doc

Jon-Paul Pittman believes it is vital all players fight against racism in football, regardless of whether they wear the Kick It Out t-shirts.

The campaign’s annual week of action has traditionally seen all footballers show their support for the anti-racism group by warming up in special shirts.

But this season several players – including Manchester United’s Rio Ferdinand – opted not to wear them in protest at the lack of progress.

It follows several high-profile incidents in the last 12 months, most recently involving abuse of the England Under-21 side in Serbia last week.

Pittman wore his t-shirt before Oxford United’s game against Accrington Stanley on Saturday, and believes in the merits of Kick It Out.

While he sympathised with those who chose not to wear the t-shirts, the striker stressed the key was to provide a united front.

He said: “I think it’s important that we all stay together, whether you wear the t-shirt or not – it’s really what goes on behind the scenes.

“I understand the guys who didn’t wear their t-shirts, but we need to try and get racism out of the game and it won’t happen overnight.

“If someone has a racist attitude it’s not going to diminish as soon as they go into a stadium, they will still hold those feelings.”

The 25-year-old was on the receiving end of incidents earlier in his career and was the Kick It Out ambassador for Wycombe Wanderers.

Although work still needs to be done, Pittman, who is in the United squad for tonight’s npower League Two trip to Rochdale, was keen to point out the problems lie with a tiny minority.

He said: “I don’t think this is a league or a country full of hatred, it’s just a select few who ruin it for everybody and tarnish the image.

“I’ve not had any problems for years, but it still happens and we’ve got to try and sort it out.”