Let me paint a picture in your mind. Your team has had a terrible first half. Against a team in the league who you ought to be beating, you find yourselves behind. The half-time whistle is just about to sound and you have two choices: offer your team encouragement by clapping, or do you boo?
What about this instead. You’re team have played fantastically in the second half, they are dominating the opposition and have got themselves back level. With almost the final kick of the game, the opposition grabs a late winner. The team have given it a good go, but the result leaves you fearing relegation when the final whistle goes. Do you clap and offer encouragement, or do you boo?
One last one for you. The manager is lining up a substitute, and he’s about to be introduced. The board goes up with the player’s number, but the other number isn’t one you expect and you just cannot fathom why he’s being taken off, I mean, he’s had a great game right? What do you do: cheer the player for his efforts and the oncoming player, or do you boo the manager’s choice to remove the player?
Alongside about 10 other teams in the Premier League this season, being a fan of a team who is part of one of the most open relegation scraps for seasons isn’t an easy experience. All of the above scenarios I have witnessed as a Norwich fan this season, and i’m sure you’ve guessed my stance on this subject by now. But taking a step back and looking around at fellow clubs in a similar situation this season, I have found that it has been a very tough and critical one for a lot of clubs.
As I write this, five of these teams have changed their manager at some point this season, whilst another four, including my own, have seen their manager’s come under heavy criticism and the bookies shortening their odds as the next Premier League manager to be sacked. But, where does all the negativity really get you? Fulham changed their manager in November, and Rene Meulensteen hasn’t done any better than Martin Jol within a similar time frame. And what of Swansea manager Michael Laudrup, he guided Swansea to silverware and European football last season, but now they are slipping into a relegation battle, his future has come into question? Of course, the media are known to hype up such troubling times, which doesn’t help. But what about you as fans, what is your stance on this? Do you boo your team to vent your dissatisfaction? After all, you do spend your money and entitled to your own opinion. Or do you take a different view, that getting behind the team showing your appreciation for their efforts will ultimately be rewarded?
Returning to my earlier examples. I’ve seen Norwich get nervy half-time reactions when we suffered to Villa and Fulham, and from where I was sitting, the nervous vibrations put the players heads down, and scared to make a mistake. I recall Cardiff at home, when Hooper was taken off in favour of Elmander and the fans booed. It looked to me at that point Elmander could have thought we were booing his introduction rather than Hooper’s withdrawal. We’ve had incidents of late where fans have been asking for Hughton’s head, and Snodgrass and Bennett respectively speaking out that it hasn’t helped matters. Snodgrass against Newcastle even had an altercation with some fans getting on his back (which has thankfully now been put to bed). But my point still stands, do negative vibes really help?
At the end of the day, picking a football team to the majority of fans is like getting a tattoo. Once chosen, you stick with it through to the end. And that’s what we do as football fans, we keep spending our money and returning to the stands of our favourite teams because we are passionate, and that football team is our tattoo. I’m a firm believer that if a club has chosen its manager, and he’s chosen the players, it’s better to speak out in support rather than speak out in criticism. In the most part, pulling together as a cohesive unit reverberates through to the players. I’ve heard so many managers and players commenting how much they depend on us, their 12th man. Justifiably, there comes a point where things become unbearably bad. Some teams will thrive off the negative vibes, but the majority will most likely fall under them.