The summer football break is a bleak place at the best of times – invented stories, transfer ‘sagas’, and the endless sight of Harry Redknapp on Sky Sports News. But some things rise above these mild irritants and become truly infuriating, and while it takes a lot to rile me, I’ve been finding myself getting increasingly annoyed or disillusioned with some of the goings-on. I feel the need to vent.
1. Elitist fans.
One thing I’m seeing more and more, perhaps since the dawn of Twitter and the instant, ill thought out response, is the dismissive way some fans treat other fans, as if their opinion doesn’t count because of some arbitrary matter like where they reside, or whether they are a season ticket holder or not. Some of the most interesting and insightful bloggers and commenters live out in the States, and to see their opinions swept aside because ‘Yanks don’t understand soccer‘ is patronising in the extreme, and downright rude to boot. I frankly couldn’t give a monkey’s whether you live in London, USA, Venezuela or squat on the steps of the Emirates – as long as you’re not a dick about it, your Arsenal opinion is as valid as anyone else’s.
A similar fate befalls those who do not possess season tickets, or even more ridiculously, haven’t held one for long enough. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen ‘I’ve been a season ticket holder for fifteen years‘ as a statement intended to win an argument, which is once again ludicrous. For the record, I am not a season ticket holder. I haven’t progressed far enough up to the list to be offered one, but even if I had, I wouldn’t be able to take it – a young family makes that financially impossible. Does that make my opinion irrelevant?
2. Divisive fan labels
It seems we live in a black and white world. You cannot praise the work of Arsene Wenger (even with caveats) or defend him against what you believe to be unfair criticism without someone shouting ‘AKB‘ at you (‘Arsene Knows Best‘, for those who don’t know the lingo of the keyboard warriors). Similarly, you cannot critique any of his decisions without being labelled a ‘doomer‘, or worse, a Spurs fan. Both sides are so protective of their side of the coin that any statement not fitting their notion is slammed, dismissed, and sees you wrapped up in their label of choice, before being unceremoniously pigeonholed and ridiculed.
What I find equally annoying is that once people pick a side, they interpret every news item in such a way as to back up their own preconceived perception. And let’s face it – it is possible to spin pretty much any story in either a positive or negative light, as we’ve seen countless times in the written press.
But what happened to the good old fashioned notion of reading a quote from a manager or player, and deciding rationally what you think of it before coming down on one side of the fence?
3. Sky Sports News
I haven’t subjected myself to much of SSN’s tripe this summer, because their endless headlines of ‘X not about to join Y‘ get pretty tiresome after a while. Not only that, but every time I flick over to it, Harry bloody Redknapp is talking about how his players aren’t for sale, how he needs to sign a few more players to progress and top players cost money, so would Levy please put his hand in his pocket for the millionth time so he can spunk another £18m on the likes of David Bentley.
Today, however, I watched a full hour. I’m not sure what was the reason for this self-imposed penance, but when the hour was up I knew precisely why I’d avoided it so long. They seem to have hired a new male presenter (I don’t know his name, I was too busy growling at his inaneness), who specialises in reporting on the dullest, most tenuous stories imaginable, and pumping them up to the extreme. Honestly, the guy is a complete self-parody.
It seems to get on Sky Sports News, or indeed any of their channels, you have to have an extreme opinion which stops being funny after about thirty seconds when the viewer realises that you aren’t taking the piss. That, or you have to be Harry bloody Redknapp.
4. People turning on Cesc Fabregas
This one really gets my goat. Despite my article semi-defending Samir Nasri, I know that his behaviour doesn’t sit well with many, and can completely understand that (and to an extent, I agree). However, the vitriol directed at Cesc is baffling.
Here is the situation as I see it: Cesc would like to move to Barcelona. He grew up there, his family live there and it is his boyhood club. So far, so logical. However, despite immense pressure from the club he idolises, he flatly refuses to antagonise for a move, because he loves and respects Arsenal too much. He also accepts (as he did last summer), that the end result will be dictated by the clubs, not by him, and is staying out of negotiations precisely because anything he says will weaken Arsenal’s hand. Ultimately, if Barcelona refuse to stump up the cash, he will give his all to Arsenal, as he always has done, for another year.
Now, I can’t see anything wrong in that, I really can’t. I sometimes think we get blinded by the fact that we love and support one club, and one club only. Cesc has two in his heart, a natural situation for a travelling footballer, but an alien one to fans across the world. So Cesc’s priorities are:
a) Do not do anything that destroys his relationship with Arsenal fans, which has been built up over seven years.
b) Do not do anything that destroys his relationship with Barcelona, a club he grew up in and will eventually return to.
So, given that, and given the media propensity for twisting anything he says, what exactly could he do that would make the current situation any better? If he says he wants to leave, he massively weakens our hand – this is precisely the action Barcelona are hoping for. If he says he categorically wants to stay, he is lying, and we will all see through it, and if he tries to explain the above situation as ‘I would love to go to Barcelona, but if they do not meet Arsenal’s valuation I will happily stay and proudly continue as captain’, this will be reported purely as ‘Cesc wants to go to Barcelona‘. We all know it.
So for me, silence is the best policy. He has refused to bow to pressure from Spain, and has left the situation in the hands of his manager. And for this, he gets abuse. Explain that one to me. No seriously, explain it.
5. FC Barcelona
More than a club, my arse. If they didn’t play beautiful football, they would perhaps be the most reviled club on the planet. On the field, their stunning football outweighs the shameless play-acting in the eyes of many, but off it, their mockery of the simple laws of the game shows arrogance to the extreme. Relentless tapping up is just the tip of the iceberg, although in fairness, it could hardly be said to be working – if Xavi thinks his latest comments making the Cesc transfer more likely, then he needs a psychology lesson, specifically around the term ‘strengthening resolve‘.
6. Ligament tears
Whenever I hear of one of our players tearing a ligament, my first reaction is ‘you idiot, how long are we going to be without you?’. No more. Well, I’ll still have that reaction, but it will be preceded by a modicum of sympathy, because, as it turns out, ligament tears are painful.
I know this because I am recovering from one – I had knee surgery a little over a month ago and walking is still nigh on impossible. Which means I am sitting down a lot, which in turn means I’m forced to flick on to Sky Sports News after a while, and catch sight of Harry bloody Redknapp.
So the next time RVP knackers his leg, I’ll imagine him in pain, throwing the remote at the television, and I’ll feel a twinge of sympathy. Only then will I curse him for being absent.
7. Transfer window lingo
Rules of the transfer window:
- All young players are starlets or wonderkids, and all must be labelled ‘the new X‘, where X is a fading star. The players need not have anything in common.
- All transfer bids are ‘swoops’.
- All transfer requests are ‘shocks’ that ‘stun’ clubs.
- All players subject to bids are ‘wantaway’.
- An ‘understanding’ allows a story to be categorically true, despite the lack of quotes, or indeed sensibility in the subject matter.
- Players can have daily medicals from the moment you first ‘break the story’ until they day they officially sign. There is no need to backtrack, ever.
8. Overt cynicism
I can understand a bit of skepticism from time to time. When Wenger says that Almunia has an elbow injury that last three months, smirking as he says so, a certain level of doubt is to be expected. When Samir Nasri says it is all about club ambition, we can frown and respectfully disagree. But the dearth of summer stories means that too often the tidbits are analysed to a ridiculous degree. Take the photos published of the players’ first day back at training. You had people claiming Nasri was staying because he was smiling in a photo, but in another shot he looked more serious, which obviously meant that contract negotiations had stalled. Now, I don’t know about you, but my expressions have a habit of changing based on slightly less career-changing facts than those, but perhaps footballers are different, eh?
And then, people start doubting every news story. Arsenal’s official line is that Cesc picked up a muscular injury in his thigh on his first day back, hence him missing the current tour. Immediately, this was dismissed, not by a vocal minority, but by a substantial chunk of the fanbase. Obviously we are selling him and this is a cover story.
Er, hang on a moment. First day back after holiday, and a return to physical training. Yep, sounds to me like one of the likeliest days to pick up a muscular injury.
9. People purporting to speak for others
Let’s get this straight. This blog is my opinion only. I do not profess to speak for anyone else. It really irritates me when I read people saying that ‘all real fans think so-and-so‘, or ‘we all want X‘, an increasingly prevalent practice used by those who wish to artificially enhance the gravitas of what they are saying.
I speak for me, you speak for you, and never should anything else be true.
10. Online player abuse
When did we, as a race, drop all sense of decorum and start flinging the most personal of abuse at people who do not come close to deserving it? How exactly does the salary of a Premiership footballer mean that the masses feel entitled to act like complete morons to the players within the club they claim to support?
I am well aware than footballers have to put up with a certain level of ‘banter’ on the terraces, but that is different because there is a purpose behind it – it is designed to put them off their game. Most of the chants have a great deal of humour in them, which cannot be said when you switch to the online world. But pick any footballer on Twitter, and have a look at their ‘mentions’ section. It is truly a portal to hell, and frankly I’m amazed they last long at all. Not only is the abuse ridiculously harsh and personal, it usually comes from the club’s own fans.
Footballers have to be thick skinned. But they are also human, and deserve better. I’m not sure I’d want to stay at a club at which I was routinely lambasted by my own fans. And yet we wonder why they sometimes seem cagey when playing in front of a home crowd. Food for thought, hmm?
As ever, feel free to comment below. I know I’ve touched on some fairly inflammatory subjects tonight and you may well disagree with some of my views, and that’s absolutely fine. As I said, I speak only for me. Now it’s your turn.