Cheers when Carlisle Utd's Hallam Hope was hooked were uncalled for

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Hallam Hope
Hallam Hope

There are indeed times when mockery is all that we've got. A boo here, a catcall there, a theatrical cheer here, an ironic laugh there: what else is there to do, when things are going badly?

A manager doesn't always sign the players, pick the team or make the substitutions that the person on the terrace would prefer. So when it doesn't work out, frustration needs a vent.

Hence, at Carlisle United last weekend, the decision to withdraw a player felt to be under-performing being met by significant cheers. Hallam Hope's number nine went up, and some in the ground let Keith Curle know that it was about sodding time.

It's hard to condemn anyone for making their opinion known, even in a cutting manner. It is their right, their freedom, and nobody needs a sermon from a director's seat, dugout or press box on the matter.

Does this, though, make the cheering of Hope's substitution completely okay - or was the sound a little unnecessary?

To summarise the scenario: there are those who do not believe the striker to be worth a place in Curle's team right now. They also feel he was talked up too much by the Carlisle boss when joining in the summer (Curle, comically, said he had chased Hope with more fervour than previous and current romantic partners).

And so, when the forward was not enjoying an effective day against Barnet, and Curle reached for the hook, those cheering no doubt argued that the manager was removing one of his favourites and swallowing a mouthful of pride in the process. It would be a reasonable assumption that the sounds were aimed as much at Curle as the player himself.

The manager later said that Hope would simply have to deal with being the centre of such derision even if he didn't like it, as many players must in a long career. People pay their money and have the right, Carlisle's boss also said.

More than ever, the manager will now be able to judge how resilient the former Bury man is - and it must be said that others face much worse from crowds. Indeed, Curle himself recently recalled once being the subject of a chant from 16,000 people whilst playing for Manchester City at Portsmouth that was not, to be gentle, politically correct.

Also, it is not as if anyone pulling on a blue shirt is doing so in preparation to go down a mine or into an operating theatre, where real pressure resides. If he kicks a ball less well than people had hoped, what's a few cheers, really?

One wonders, though, if that is the only angle worth taking, particularly when few of us have been that young player, on his own, in front of a few thousand people, some of whom are casting their aspersions at fair volume.

Hope, in reality, is braver than many of us just by being out there. Hands up who does their work in front of a considerable audience knowing that, if a bad day occurs, they might be mocked and slated? Hands up who also has a surname that is now attracting the cruel suffix '-less' on social media for the crime of, at times, falling below expectations that he did not necessarily set?

As for the idea that Curle was the target, not Hope: can anyone be confident the player always sees it like this? In that split-second, when your number lights up on the fourth official's board and the sound of celebration is heard, would any individual compute the fact that they were not being scorned themselves in some major way?

Here is the crux. Were Hope not lifting a leg, were he collecting his wage in return for minimum effort, he would deserve little protection against the crowd's taunts. Lord knows we have seen a few such specimens at Brunton Park down the decades.

The 23-year-old, though, is clearly trying. When leaving the pitch, mid-game or at the end, how often is it that you observe Hope as someone who has not at least ran his hardest for the cause?

From a distance, there seems little wrong with his work ethic, and if that is the case, it seems unfair to put him at the mercy of pantomime noises.

It is sometimes said that the only thing supporters wish to see is a player that pulls his weight for the badge, and if that occurs, we can't complain.

It is, at best, a cliche, since poor performance despite great effort is not often met with round approval and generous grace.

Nor should it always be, for criticism can be useful, even essential. Equally, a potentially fragile player who wants to succeed should perhaps be given a little more thought.

After leaving Carlisle in 2009, Danny Graham said a goalless period towards the end of his Blues career tormented him. Many assumed he had downed tools in anticipation of a summer move. Instead, the striker claimed to be in turmoil.

"The fans thought I had given up trying," he said. "That was never the case and it was hard to take. I let my head drop and it affected my confidence. For 18 games I thought I was the worst player in the world. The club was fighting relegation and I couldn't score.

"The other players couldn't lift me. It was the lowest point in my career."

Again, you pays your money, etc. But clearly not every footballer's mind is protected by iron. And while mockery can sometimes provoke a defiant and positive reaction, it is unlikely those issuing it have that predominantly in mind.

Certainly, it must be harder to take from your own, so, as long as Hope is wearing a Carlisle shirt and putting it in, the least he deserves is surely to be handled with due care and respect.

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