By Phil Gregory
I was at the Blackburn game on Saturday, took my girlfriend to her first game on a bit of a whim after hearing on Saturday that tickets were available on the day of the game. I won’t prattle on about the game itself as that’s been done to death by now, but I will say a couple of things about the fans.
The last time I went to see a match at Blackburn was last season, when I went with a couple of Geordie mates to watch Blackburn versus Newcastle. Now as most of us are no doubt aware, Newcastle fans are renowned for being amongst the most passionate, turning out in droves no matter what tripe the team puts out on the pitch week in week out.
Yet at this game, upon finding themselves three nil down and worrying close to the relegation zone, the Toon Army went a little ballistic. I won’t list the chants, but “We’re shit, and we’re sick of it” was the chant that best sums it up.
How is that support? I myself am a fairly average footballer, and I’ve found that I’m a real confidence player: if I have a poor first five minutes, misplace a couple of passes or lose possession through a poor touch I’ll generally go on to have a sub-par game.
While the footballers we all love to watch are professionals, I think they too are affected by the fans in a similar way. Jimmy Bullard for Hull recently is a case in point. He’s by far their best player (not hard when the team is assembled by Phil Brown) and yet he was having an absolute nightmare, culminating in missing a crucial penalty and getting subbed off at half time.
When it became clear he was having a bad day, the fans went to town on the poor man, hitting his confidence and no doubt making the situation worse. This is exactly what I heard in the stands on Monday from a minority of the fans at Ewood Park. A couple of blokes in particular spent the best part of the last half hour spouting vitriol. How does that help the team? You have a right to express an opinion, but surely not when the team need your support and the match is still playing?
A couple of moments in particular stand out. One was the injury to Sagna: let’s set the scene. Sagna leapt to challenge for a ball in a manner that from where I stood was total commitment to the cause. He hurled himself into it, his only thought was of winning the ball and regaining possession.
He didn’t go in a little more softly and negate the risk of injury with the World Cup looming: in that moment he was putting everything into the Arsenal cause. So when he landed badly and I saw the ref gesture immediately for the stretcher (exactly as I saw he did from the stands when Ramsey went down at the Britannia) I was instantly concerned for Bacary’s wellbeing.
Not so the imbecile two rows behind me, who was yelling “get up you fucking softarse, we’re losing, getting up and fucking play on!”. Disgraceful behaviour given from what we could see, Sagna could well have got a serious injury – his landing could’ve dislocated his shoulder, and given the ref’s reaction that’s exactly what I thought had happened.
Later on, the loudmouth and a friend started up a nice song of “only one George Graham”. I don’t need to talk about this too much, whether it’s the fact he’s criticising Wenger’s team when it had TWO first eleven players out playing a team who’d only lost three times at home, or championing a man who is equal to Harry Redknapp when it comes to having a predisposition for brown envelopes.
The final whistle went and as we filtered out of the stand, the resident loudmouth started up again “you’ve lost it Wenger, retire you fucking idiot, you’re shit and your team is shit you stupid French bastard” and there we had it.
It has been coming, and there we had it: racism rearing it’s ugly head. Let’s make no mention of the faithful service this “stupid French bastard” has given our club or the current injury blight, nope, the team is shit and it’s because Wenger’s French.
I detest racism in all it’s forms, and have on more than one occasion have narrowly avoided a confrontation on a boozy night out when some uneducated moron spouts off at someone of a different race and I felt I had to say something.
But this man (and I use the word in it’s loosest possible way) was a fairly typical bloke, probably mid forties with a wife and kids. How would they react if they saw or heard his behaviour? There were kids all around us, families enjoying the game: should we really teach kids to look up to their elders when morons such as that are around?
Credit to the Blackburn fans though, on the walk back to the train station I got not one bit of grief that went beyond friendly banter, and even managed to pick up a cracking Chinese at a very reasonable price.
On the train home, we had the usual catastrophist talking nonsense to his mate about how we should buy X Y and Z. As ever the arguments were hilarious, and I eventually had to chip in and take the poor boy to the cleaners.
“Why didn’t Arshavin start eh?”
“Because he wasn’t fit to start! If he’d started and got injured you’d have complained about that too”
“Yeah but we lost without him.”
“We lost as Blackburn are a solid side at home, know how to push (no pun intended) the rules around and we had a squad decimated by injury.”
“That’s the modern game though. We need a squad. We should sell Eboue, Rosicky, Theo, Nasri, Denilson and Diaby. Buy Benzema, Hart and Cahill”
“Pal, you’re talking nonsense. Real Madrid tried that and it didn’t work so well. It might on Football Manager 2010, though. Should we have three excellent left backs so that when they all get injured we have a ready-made replacement? Looking at the players you want to sell, you’re actually making the squad smaller too.”
“But Denilson’s crap. I watch him every week and he’s always shit”
“Absolute rubbish. What about Barcelona, when he came on and turned the game in our favour?”
“Nah Denilson’s shit, look at Chelsea, they have Ballack on the bench.. He’s world class.”
“Ballack’s been dreadful this season”
“Yeah, he’s been shit, but he’s still world class, [he actually said that, no word of a lie] wouldn’t you rather have Ballack in the squad than Denilson and Diaby?”
“Nope, he’s dreadful.”
*The rest of the carriage of Gooners and Blackburn fans agree with me, and I give him a prawn cracker to keep his mouth from talking more nonsense.*
It’s just an exercise in futility. He’d make some unfounded statement, I’d counter it with evidence and he’d either repeat what he just said or say something else. The above is a fairly accurate transcript of our conversation. God help Wenger if these are the fans he has to please.
Only One Arsene Wenger.
Editorial note: I think Phil’s example sums up the dilemma we face very well. When there are people who just make a point, with no recourse to debate, and with no recourse to any facts, there is no dialogue. Phil had it on the train, we have it now in the discussions here. So I’m going to go back to the tactic used a few times in the past: Comments that are wholly off topic or which totally ignore issue we have resolved before will be deleted so those of us who want to follow a debate can do so. And to be quite clear what I mean, I’ll give one example if I may. To come on and say, “The youth project has failed” because all we have had is Cesc, will be cut, because it shows that the writer has not had the courtesy to read any of the ten or more posts in which many of us have explained that the youth project players are only 17 or 18 years old. Likewise (as a second example) coming on and saying “we should have kept Flamini and Hleb” without giving some evidence as to what happened in their first year or two at Milan and Barca, is nonsense. As I was taught was I was about 10 years old, in school, if you want to join in the debate, have the courtesy to listen to what other’s are saying first. And as I learned in secondary school, evidence is generally helpful. If you stay on topic, cite evidence and are respectful of the site, you are welcome.
We should sack Wenger: he’s the same as Herbert Chapman
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