EVEN that most enlightened of footballers, Graeme Le Sau,x admitted his advice to a gay man in a Premiership dressing room would be “keep your head down”.
Understandable really, seeing as the former England star – straight, married, two children – was subject to rumours, throughout his playing days, that he was gay. Rumours that felt like accusations.
It speaks volumes for the average (British) professional footballer that the whispers started because Le Saux visited art galleries and read the Guardian.
Those whispers became very public on the chilly February day in 1999 that, as a Chelsea player, he came up against Liverpool and his international colleague Robbie Fowler.
A Kop hero and no stranger to controversy (not all of it bad, it should be said), Fowler added to his tally of infamy when he repeatedly made a gesture – we won't dignify it with detail – which crudely suggested Le Saux was gay.
Le Saux says Fowler never apologised, evidently regarding the gesture as merely an extension of the merry banter famously enjoyed by footballers and squaddies.
Fowler and Le Saux have both moved on; whether attitudes in football to homosexuality have is a moot point. There are still no openly gay players in England's top four divisions but, on an official level at least, professional clubs are challenging homophobic behaviour.
For the second year running, Fowler's old club is at the forefront of attempts to stamp out discrimination by hosting a Gay Football Supporters Network (GFSN) league match at the Liverpool FC Academy in Kirkby.
The match, between the Mersey Marauders and Wolverhampton Harts, kicks off at 4.45pm on Saturday and is part of the Football v Homophobia campaign, tackling discrimination in football.
Last year LFC became the first Barclays Premier League club to be officially represented in a Pride march and officials say they are “determined to rid football of homophobia”.
The Club also supports anti-discrimination through signage at Anfield and on season ticket terms and conditions as well as messaging in tannoy announcements and match day programmes.