Thursday, 23 July 2009

A reply to Ian

Firstly, thank you all for the comments and emails regarding the blog so far, keep them coming and thanks for your input

One comment, from Ian, has been particularly thought provoking, and i wanted to address it within the VFT3 blog articles:

Ian said...
"I have to point out that Keane famously took a shot or two at our fans during his tenure at Old Trafford. Remember the prawn sandwiches? I, like most United supporters, didn’t think he was in the wrong to ask for more support from the fans. In fact, it validated my fandom by acknowledging that my support was important to the team’s success. I was embarrassed not by the fact that he berated us but by the fact that he had to. I felt the way I think I would were I a player Keane had ripped for not trying hard enough on the pitch: embarrassed for not giving fully to the cause and determined to do my part in the future.
If it was acceptable for Keane to chastise our fans for not cheering hard enough for our team, then why is it unacceptable for Wenger chastise his for actually booing their team. You are right that every unit of the club, including the fans, should be working toward the same goal. This singularity of purpose is what binds us all together and turns the club into something greater than just some physically talented players, an old manager, and a few businessmen in suits counting the money with a mass of supporters cheering and waving scarves. This pulling together, “us versus them!” bond and passion makes the club greater than its individual parts and that is why we (players and manager too) all care so much. This principle is vital to it all and should be respected and protected by rules. You accuse Wenger of breaking these “unwritten rules” but I would say it is the fans that actually break them when they boo one of their own while he is playing, and especially when he is already struggling with form. No one could think booing a player or manager helps the team win.
We can all agree that it is acceptable for the captain or even another teammate to have a word with an underperforming teammate, letting him know that more is expected. But you wouldn't want to see that teammate really dressing down one of his own, during a game, would you? Remember Boyer and Dyer? (Possible exception to this if it’s the keeper-lol Schmeichel!) Your entire argument is based on the idea that above all else, the fans shouldn't be embarrassed under any circumstance. But what of the embarrassment the fans heap on their own players and managers? Some would say that fans have paid their hard earned money and therefore have the right to boo if they please. I hate that argument and I think it contradicts your earlier point about us all working for toward the same goal. Imagine you ate at a restaurant and didn't like your dinner, would you shout obscenities and boo the chef from your seat? What about if you bought a new computer and after a couple of years you were unhappy with its performance, would you find the man in the factory who installed the hard drive and boo him as he worked?

We aren’t invested in their performance the way we are with our team you might say but this is all the more reason to support, not undermine. In football we are all teammates in a way and turning on your own in such a visible and venomous way is, to me, even less acceptable.
If the fans are part of the club, as we all feel that we are, then Wenger did what he would do if any other part of the club showed blatant disrespect to a teammate. We are all so quick to call for a change personnel but would Fergie have even made it to his second season if he were starting out now? Or would he have been run out of Old Trafford by the Boos before he ever had the chance to lift us to glory. We demand that our players and managers remain loyal, kiss the badge and love the club as we profess to love it, but should they not produce man of the match honors for a little long or lose one too many, we turn on them like snakes, behaving in a way we would never tolerate. In my opinion Keane was right to call out the fans and Wenger was right to do the same. And anyone who booed Ronaldo for wanting to play for the team his father and he supported as a boy must not have been bright enough to imagine what they would have done had they found themselves at Real and heard United asking them to come over. You speak about honor but somehow ignore the fact that it is the fans that are most lacking in that trait. Like the blog by the way."

Wow! Good stuff Ian. You should write a United blog (if you already do not!)

Firstly, there is one fundamental difference between Keano's prawn sandwich comment and Wenger's. Roy was directing himself towards the lack of atmosphere at OT at the time and he was correct. I didn't find this embarrassing, even when every national newspaper picked up on the quote. I was not embarrassed because his comment was entirely true..and we knew it. However, if i was a Gooner (and thank the Lord I'm not!) I would be entirely aggrieved that my manager had specifically generalised that it was me and my fellow fans that had forced out our star striker from the club, rather than the fact that Arsenal obviously want the money for a player that had under performed recently..when they heard twenty-five million quid, Arsene's ears heard CHA-CHING! I am not one for any sort of censorship. I believe anyone at any club can say what they want..but words must be chosen carefully.

I will give two United related examples. When asked this week about our dismal performance in the Champions League final, Sir Alex refused to be drawn on it, only saying "I will not talk about it, we threw it away and that is it" He had the platform to criticise his players (and some would feel that he would have been justified) but he observed the "unwritten law" so to speak. Also, when talking about the fan-base he commented "without the fans there is no Manchester United. Its all about the fans" Now you could put that comment down to throw away football rhetoric. But he is correct. No fans. No revenue. No wages. No club. You must understand Ian that i openly encourage 'emotion' in football. Fans singing and yes, even booing. Players snapping at each other, team mates or not.

Because this sport we love means that much.

What i object to though, is the press being used as a vehicle to launch a premeditated attack on a facet of your own club..and that facet pays the bloody bills. Wenger should give his fans something to sing about. His comments about Adebayor's exit are incorrect and inflammatory. If Sir Alex had mentioned this when commenting about Ronaldo leaving, I would have been up in arms. (I respect Ronaldo's decision to play for his boyhood club, but would he take a pay cut to play for Real? Would he leave if his boyhood club were Leyton Orient? All valid questions..but a different point entirely!)

As we all know, football is all about opinions. I publicly criticized the quality of players such as Fletcher and OShea in previous seasons, but will now admit that they have improved, and were vital parts of the team last year. But it was an opinion in 2006 that has now changed in 2009. Anyone of us, managers and players included, can vocalise our footballing emotions when needed.

Wenger has the power to make those fans rejoice, the same way that Roy Keane and Sir Alex had/has with us. Maybe if he publicly exercised that power, his 60,000 home gates may start to make the more favourable noises he craves.


  1. Fair enough. I have to admit I see your point: It would have been one thing to comment on fan abuse as it was happening in an effort to help the striker and stop the damage it was causing to his "confidence". Its quite a different story to wait until they sell the player and then blame the sale on a lack of support from last season. If Wenger had really felt it was a problem for his form and that it might cause him to loose the player in the future he should and presumably would have spoken up at that time. To do so now, is not about asking for support, or demanding more of the 12th man but rather pushing off responsibility after cashing in. I understand your argument and I would have to agree. Ahem, well.... I guess I was wrong.... First time for everything I suppose!! Keep up the good work.

  2. As a side note, I have to disagree with your defense of booing ones own, especially when the subject of abuse is struggling to find form. I would argue that this is counterproductive and lacks class and honor. I realize now, however, that this is actually a separate argument.

  3. nobodys wrong Ian when it comes to football...its all about opinions

  4. oh and about booing, yes thats a different subject. Now i have never booed a utd player during a match, but i have screamed plenty of abuse at times..not prolonged abuse but things like "GOD, Kieran Richardson you are fcuking shit" and the like. I see that as the same as booing. A vocal answer to what you are seeing..not particularly productive or classy, but a knee jerk emotional reaction that is not premeditated. When Dossena slammed in goal 4 at OT this last season for the Scouse, did i stand and clap my teams effort. No. I swore like a trouper and ran away from the scene of the crime with 70,000 fellow United fans..wounded. Premeditated booing (as at England games) is stupid and wrong...but there is a million and one worse things in the game as it stands....but yes its another point entirely.