministers in Denmark and all sorts of big personalities afterwards.

“When you’re at a club like United you don’t really need more than the attention you get from football so it took me a bit off guard.

“I was offered all sorts of involvements afterwards but that wasn’t the point of it, I wasn’t trying to create a political career for myself. I was just writing what I felt.”

A political career is something that Lindegaard has no interest in anyway. Rejuvenated at Burnley, he is determined to play for a number of years yet, and isn’t sure what the future holds when he does hang up his gloves.

“I couldn’t see myself going into politics. I think I’ve got too many skeletons in the closet, I wouldn’t sleep well at night but nobody is perfect,” he said when asked if a career in government could follow.

“I don’t know exactly what I’m going to do in my career yet, I’d like to play until I’m close to 40, I still feel physically very good, so at the moment I have no thoughts of retirement whatsoever.

“What I’m going to do after I don’t know. It could be a role in football, or in TV, or something away from football.

“I feel I have a lot of experiences from football and what I’ve experienced that can benefit other people and benefit the business of football.”