Manchester United supporters have been spoilt over the past couple of decades. You go to Old Trafford expecting a win, regardless of the opposition. You start the season in August expecting at least one trophy come May. In the 20 years since Sir Alex Ferguson’s first trophy with us in 1990, the only seasons we haven’t won something are 1995, 1998, 2002 and 2005. Do we have stupidly high expectations? Yes, of course we do. Rivals fans can blame that on arrogance or whatever else, but the reason is we have become accustomed to winning something almost every season.
Now, I am not pretending I have never heard our fans give the players stick or boo the team, because I have, and it embarrasses me. This season against Sunderland, for example, we went in 1-0 down at half time. The whistle was met with some boos from around the ground, which I found hugely shameful. Thankfully, a chorus of “we love United we do” was sung in response sharpish as the players walked to the tunnel, with far more fans understanding what the role of a football supporter is. Six minutes after the restart, Dimitar Berbatov scored.
You aren’t always going to like what you see at your football ground, regardless of how much money you’ve paid, but as a supporter, your job is to support the team.
Charlton Athletic finished 7th in the Premier League six seasons ago, just 7 points away from the top four. In the season just gone they were in League One and finished 4th, 11 points off top spot. Still, they drew an average attendance of over 17,000. A season tickets can cost £425 at The Valley.
Nine years ago, Leeds United were playing Champions League football. In the season just gone they were in League One and drew an average attendance of over 23,000. A season ticket can cost £480 at Elland Road.
A season ticket at Old Trafford for next season can cost £513, to put in to perspective just how much these two examples of fans pay to support their team.
If you pay for your ticket, are you paying for your right to boo if your players don’t perform? Your hard earned wage goes on spending the best part of one day of your weekend on a ticket for the football, whilst the players you are watching play earn several times the amount you earn in a year in just one week. The best doctors in this country earn in a year what Wayne Rooney does in a week.
Yes, the money in football is ridiculous, but then, the money football brings in is equally ridiculous. Our Champions League win alone in 2008 saw us collect £80m and Ronaldo earned £5.3m from us that season. So yes, footballers earn stupid amounts of money, but believe you me, the clubs can earn a hell of a lot more. But more often than not, when the team doesn’t play well and the fans moan about how much money they’ve paid to watch that performance, it’s the players they whinge about, on their massive salaries, not the clubs for ripping you off… or in the case of England supporters, the FA.
Last night, England put on a truly awful performance against Algeria and finished the game with a poor 0-0 draw. They now have it all to do in the final game of the group and may not get through to the next round, where they would have to play either Germany or Ghana. Let’s be honest, even with a few beers down my neck and “Vindaloo” playing full-blast through the pub’s speakers, there wasn’t much to enjoy about what we saw yesterday. With Rooney, the only player I was interested in, playing like dog shit and his team mates following suit, I was left wondering what on earth I was doing there.
The City fans were calling Rooney a twat, the United fans were giving as good as they got reminding the bitters that Rooney was their only hope and slagged off Shauny Wright Wright Wright and Gareth Barry, and everyone called Lampard a fat bastard, Terry a Chelsea rentboy and Gerrard a scouse bastard. Mmmm, one big happy England family. The anger and frustration built as the game went on and more alcohol got drunk. When the final whistle went there was total disbelief. As if England had played that badly and as if they couldn’t even come close to scoring against Algeria.
We carried on drinking and I milled about until I found company more willing to talk about United’s debt than England’s woeful performance and then I got a call. “You see what Rooney said after the game? Had a pop at all the England fans who were booing!”
I hadn’t heard any booing, although it didn’t come as a surprise to learn that’s what England fans had been doing, but I couldn’t quite believe that Rooney had openly come out to criticise them.
England fans will believe that because they’ve travelled all that way and spent all that money, they have the right to voice their displeasure at such a dire performance. I totally agree they have the right but it depends how they view their role as a “supporter”. I ask of them the same I asked of the individuals who ripped Berbatov to shreds at Ewood Park last season: what are you trying to achieve? Is booing the players going to make them play better? Are they playing like shit out of choice but now you’ve booed them they are going to make the choice not to play badly? Or are you totally demoralising them? Are you making them angry and frustrated and like they have nothing to play for? If their own fans hate them so much, then what is the point?
I sat in my seat for ages after the final whistle following our 4-1 defeat against Liverpool the season before last. Maybe I was just stunned or numb, I’m not sure, but there were quite a few of us around. We had applauded our players off the pitch and sung of our love for them, despite the agonising feeling that losing to your rivals, and possibly gifting them the title, brings.
“I am disappointed with the behaviour of those so-called fans,” said Evra after being booed off the pitch for France following their defeat to Nigeria in a friendly a few months after that Liverpool game. “They should be supporting their team instead of whistling. Manchester lost a big game at Old Trafford against Liverpool 4-1, however the fans still applaud us off the field. They understand there are off days in a football team’s life. After that defeat we won the league.”
Rooney’s outburst will be criticised. They’ll question his professionalism and they will wonder whether he is in a position to talk of the fans this way. But the point is, Rooney was subjected to something he is not used to. He played badly, likely saw the fans shouting all the abuse that comes with playing badly for England, and was booed off the field. At United, he is untouchable, but last night he experienced something pretty shocking.
I for one applaud what he said. England fans are out of control. If they want to boo, that is their right, but they will contribute to their own team’s downfall. Maybe that is what they want? Maybe they enjoy having something to bitch and moan about? But if you sit there booing your own team and slagging off your own players, don’t expect them to come out fighting for the shirt in the following game. I’d love Rooney to score in the next game and stick his fingers up at those mugs in the stands. Really give them something to boo about, lad.
Alternatively, just retire from International football and leave them to it. We’ll sing your name louder than ever next season because we appreciate you more than that lot ever will.
Being a football supporter doesn’t mean you never get fed up with your team and you’re never critical of your players. You obviously don’t become a robot stripped of emotion but you should be able to bite your tongue and get behind your team. If England’s campaign ends at the group stage, then booing the players off in that final game against Slovenia is more understandable, whilst still not a tact I would go for with my team. But to boo them now is madness. That is not a motivation to do well. When England go home, whenever that may be, the players and the manager will be blamed, but it is those fans out there, who’ve paid a shed load of money and who paint their faces, who have contributed to their own team’s demise, which surely totally contradicts their role as a football “supporter”.
United fans have high expectations, put in place by the all the trophies we’ve won, yet it is a rarity to see such a negative reaction from our fans. No set of supporters is ever perfect, but by and large, we get behind our lads, regardless of the performance or the score. The recent 4-1 defeat at the hands of Liverpool is a prime example. You look at England fans, whose team have won one trophy ever, and that was 44 years ago, and you think why do they expect to win. Why do they demand such highs from a team who have repeatedly disappointed them? Yet whenever the team fail to meet their expectations, they boo and berate them. Can you imagine if England lost 4-1 to Argentina? To Germany? Our ears would be ringing for days following those boos.
Regardless, we love you Wazza and like Ferguson has spoilt our fans with success, we’ve spoilt you with support. So, White Pele, come home soon and let us remind you what proper supporters do.