FOOTBALLERS often get a bad press. They are seen by many as overpaid, spoilt Prima Donnas out of touch with the lives of those in the communities which surround their clubs.

An unfair characterisation? It is easy to think up half a dozen professional footballers who fit this bill and deserve all the criticism they get.

But as with any sweeping statement about one section of society, it’s too easy to tar all players with this particular brush.

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Jermain Defoe’s friendship with terminally ill Sunderland fan Bradley Lowery jars with this description, as do the charitable endeavours of Middlesbrough’s hometown defender Ben Gibson.

Visiting the town’s Teesside Hospice yesterday where he was announced as an ambassador for the charity, he chatted with patients and staff, and spoke of the importance of the service it provides.

Gibson was speaking from personal experience, describing how his nanna was “treated like the Queen” when she spent her last days there in 2001. “I’ve always seen it as part of my job to be a positive influence through sport and charity. Hundreds of Boro supporters and their families have accessed care at Teesside Hospice. I want to help ensure this vital service is available to everyone who needs it,” he told reporters.

Footballers having a social conscience and truly caring about their fans doesn’t fit with the modern narrative. Well done to Gibson for using his fame to challenge it, and raise vital funds for a cause so close to his heart.