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LONDON, Jan 8 (Reuters) - News that Bolton Wanderers forward Marvin Sordell is being helped by his club for a possible "obsession" with social networking site Twitter may not come as a surprise to those who believe soccer players have too much time on their hands.
Snooker halls, pubs, golf courses and betting shops used to the be the favourite domain of off-duty players but nowadays it seems cyberspace is where many spend their free time.
As the wages of Premier League stars continue to spiral into the stratosphere, Twitter has become a useful interface between fans and players they idolise.
While much of it is harmless knockabout chit-chat, such as avid contributor Rio Ferdinand's revelation on Monday that he was cooking "smoke salmon fillets with rice and tomatoes" the rapid growth of Twitter also causes problems.
Sordell was the innocent victim of racial abuse on Twitter this season, following an incident in which a 13-year-old Millwall fan was banned for racially abusing him during a match.
Bolton manager Dougie Freedman said social networking is a new problem for coach's to deal with.
"It could be bordering on an obsession with Twitter and Facebook and all the things that go on with these kids," he said in the Daily Telegraph.
"We are trying to work with him - by taking his phone off him."
Ferdinand, whose three million followers get regular updates on the school run, his musical tastes and occasionally some football insight, has fallen foul of his itchy Twitter finger.
In July he sparked a row when he praised a Tweet from a follower describing Chelsea defender Ashley Cole as a 'choc ice' - a term that can be used as a slur to describe black people who are seen to betray their own ethnicity.
Ferdinand was slapped with a 45,000 pounds fine by the Football Association and is not the only United player to discover the dangers of Twitter.
Wayne Rooney became embroiled in various rows with rival fans, threatening to put one "to sleep in 10 seconds" after being on the receiving end of abuse.
Former Manchester City, Newcastle United and Queens Park Rangers midfielder Joey Barton, now at French club Olympique Marseille, regularly takes to Twitter as his preferred mode of communicating his thoughts.
When not passing himself off as a de-facto "people's philosopher" Barton's can often be seen ranting at his critics.
There have been many other clashes on Twitter, with the relationship between players and former professionals turned pundits, particularly volatile.
Liverpool defender Glen Johnson took exception to former England midfielder Paul Merson saying on Sky Sports that "he couldn't defend for toffee", launching a volley of abuse at Merson from his telephone keypad.
Most clubs provide their players with guidelines about using Twitter and Facebook. (Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Justin Palmer)