D3D4 columnist Darren Yong takes a light hearted look at the unrealistic expectations of the modern fan…
‘Is It Football Fan Expectations That Are Criminal?’
West Ham’s short-suffering fans, or at least one of them, have taken to calling 999 to complain to the police about the club’s plight.
The police, not altogether surprisingly, said this was a waste of their time (I presume they meant the emergency services’ time and not the fans although they possibly meant both given what good it’ll do them). Thankfully, this rather extreme course of action seems to be a relatively isolated incident.
Good job too. If all disgruntled football fans took the same approach, the switchboard would never cope. The emergency services, in this case, decided to make the nature of the call public, but they didn’t disclose the actual transcript. But it’s interesting to see how it might have gone…
Emergency Services: Can you tell me what your emergency is please?
Caller: Er, yes, West Ham’s current form. We lost again today?
ES: That’s it?
Caller: Well, not just tonight. We’ve not won in three and we also don’t like the new stadium.
ES: The stadium you got for virtually free?
Caller: Or the new manager?
ES: The one you got after the last bloke got sacked for not playing the West Ham way?
But it isn’t just reserved for unpopular managerial appointments. Club legends aren’t safe either.
I heard a European football ‘expert’ on the radio saying that he would be amazed if Zinedine Zidane survived at Real Madrid if they lost the league title to Barcelona. Another emergency call I feel…
ES: Cual es tu emergencia?
Caller: I want to make a complaint about ZZ as we’re ten points behind Barcelona.
ES (translated): The Real Madrid manager?
ES: The one who has won the last two Champions Leagues? And last season’s La Liga plus the UEFA Super Cup and FIFA World Club Championship. And set a La Liga record for consecutive victories and a club-record 40 games without defeat? The FIFA Men’s Coach of the Year 2017. A man who had won as many titles as he’d lost games until recently?
ES: Isn’t that thinking a little short-sighted. Not to mention a little ungrateful?
Caller: We’re also behind Valencia
ES: We’ll send someone right over
Bienvenido, my friend, to modern football.
But, to be fair, the ominous signs have been there for all to see for a while.
I started watching football on a regular basis at about the age of ten. I can’t remember the first time I booed the players or called for the manager’s head but it was well into adulthood and then, only if and when things were really dire. And not always if it was; not if I could see what the club/manager was trying to do and light at the end of the tunnel. And it was the same for most fans.
I’d watched heavy defeats and winless runs but never felt the need to go over the top or lose perspective. And I never thought about calling 999. I don’t even feel like that now, even when we’ve just lost two home games to clubs below us and without scoring a goal. Although I did call the less urgent 101 to inform them of some young men pretending to be footballers and one older man impersonating a manager, although not very well. I have said, regrettably, that I think it’s time for change but I gave it plenty of time.
But a couple of weeks ago, our fans sang for the manager to be sacked throughout a three-nil away win. It just wasn’t the time or the place. But this is a new generation for whom a balanced view of the club’s fortunes is a thing of the past; just like short shorts or goalkeepers picking the ball up. These fans, even five to ten years ago, would often boo at almost any opportunity (substitutions, nil-nil at half time, conceding a corner etc) and it was a worrying glimpse of where we are today.
And so, with such high – and sometimes unrealistic – expectations, football managers have such a short shelf life now that already David Moyes is under pressure at West Ham with footballer-cum-gambler-radio presenter, Joey Barton, amongst others, doubting he’ll make it until Christmas. Five managers in the Premier League have already gone and we are nowhere near the January panic-button-pressing-period when all hell will break loose.
West Brom’s Tony Pulis is the latest to be fired, with an almost-resignation-by-press-conference approach of telling the owners how bad it had got. But the fans had already made the decision for the board anyway; deciding that the pragmatic approach that had stopped them being a yo-yo club, boing-boinging between the top two divisions and got them to tenth position last year, was no longer acceptable.
What next though? They’ve already sacked the next but one manager you bring in if you want to avoid relegation. Cue, Big Sam, the one in front of him. The man whose brand of football is as close to Tony Pulis as his ideas of retirement are close to those of Martina Hingis.
Their recent record is forgotten though. What they said last week is irrelevant; only what they do in the next few games matters. Eddie Howe was ‘three games from the sack’ people said a few weeks ago. But he won all three so he’s now a potential future England manager again.
But say the West Brom fans did, like the Unhappy Hammer, call 999. And say, the emergency services did intervene and make arrests. What would they charge them with? Maybe squatting in West Ham’s case? Or at the very least, not paying a fair rent? What other crimes are potentially going to be reported?
Leicester – stabbing someone in the back?
Tottenham – choking?
Everton – miss-selling? ‘We want to complain that we sold our twenty plus goal a season striker, didn’t replace them properly and now have players who can’t score goals for toffees’
Manchester United – noisy neighbours?
PSG – financial fair play? Oh, they’ve already tried that and it didn’t work.
How far are we from football manager’s operating on a game-by-game basis and a new telephone helpline for fans – to take the pressure off the emergency services? Maybe it could be 451 to make it easy to remember. Or 460 in Scotland.
But reaching for the telephone isn’t always the answer.
For those who are a little more patient, it can help, in many parts of life, but definitely in football, to remember and remind others that there are always folks that are much worse off than yourself.
My good friend and colleague, for instance, is a Sunderland fan. So, I always stop short of complaining to him about Walsall’s poor form in case it turns into a version of the Monty Python ‘Four Yorkshireman’ sketch:
Him: Lost one-nil did you?
Him: You l-u-c-k-y sod. You should be happy you got as many as nil.
I was fortunate to spend some time recently with some Coventry fans who were the very epitome of putting a brave face on things. At the time, they had just lost to Accrington Stanley (exactly) and Forest Green Rovers at home. Without scoring a goal. And we were watching a very dreary goalless draw versus Colchester.
‘We’ve got to go to Luton next’ one told me with all the optimism of someone standing in front of a firing squad. Yet, they incredibly won by three goals to nil. And kick started a bit of form – which is always never more than temporary as we know. However, one can only imagine the Luton Town fan’s 999 call:
Caller: We lost to Coventry at home?
ES: But haven’t you beat Yeovil 8-2, Stevenage 7-1 and Cambridge 7-0 at home this season? And aren’t you second in the table with by the far the best goal difference in the EFL? And haven’t you also strolled through to the next round of the FA Cup and EFL Trophy?
Caller: But we did lose to Barnet as well.
ES: We’ll send someone right over.