Tom English: Elkington’s helicopter crash tweet

IN THE brief history of Twitter there is no end of sportspeople making fools of themselves online, be it racist comments, homophobic remarks, sectarianism, obscene rants against other sportspeople and myriad other acts of cyber idiocy.

Steve Elkington thought it was appropriate to tweet a joke about the appalling crash in Glasgow. Picture: PA
Steve Elkington thought it was appropriate to tweet a joke about the appalling crash in Glasgow. Picture: PA

There is another category of ignoramus, though, and that is solely reserved for those who mock tragedy, who think it is funny to crack a joke while something immensely serious is happening in another corner of the world.

Friday night, into Saturday morning, brought the horrific police helicopter crash into the roof of the Clutha pub in Glasgow, a shocking event that still seemed utterly surreal yesterday morning as we woke to find the latest grim news from the site. Some of us also woke to check on how the professional golfer, Steve Elkington, was getting on with his apology following his loutish tweet the night before.

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Elkington, right, an Australian boor who goes by the nickname of Elk, is a major championship winner (the USPGA in 1995) and a past runner-up in the Open championship (beaten in a play-off in 2002). He is an eight-time top-five finisher in the game’s most storied tournaments and, as such, he has a reasonably high profile. As news began to filter through of the nightmarish happenings at the Clutha. Elkington got himself on Twitter and made a gag about the incident. “Helicopter crashes into Scottish Pub…Locals report that no beers were spilt…”

Steve Elkington. Picture: PA

Later, when informed in no uncertain terms that he was a moron and that the crash was hugely serious, Elkington returned to Twitter with an update. “Our report was helicopter flopped on Pub…No injuries…Obviously it’s very serious.”

How pathetic. A helicopter crashes into a pub on a Friday night and Elkington says he got a report that there were no injuries. Really? What kind of helicopter did Elkington think it was? One made by Corgi? What kind of pub did he think was involved? One that is utterly empty of customers and staff on a Friday evening leading up to the Christmas season? What garbage. And what kind of person would make it his first instinct to tweet a joke about such an incident?

His follow-up was almost as objectionable as his original tweet in that there was no apology, no admission that his joke was the act of an imbecile. Even yesterday morning, when even one as dim as Elk must have been aware of how serious things were in Glasgow, there was nothing from him. That is the truly extraordinary thing. This is being written on Saturday morning and as, of now, he has not tweeted his regret. Elkington has thereby cemented his place in the ranks of the social media yobs.

We shouldn’t forget that this guy gave vent to his inner idiot last summer also, when playing at the British Senior Open at Royal Birkdale. He caused fury with a cyber rant about why he hated the host town of Southport, among his gripes an incident where, to quote from his tweet, “a couple of caddies got rolled by some Pakkis”.

Then, just like now, his follow-up was cringe-making. He issued an apology of sorts, claiming that it was his nationality that was at fault for his lack of appreciation of the sensitivities involved. “Being Australian, I was unaware that my use of language in relation to the Pakistani people would cause [offence]. But having been made aware I now deeply regret the use of that terminology.”

To Elk, “being Australian” seems to be a get-out for all manner of thoughtless comment. It’s not. The Australian nation will testify that Elkington is on his own when he seeks to poke fun at a helicopter crash and then refusing to apologise when the full horror of what he mocked became obvious. Golf is governed by so many rules. Rules about anchoring putters and unplayable lies, rules about grounding your club and pace of play, rules about balls moving on greens and line of entry into hazards. What about the rules pertaining to a guy who thinks it’s funny to ridicule a disaster and not having the basic human decency to say sorry afterwards? What is the penalty for an offence like that?

Youngster must be given a proper opportunity to set the new Gauld standard

You know a footballer must be exciting if the newspapers have already run out of puns on his name when the player is still only 17 years old. Ryan Gauld is “Gauld Finger” and “Gauld Rush”, he is “Ryan Gold” and a “Gaulden Wonder”. He is part of the “Gaulden Generation” and it will be a “Ryan shame” if he is lured away from Tannadice at such a tender age.

We could go on – and we will, so long as Gauld continues doing what he is doing. There is no doubting this young lad’s potential, no arguing with the words of Mark Wilson, the former Celtic full-back and now a team-mate of Gauld’s at United. Wilson is not given to hyperbole so, when he says that Gauld, pictured, is the best young player he has ever played alongside – and he counts Aiden McGeady and Shaun Maloney in that bracket – then that is worth pondering. We have the evidence of our own eyes and the testimony of somebody who sees what Gauld is about day after day. He’s a rich talent, no question.

He is raw – you keep having to remind yourself that he his only 17 – but his running ability, his close control, his vision and his execution are the qualities that brought scouts from England’s elite clubs to Tannadice on Friday night to watch him play a Scottish Cup tie against Kilmarnock. The week before, Gauld had provided the assist in all four of United’s goals. On Friday it was said that he had one of his quieter games. He still came up with three assists, however.

The hope – as ever with talented young players – is that Gauld makes good decisions off the pitch as well as on. On current form he will be made a good offer to leave Tannadice and who are we to say that he should turn it down to keep on developing at the club that brought him to prominence in the first place? When – if – a glamorous club comes calling with buckets of cash and all the potential to put him on a bigger stage then all you have to do is ask yourself the question: If he was your son and Manchester United or Manchester City or Arsenal or Liverpool wanted him, what would you tell him?

If an offer does come in the near future, perhaps the best-of-all-worlds scenario is that Gauld commits himself to a bigger club but is loaned back to United for a season or two to carry on what he has started so superbly.

The boy looks special, but he needs to play and not disappear into a structure that might eat him up and spit him out like it did with Danny Wilson at Liverpool. And, being selfish, it would be nice having him around the Scottish Premiership for a while longer.