After a social media war with Gabriel Agbonlahor earlier in the season, Leeds United have decided to make former England international Karen Carney their public enemy number one.
The 33-year-old - who played for Chelsea, Arsenal and Birmingham City during her feted career, and was part of the Lionesses squad that won a bronze medal at the 2015 World Cup - suggested during the broadcast of Leeds's 5-0 win over West Bromwich Albion that their promotion last year was largely dependent on the Covid-induced hiatus.
"They outrun everyone, and credit to them," Carney began on Amazon Prime, in a short clip that Leeds borrowed from a fan account and then shared with their followers.
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"My only concern would be, will they blow up at the end of the season like the last couple of seasons?
"I actually think they got promoted because of Covid in terms of it giving them a bit of respite. I don't know if they'd have got up if they didn't have that break."
Leaving aside the fact that Carney was giving her opinion, and referring back to the previous season when the Whites dropped out of the automatic promotion spots after failing to win a single one of their last four games, Leeds quote-tweeted the clip, with a provocative message.
The thing is, nobody can know whether or not Leeds would have indeed been promoted without the season hiatus. Certainly they were in great form before the break, with five wins on the bounce. However, they were only one point ahead of second-placed West Brom then. Did the time off refresh them ready to come back and hit the ground running? Possibly. Carney thinks so. Leeds fans don't.
Either way, it's entirely hypothetical. Carney was entitled to share that view.
Leeds' insistence on highlighting pundits' comments seems to be a deliberate strategy to engender some kind of "us-against-the-world" feeling.
And, to be fair, judging from the hailstorm of abuse that has been sent in Carney's direction, the Leeds fanbase has certainly unified. The players too have leapt on the clip, with some retweeting it and others replying to the club account.
But to take footage out of its context and share it on social media for followers to pounce on is surely the irresponsible act of a troll account - not a club that purports to be one of the big hitters.
There can be no argument that Leeds did not know the kind of reaction that it would trigger - the owner Andrea Radrizanni's happy acceptance of all responsibility for it proves that.
I take the responsibility of the club tweet," he told a follower. "I consider that comment [Carney's] completely unnecessary and disrespectful to our club and particularly to the fantastic hard work of our players and coaches whom were understanding on the pitch for the last two championship seasons by all stats."
And similarly it would not have taken a psychic gift to predict that it would be Carney copping all the flack - not her co-pundit Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, a former Leeds player, who can be heard in the clip vociferously agreeing with what she is saying.
That is not to say that Leeds initially singled out Carney for being a woman - but certainly they could have had some foresight to consider the consequences of their actions.
Nobody who even tangentially dips into discussions of football on social media could be unaware of the way that female players, pundits, presenters, journalists and fans can be treated.
Carney, sadly, is very used to misogynistic abuse on social media, having reported rape and death threats via Instagram two years ago after her Chelsea side beat Fiorentina in the Champions League.
Karen Carney in action for Chelsea
Image credit: Getty Images
And nobody who follows football could have possibly missed any of the harassment of Alex Scott since she has become a regular face on live broadcasts.
Of course female pundits aren't immune from criticism simply because they are female - but equally they should not be treated differently because they are female. Compare the bilious tweets sent to Carney to the responses to Agbonlahor and the lack of anger triggered by Hasselbaink. A comment from a male pundit that enrages one set of fans is never taken as evidence that no men should be allowed to discuss football on television. It invariably happens to women.
Leeds are, of course, free to disagree with pundits' opinions. But it's a pundit's job to give them.
Aggressive, abusive behaviour on social media has, in the past, racked up charges of bringing the game into disrepute for individual players. There is surely a case here that the club have done just that.
Carney is, as always, doing the job she is paid to do. For a club to stealthily encourage a torrent of abuse at her and then complain about "disrespect" is deeply ironic.
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