Going to the football, during my 30 years or so of attending matches, has rarely been a place for the faint-hearted. And it has been thrillingly better for it, in the main.

Remember ‘Fergie’ the colourful Hamilton Accies diehard who turned the air blue wherever he went? The salty language and the abuse directed at opposition players was all par for the course, in the only social setting that an adult would deem it acceptable to shout obscenities at another who was, let’s not forget, at their work. And if children were in earshot, it mattered little, it was all part of the experience.

I remember once attending a match at Rugby Park sometime during the ground’s reconstruction in the early to mid-nineties, when the away support was housed in the main stand. I would have been pushing 12.

As I walked up the steps, there was a sign cautioning against the use of swear words due to it being a family area. A middle-aged gent tapped me on the shoulder, pointed to the sign and said; ‘haw wee man, f**k that eh?’

I laughed, and my dad laughed. Imagine the reaction if a stranger had said that to us on the high street? But that is all part of the strange allure of going to a game.

It’s a place where the normal strictures of life are loosened, where you can go and blow off steam, not always in a strictly politically-correct fashion, and forget all your troubles for 90 glorious minutes.

There is a propensity to look back on such experiences through rose-tinted spectacles, and undoubtedly some of the abuse then crossed a line. Sectarianism was just as rampant back then as it is now, maybe more so. And as we were reminded last week, it wasn’t all that long ago that horrific racist abuse, as well as bananas, rained down on Mark Walters at Tynecastle and Celtic Park.

For me though, it seemed that in the years since such shameful incidents, football in Scotland had cleaned up its act in a big way.

And then, in the last week, those illusions were shattered. It has been noticeable recently that the colourful banter that is the hallmark of the matchday experience may just be veering in an altogether more vitriolic direction, and I can’t help but feel that the rise of social media has played a part in this.

It’s almost as if the veneer of invincibility and lack of accountability that so-called ‘trolls’ enjoy online is starting to seep its way onto the terraces, with the boundaries being pushed into territory way beyond anything I have heard in years.

Songs and chants about the deaths of the Lisbon Lions or aimed at young Celtic Foundation ambassador Jay Beatty, and the 66 who perished in the Ibrox disaster. Fake eyeballs thrown at Dean Shiels. And just to prove this is not a strictly Scottish phenomenon, vile abuse aimed at West Brom’s Jake Livermore in a match against West Ham over his dead son.

Really? Is this what it has come to? Whataboutery, as my colleague Neil Cameron pointed out in our sister publication The Herald this week, is the chosen defence of such behaviour. But there is no defence. In all of these cases, it is despicable, and indefensible.

I don’t know if these so-called fans think that being in the stands gives them the same sort of invincibility that they experience when they are on their computers in their own homes, or if it simply comes from a place of ignorance.

Would they be brave enough to throw fake eyeballs at Dean Shiels in the street? I would wager not. And would they be shamed if they were to listen to the story of Gisela Easton, who lost her son Peter in the Ibrox disaster after he badgered her into letting him go to the game? Or would they drop their heads if confronted by the father of Jay Beatty, a boy who despite the hurdles he must overcome in life due to Down’s Syndrome, maintains an infectious love and enthusiasm for his team and the game? He’s 14, for crying out loud.

The flawed Offensive Behaviour at Football Act is misguided in the way it is used to battle sectarianism, which is still a massive blight on our game, and nobody wants to see the football-going experience become sterile.

But let’s not allow that glorious escape be ruined by forgetting that although the boundaries may shift a little on a Saturday at 3 o’clock, human decency must still remain. It’s only a game, after all.