When anger is no excuse for poison
Last updated at 13:02, Saturday, 25 August 2012
The default position for anyone sitting in a free seat should be to nip their tongue before passing down advice to the paying masses, especially when it concerns etiquette on voicing anger, offering criticism.
A person paid to be at a football match like today’s at Brunton Park ought to be very wary about counselling someone who has handed over £20 for the privilege on how he ought to behave, the things he is at liberty to shout and say.
Generally, the price of a ticket entitles you to do and utter many things which a lot of people won’t like. Booing, for instance, may not be to everyone’s taste but try legislating that out of football, especially in this less patient age.
Those who jeered Carlisle after Tuesday’s 3-0 obliteration by Tranmere might, a few hours or days later, have regretted doing so. Alternatively they might not. The point is that no laws or conventions were broken.
There has to be sympathy for anyone who felt so let down at the final whistle four nights ago that they wanted to let the world know, for a moment, how narked they were. Sometimes howling out feels like the only way to get a point across.
Down the mockery scale on Tuesday, a few other options were picked from the menu. “Olé,” went a repeated first-half cry when United, 2-0 down and flagging, finally laced a few passes together.
“Attack, attack, attack” was an urging that spoke for itself. “Abbott, Abbott sort it out” - another song of desperation, which spoke for most of us at the time (the manager included, judging by his rapid substitution decision in the 32nd minute).
Hearing ironic cheers when you catch the ball must be one of the loneliest places a goalkeeper can go, but Adam Collin is not an unrealistic man.
He knows the terrain. It may be one of the more wince-inducing and less helpful of terrace noises but it’s still a reflex action, of a sort.
It is still relief, pouring out. In a perfect world Collin would not have to endure it but he will not pretend to himself that United’s first two league games of the season were personal triumphs. Experience and his best confidants will tell him the obvious way to chase the sounds away is to keep catching and saving, as he has done before. If he does not, he will not be blind to what comes next.
So there is a degree of critical noise against which a footballer must be prepared to defend himself. But there are also a few things he shouldn’t have to face or hear. The internet has widened scope for safety in numbers, and anonymity, when a spectator decides to reach for the poison but inside a stadium it somehow feels worse, more concentrated.
Something that came down towards Collin on Tuesday night went yards too far. A word, briefly chanted. You’ll know the one. Six letters, not a term of endearment. Rules of a family newspaper mean we had best leave it there.
It is abuse, in fact, and if underperforming players deserve to be criticised they do not deserve to be abused. This wasn’t stadium-wide persecution of Carlisle’s goalkeeper by any stretch, and a majority will have thought it distasteful, but when a noisy minority think it fit to be vitriolic and the vocabulary is loud enough to be clearly heard, an internal urge tells you to object.
It’s not because he’s Cumbrian, though you would hope we’d be more sparing with one of our own, at times. It is simply the general rule of thumb that if a bloke pulls on a blue shirt or United’s purple goalkeeper’s jersey and tries his best, he should be able to do so without having a nasty label slapped on whenever things aren’t going go well.
Whoever fired that little rat-a-tat at Collin may not have been bothered much about the game. They may have felt content to be taking part in a competition to see who could be the most edgy, the most daring, and that getting a few mates to spark up in unison was an achievement.
All they achieved, really, was to make Brunton Park feel colder for a couple of minutes. Which player, which coach, which right-thinking fan – home or visiting – will have heard it and thought Carlisle’s ground a nicer place to be?
Collin’s crimes these past few days were to drop a clanger against Stevenage and fail to get his gloves on three Andy Robinson shots against Tranmere. If this is legitimate cause for worrying it should not be an excuse for mob hostility towards someone who deserves better, whether he’s played 140 games on the spin or just the one.
In 23 years of coming to Brunton Park it has mostly felt like an enjoyable enclosure with perspective close to hand during the more testing times (of which there have been a few). So any sign of a bad trend, that verges on bullying a quiet man whose personality does not lend itself easily towards returning the fire, should be highlighted in the hope it is shamed out of circulation.
It demeans the victim, frankly, and hijacks the attempts at the hard but respectful criticism which the majority are decent enough to practice most of the time.
All of this might look like a lazy game, this picking on a minority of loudmouths for a Saturday shoeing. Fine – it probably is. But please, don’t call them easy targets, because they will tell you that category is already taken.
First published at 10:51, Saturday, 25 August 2012
Published by http://www.newsandstar.co.uk
Have your say
A good article but there was no need to be so hesitant/apologetic at the outset for having the nerve to raise the subject.The old "I paid my money so I'll shout what I like" argument is the logic of the self-important, angry meathead and doesn't deserve respect. The same argument was used to defend racist chants at BP not so many years ago.Anyone who attends football matches knows the type of people who resort to such behaviour - either silly teenage lads thinking it's what "men" do, or the sort of inadequates who tak out their frustrations and disappointments in their own personal lives out on those on the pitch.
When i was a young lad at school we used to make up a rhyme of some description to remember a certain rule, such as "i before e, except after c". Maybe your average football fan needs a song or a chant to remember a sentence with more than 3 words of 2 syllables in it. ;o)
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