Fans will be fans

Boo who?

As the season trundles miserably on for Spurs, the fans are getting more irate all the time. The booing was more widespread than ever during last Saturday’s 3-1 win over bottom club Derby, and this prompted a number of reactions from different quarters.

George Graham criticized the fans for their backlash despite the victory.

“…there is a certain section of the crowd here who apparently can’t wait for something to go wrong so that they can have a go. It certainly doesn’t help the team and I wish they’d stop and think about it.

They can boo me, but for God’s sake, don’t have a go at the players. We want the crowd to lift the boys when they’re up against it. The players were disappointed that a section of the crowd didn’t get behind them when they needed them. As soon as Derby equalized, they were ready to be critical.”

These comments have also been echoed by player of the year, Steven Carr, and it seems the players are as frustrated as the manager.

When Derby manager Jim Smith, was asked to comment on why the fans of the winning team were booing rather than Derby’s, his comment was, “strange game”.

Press support

The press have also supported George’s case with several columns appearing in the national newspapers outlining the curious tradition of Spurs fans fond of booing their team.

Christopher Davies wrote in the Telegraph: “Tottenham fans are surely among the fairest in the country – they boo everyone. There appears to be little discrimination among a certain section at White Hart Lane. If it moves, jeer it.”

An article in the Sun said: “That (the Derby equalizer) sparked the inevitable calls for Graham’s head yet again, though the fickle Spurs fans turn their protests on and off like a light switch with every goal.”

Why the boos?

Before we critique the rights and wrongs of it all, we have to know what the crowd are booing. We’ve all heard the “we want our Tottenham back” chants that have been a staple diet of Spurs fans since around 1997. We heard it under the Gerry Francis and Christian Gross reigns, and now it seems the static George Graham regime is the recipient of same.

The majority of the boos are directed at Graham due to the club’s poor form, results and league position. Spurs might be sitting in 8th place right now, but essentially they are a couple of bad results away from the bottom three. Of course, the “Gooner” tag will never leave Graham, and this only increases the volume of the boos no doubt.

But there have also been boos directed at players like Tim Sherwood and Ben Thatcher whose form this season could best be described as unproductive. This is nothing new as in recent seasons Chris Armstrong and Ramon Vega have been the recipient of a vitriolic response from the fans when their performances were dismal.

Player reaction

Booing a manager is one thing, but booing your own players is a strange one indeed. After the booing of Chris Armstrong last season, the striker returned from injury in the new year to bag 14 goals. He ended the season with the respect of all the fans and is sure to get a rousing reception when he returns from injury this season.

But Ramon Vega suffered greatly from the constant abuse he got and his performances still leave a lot to be desired. Without a doubt Vega is a player of very limited ability, maybe more suited to the Scottish Premier League than the Premiership, but he is a passionate and personable person who obviously cannot cope with the fans on his back.

Witness Ben Thatcher this season after this big-money move from Wimbledon. The left-back has performed very patchily and his confidence has been badly affected by the occasional boos he is receiving from the home supporters. Hang on…Ben Patchily…geddit?? Eh…sorry.

Is it right?

This begs the question whether booing your own players is productive or counter-productive. The examples above indicate that it affects different players in different ways. But for me that proves nothing. These players, as well paid as they are, are doing their best and don’t deserve personal abuse.

Imagine doing your job and receiving constant criticism as you did it. How long would you stick around? Obviously as a professional footballer you are more used to the spotlight than a computer programmer, but as a human being, your skin can only be so thick. Fans need to groan to themselves and leave the abuse for their wife or whoever (just kidding!). It’s only a matter of time before we have a second “Matthew Simmons Incident”!

Oi, faaaack off Gooner!

George Graham has been receiving the boos since day one, and if anyone can take it, it’s old Georgie. For almost a year now, his team have struggled and quite a few fans have had enough. When the boos were ringing out during the Derby victory last week, Graham was the main target of them.

The spin put on it by George and the press is that the players (ie the team) were the ones being booed but some fans have said that this is not the case.

But does that matter? Booing is booing and the players are visibly affected by it regardless of who it is aimed at. When Ben Thatcher is getting a good going over from the Lane faithful, how does this make his team-mates feel?

Good reasons

But on the other hand, the fans are booing for good reason. They are reacting this way because they don’t like what they see. The football is sterile, the quality on the pitch is mediocre and the results are patchy.

The message needs to get through to Graham and indeed Alan Sugar, that this is not good enough. Admittedly the uncertainty over the future of transfers is currently holding up team rebuilding, but what about the last 18 months of moderate investment? Rebrov’s Spurs career is stuttering along because he’s playing alongside the likes of Les Ferdinand and an over-the-hill Tim Sherwood!

The style of football is utter pants and the results are worse. This is why there are boos and it’s time for the management of THFC to stand up and face the reality. The excuses that are wheeled out by Graham wore thin a long time ago.

If George wants to keep the fans quiet (or at least cheering) then he needs to start winning matches and teaching capable footballers like Sherwood, Perry and Iversen how to pass the ball. Until then, White Hart Lane will remain a place of negativity…sometimes…

And finally…

There are rumours that the England managers job is now being offered as a judicial punishment for convicted criminals in the UK. Foreign convicts need not apply.

This week the English FA appointed Leicester manager, Peter Taylor, and Manchester United assistant manager, Steve McClaren, as joint-temporary-co-managers (!) for the upcoming friendly against Italy.

The appointment was generally welcomed but one has to ask, why. Taylor, a former England U21 manager, has just begun a Premiership jaunt with Leicester, while McClaren has worked as assistant to both Jim Smith (at Derby) and presently as assistant to Alex Ferguson at Old Trafford.

There is no doubt Taylor is a manager in the making, but it is way to early in his career for him to be considered for the main job. McClaren has been credited as the man who kept Derby going so well for so long, and indeed the club have struggled since his departure, but he’s yet to prove himself as the main man (remember Brian Kidd??).

What it illustrates is the complete dearth of capable English managers available to take the job on. The continued appeals for Terry Venables from the public is very reminiscent of the cries from the same public to appoint Kevin Keegan. Ok, so Venners has been mildly successful in the position before but is he really the answer? I agree with the Crystal Palace chairman who said that appointing Terry Venables would be a step backwards for England.

I suppose they have nothing to lose with this appointment. They could have just put Ray Wilkins, Bryan Robson or Don Howe in charge for this game, but appointing the novices indicates that they have the two lads in mind when it comes to appointing a full time boss.

The main problem I think lies in the mentality of the players. Look at the Republic of Ireland team. Players like Richard Dunne, Kevin Kilbane, Niall Quinn and Matt Holland have been instrumental in the first three games of the World Cup 2002 qualifying campaign (2 draws against Euro 2000 semi-finalists and a very solid home win over Estonia), and none of them would have a prayer of getting into the England team.

These players don’t have pre-conceptions about how they have the right to qualify for any tournament and I think when this sinks into the brains of under-performing superstars like David Beckham and Michael Owen, maybe England will get their act together.

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