Stop criticising Blackburn fans for caring

Booing or general protesting in football is one of those obscure trend-following occurrences, in that it is both fashionable to do it and fashionable to criticise those who do it.

While many will argue that booing only serves to create a negative atmosphere which doesn’t help the players on the pitch in the slightest, it is a reasonable assertion to counter that fans have every right to voice their opinions.
There is a line, of course. The abuse and threats sent in Steve Kean’s direction have been nothing short of obscene and paint a damning – and misleading, quite frankly – picture of Rovers fans as a whole. Sympathyfor Kean has been forthcoming and those fans giving such treatment to the manager have been roundly criticised, and this is entirely fair.
What is not fair, though, is the condemnation of Blackburn fans who can see their club nearing the abyss, relatively and potentially speaking. Particularly galling is the media and fans of other clubs criticising Rovers fans for essentially caring about their football club. As the brilliant Andi Thomas puts it in his June article: “The underlying message to the fans is that their opinion is not worthy of consideration because they are emotionally involved with the club”.
How can people who have no emotional ties to the club and watch Blackburn games on a semi-regular basis – usually through ten minute highlights on Match of the Day, never the best way to analyse a team – shout down those who watch the games every week and have seen the club slowly but surely turn into a big Chicken-puns-galore joke?
There are small positives for Blackburn: Chris Samba is a colossus; Yakubu is one of the best goal scorers in the League when given the chances to score; Junior Hoillet and Ruben Rochina are exciting talents but look likely to move on to bigger and better things. Nice for the fans to enjoy them while they can, though.
Make no bones about it, however, Blackburn are utterly woeful, and the fans know it. They can see the club being torn apart by the Venkys, the soul being ripped out by a manager who doesn’t appear to have any ideas on how to save the club and owners who – from what the football world has seen of them so far (and what else can we judge them on?) – quite literally don’t know what they’re doing. As Blackburn blogger Mikey Delap says, fans are unhappy with much more than just Kean’s managerial record.
Since October, Blackburn have won two games (not including the friendly against Pune FC): Newcastle at home in the Carling Cup after extra-time and Swansea at home in the League. Of their last ten games, six have been losses and 21 goals have been conceded. An embarrassing – and deserved – exit from the Carling Cup at the hands of Cardiff City is only a small part of the overall mess that is Blackburn Rovers.
The club’s financial situationdoesn’t look particularly positive and the connection to the club of Jerome Anderson continues to be a worrying state of affairs. Blackburn fans don’t like the way the club is going and, given that Rovers are one of those clubs largely ignored by the majority of people on a regular basis unless they overachieve massively or they are particularly poor, it seems quite condescending to not only tell Blackburn fans how to behave, but also how to feel.
The Championship beckons for Blackburn, by no means the worst thing in the world but not where their fans want to be. Are they supposed to sit with their hands on their laps, their mouths shut and only speak when asked to?
Just as commenters on the outside can seem rational and are said to sometimes talk more sense than those who have emotional bonds with a subject, they can sometimes not get the full picture on the subject, and can at times misunderstand completely. To condemn all Blackburn fans for their protests – for caring – is wholly wrong.

Sam Allardyce treading dangerous path by criticising fans

Sam Allardyce (Picture from The Guardian)
You watch your team put in a sluggish and wasteful performance on a dreary Tuesday night and see the gap at the top of the league widen to five points.

With 22 minutes left, your in-form striker Sam Baldock – four goals in four games – is hauled off in favour of Carlton Cole, who is searching for his first league goal since 10th September.
You boo this decision, knowing that it will not help Cole, Allardyce or the team in any way, but you are voicing your discontent in the only way you can. The game finishes goalless despite numerous chances for your side. The performance has been of a high quality but no goals have been scored.
And then the manager goes and insults your intelligence with a throw-away comment in a post-match interview.
Sam Allardyce was always going to be put under pressure. Perhaps, because of how he has instructed his clubs to play in the past, he always will be. It is easy to dislike Big Sam: his football is direct bordering on aggressive hoof-ball; despite his reliance on technology and modern science, he rarely comes across as a particularly intelligent man; he appears to be ambitious but this can sometimes translate as egocentric, arrogant and oblivious to his own deficiencies.
The days of West Ham United playing attractive, expansive football are long-gone but that does not make the square passing around the back-line followed by the punt upfield any more entertaining to watch.
But, as Allardyce hints at himself, winning is what really matters in football. If you don’t play a fluid passing game, then you must at least win the match. And that, mostly, is what West Ham have been doing this season.
Only losing three of their fifteen Championship games so far – Cardiff and Ipswich at home and Southampton away – the Hammers are soaring in a league full of quality. Last season’s relegation and the disappointment from the last few seasons appears to be behind them – they are bouncing back.
Of course, nothing is perfect. The Olympic Stadium issue is yet to be resolved, with a move away from Boleyn still a source of much debate between fans and club officials.
On the pitch, West Ham were embarrassingly knocked out of the League Cup by Accrington Stanley back in August, while some tame performances this season have worried fans, especially as their injury concerns continue to deepen.
Last night’s performance was promising in terms of the chances created but worrying in that they failed to score past a side staring relegation in the face. It was not, by any stretch of the imagination, ‘outstanding’and to say so makes one wonder what sort of performance would be seen as a disappointment by the former-Bolton and Blackburn manager.
On the whole, the season has been a promising one for West Ham and they are on of the clear favourites to reach the Premier League next season. On the face of it, Hammers fans should be much cheerier than they appeared last night.
Anger, pain and displeasure are all relative, though. There are teams in worse positions than they are, but that will hardly make fans of the claret and blue feel any more comfortable with a disappointing performance against a poor – albeit resilient – Bristol City side.
Allardyce refused to acknowledge the frustration at dropping two points in his post-match interview with BBC Radio 5Live when he was questioned on the clear dissatisfaction coming from the stands.
“I don’t really think the fans reaction is worth talking about” he said. “The crowd doesn’t know better than me.. if they did they’d have my job.”
This is the sort of comment that can infuriate fans of any club up and down the country. Instead of solving the problem or at least discussing the issue, Allardyce brushes the criticism aside. He is by no means under any obligation to discuss the issue there-and-then in the interview, but to insult the fans with an irrelevant quip such as this helps nobody.
Many managers have made the mistake of aggravating their own fans in a minute yet significant way, most recently Roy Hodgson at Liverpool and Steve Bruce at Sunderland. As seen time and time again, it is a dangerous path to take.
Allardyce, next time, would be better off saying that the next performance will be better and then move on – do not defend yourself or your team by attacking the fans. It only serves to antagonise the supporters who can either push you on or push you out.

The campaign to bring standing areas back to Football

Ealing Road terrace

The Football Supporters’ Federation has started a campaign to try and make people aware of the differences between old-style English football terraces and modern standing accommodation, with a possible view to installing safe standing throughout football stadia in England.

The FSF refers to the ‘rail seating’ used in Germany and points out that this kind of terracing is enjoyed by clubs and fans alike, and “which is passed safe by the Bundesliga”.
John Darch, an FSF member, told The Guardian, “We have to help people understand we are not talking about bringing back old-style terraces……..
English football’s top two divisions have been without terracing since, largely, 1994. The Taylor Report, at the time, was seen to be blaming terraces for the ninety-six innocent people who lost their lives, but it is now believed that it was actually the fault of South Yorkshire Police and the fences around the stadium.
There are still terraces in English football, most notably at Scunthorpe United in the Championship. Standing areas are also quite frequently found in Leagues One and Two, as well as in non-league football.
The FSF argues that terracing would not only add to the enjoyment of a football match for many (as most fans stand at games, anyway) and improve the atmosphere (as you are more likely to sing, chant and generally make a noise if you are stood up), but it would also be cheaper for the fans.
A Premier League football match costs around thirty to forty pounds for a single ticket. In the Bundesliga, to see, say, Borrussia Dortmund (currently top in Germany’s top division) it costs around £12 to stand. On average, the price to stand and watch a Bundesliga match is £10.50-£12.20, around a quarter of the standard prices for seats at top English Premier League clubs.
Of course, terracing in football always stirs up images of Hillsborough, amongst other disasters. Those innocent ninety-six should not be forgotten and the incident opened the eyes of The FA and English football.
The FSF, though, is simply stating that safe standing in English football should at least be up for debate. Some have come out and supported the campaign, while others are strongly against it.
But, what is your view? As a fan, do you want to see terracing back in football? Or are you happier in the safer seating arrangements? 

This article originally appeared on sports website Sports Haze, which is now unfortunately defunct.

Why is there so much hate in the beautiful game?

The atmosphere at a football match is always something to savour. It doesn’t matter whether you’re at Anfield, Celtic Park, Camp Nou or Sincil Bank – you are guaranteed a fantastic atmosphere because a group of people making the same noise in unison is something special to behold.

Sometimes, though, that noise can turn nasty. Or rather, the producers of the noise can turn nasty. Too many times have we seen football fans direct vitriol towards their rival supporters, only to complain bitterly when any abuse is directed back at them.
In the last two weeks there were incidents at an FA Youth Cup Tie between Liverpool and Manchester United, two sides who love to hate each other. Chants about HillsboroughHeysel and Munich could be heard and, thankfully, have been condemned by the masses. These three disasters, which rocked English football to the core, saw many innocent people lose their lives.
The deaths of those innocent people are now used to score points against a rival side. In the Youth Cup game in question it is not clear who made the first provocative and sickening chant, with most fans defending the actions of the minority with: “they started it”.
Clearly, Manchester United fans are not going to like Liverpool fans. And I don’t expect them to. Heck, part of what makes the North West derby one of the best games in English football is the rivalry, which goes back to a time before any current fan of football was born.
But is there really any need for the pure abhorrence that enters football day-in, day-out? Taunting Liverpool fans about the fact that they haven’t won a trophy since 2006 is fine. Heckling Manchester United fans for coming mainly from Surrey is also fine. But there is a line that should not be crossed.
Of course, this isn’t just confined to Manchester United and Liverpool fans, or even English football. Leeds United, Bradford City, Juventus, Boca Juniors and Kaizer Chiefs have all, unfortunately, experienced footballing disasters. Luckily, in the modern game, cases of disasters and football hooliganism, especially in England, are very rare, but the hatred remains.
I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve seen fans spew stereotypical views all over Twitter, Facebook or even at matches themselves. Sure, there may well be a man in Liverpool steeling hub caps, but that doesn’t mean every Scouser’s doing it. (Sorry to use Liverpool as an example again – I can assure you this isn’t an attack on Liverpool).
Comparing the conventions and rules of two sports is often a weak argument because they are, usually, completely different and therefore making the argument irrelevant. But, just for a moment, let us consider how a rugby crowd behaves. Or how a cricket crowd acts. Most of the time, the fans will not be segregated in these sports. They’ll sit together, enjoy each other’s company and maybe even share a drink after the game. Can you imagine Birmingham fans sitting in amongst the Villa Park faithful? No, thought not.
I’m obviously not, for one moment, suggesting that rivals fans should be thrown into the same stand and forced to get along. But fans bemoan the lack of respect shown by players, and sometimes managers, to referees yet they find it acceptable to hurl abuse at the away end and call the officials, opposition players and managers all sorts of expletives. Not all fans do it, but the majority will and then not own up to it, which suggests that they know they are wrong.
Yet they still do it, and will continue to do it. Football has, and always will be, full of hate and lacking in respect. Why? “That’s just the way it is” will undoubtedly be the reply. Tradition doesn’t make it OK; in fact that’s one of the weakest replies you can possible make in an argument.
Rivalry in football is, to an extent, needed. It adds to the excitement and gives fans something to look forward to. But pure, vile hatred is something completely different. Keep the innocent taunting, keep the banter – but kick hatred out of football. 

This article originally appeared on sports website Sports Haze, which is now unfortunately defunct.

Howard Wilkinson confronts fans after protest

Sheffield Wednesday fans at Hillsborough Stadium

Sheffield Wednesday fans voiced their frustrations towards interim club chairman Howard Wilkinson after yesterday’s poor performance at home to Southampton.

Fans were particularly unhappy with recent results which have seen the club slip down to fourteenth in League One after a promising start under Alan Irvine.

Irvine was disappointed after the game, saying:

“It was a game where I felt we were very comfortable. I didn’t think we were going to score plenty of goals but I felt in control of the game. We gave away a awful goal from having very good possession. What you need is good strong characters when things are going well.”

After the game, which Wednesday lost 1-0 thanks to a sixty-first minute Lee Barnard strike, fans gathered outside the ground to protest against the club for it’s performances on-and-off the field.

Wilkinson then came out to see the fans and put forward his argument.

You can see the video here: