Football and schadenfreude are frequent bedfellows. The ability to derive pleasure from the misery of others is a genuine component of supporting a football club. You get a kick seeing your rivals doing poorly and when a player you find particularly distasteful encounters misfortune you take pleasure from it. Nothing worthy of getting concerned about; it’s simply human nature.
Its healthy having a team you loathe, or several teams should you be that way inclined. It becomes more difficult to explain when somebody extends those feelings towards their own side. You’d think all supporters want their team to do well all of the time. They want their players to perform to best of their ability and improve. The clue is in the word ‘support’.
Over the past few weeks we’ve learned of the Sunderland bid for three players, including Darron Gibson, and the loan move of Bebe to Besiktas. This has raked up a lot of the usual comments associated with these two players, and others for that matter. Indeed, players including Nani, Carrick, Evans, Smalling and even Ronaldo have been subjected to rash and often permanent judgments.
Absolutely nothing wrong with having an opinion on a player. It’s an individual’s right to believe what they want and express that how they see fit. However, when proving you were right becomes more important than supporting your club it baffles me.
Some can have an opinion on a player and become anxious when that player appears to be making them eat their words. The majority admit they were wrong, we all make incorrect assessments of players, but an increasing section refuse to move from their viewpoint. They’ll act with an enthusiastic glee when a player they don’t rate has a bad game and provide excuses when the same player has a cracker.
Success for the player would mean failure for them and many see this as a last resort. The opportunity to say I-told-you-so must be such a pull that they refuse to let it go. I do not doubt for one minute there are Manchester United supporters out there who are disappointed when a player they have grown to loathe has a good game, and to hide this disappointment they come out fighting and deride the good aspects of the player’s game.
When Berbatov went on his scoring spree, there were United supporters eager to dismiss his achievements. You couldn’t count that goal because of this reason, that hat-trick was invalid because of that reason. Any straw available was grasped at to avoid having to climb down from an increasingly unsteady soapbox.
It doesn’t just extend to players. The rainclouds of doom who were predicting a league win would be impossible due to our incredibly weak squad and how strong other teams had become then took to qualifying number nineteen by saying how poor those other teams actually were. Whilst celebrating an historic title they remained conscious of the need to not admit they were totally wrong. We’ve all seen it and we’ll all see it again.
I’m bringing this up now as we’re in signing season and it’s interesting to see these seeds planted in people. They’ll be supporters who are against signings we have already made and ones we’re going to make; they’ll doubt them from the start. The player is “Not Manchester United class”, “Not world class”, “Overrated because he’s English”, “Fill in your own rolled out cliché here”. Like I said earlier, these are all fair if they represent someone’s opinion.
Perhaps one or two of the new signings shall suffer a shaky start to their United careers and as such a section of these people will be lightening quick to explain to anyone who’ll listen how they predicted exactly this would happen, they’ll be chuffed to have the opportunity. Happy it’s happened and that there’s mileage to be gained from it. Then, if the player should go on to great things, the same people will have to qualify that to make sure it’s widely understood that they weren’t totally rash and incorrect.
They can find a thousand ways to say I-told-you-so and yet struggle for just a single expression of I-was-wrong. For these people football is as much about proving they’re right, and executing schadenfreude wherever possible, as it is about supporting a team and the players within.
You really should be following Annie Eaves on Twitter.
The RoM Manchester United 2021-22 season preview is now available for just £6. It includes articles from the country's best football writers about our expectations for the season ahead and our brightest talents, as well as proposed transfer business and which youth players to keep an eye out for. All profit goes to Trafford Macmillan so please support this fantastic cause.