GRE­GOR ROBERT­SON

Our guest colum­nist on when fans’ be­hav­iour over­steps the mark

The Football League Paper - - NEWS - Gre­gor Robert­son

YOBS”. “A lack of class”. “A poi­sonous at­mos­phere”.

It takes some nerve for a man­ager to speak about a club’s sup­port­ers and its at­mos­phere in such a way, but that’s ex­actly what Derek Adams said last week.

The Ply­mouth boss, af­ter the 3-2 de­feat against Bur­ton last Sat­ur­day, had once again been sub­jected to a bar­rage of abuse from a sec­tion of the Green Army.

With Ar­gyle bot­tom of the ta­ble, and just one win all sea­son, the heat was ris­ing.

The usual re­course, of course, would have been to trot out the same tired old plat­i­tudes about fans hav­ing the right to air their views. In­stead, the Scots­man made his thoughts per­fectly clear.

“We’re in a po­si­tion that we don’t want to be in, but they’re not help­ing the foot­ball club,” Adams said. “It’s only the mi­nor­ity, but why would you turn against your own?”

And you know what? Good on him. And good on the club, too, for back­ing Adams with a strongly worded state­ment shortly af­ter­wards, con­demn­ing those fans who had been “un­ac­cept­ably abu­sive”.

It should hap­pen more: call­ing out sup­port­ers whose be­hav­iour not only hin­ders their own team, but too of­ten over­steps the mark. Not that I’m ex­pect­ing it any time soon.

Per­haps I say this be­cause I’ve re­cently at­tended a num­ber of games played out to a sound­track of boos. Per­haps it is sim­ply a grow­ing trend in the mod­ern game.

An ex­am­ple. I was at West Brom’s game against Read­ing a cou­ple of weeks ago and, as the first half came to a close, the play­ers trudged off the pitch to a pointed vol­ley of boos.

Al­bion had been poor, and were trail­ing 1-0. But this was a team who were by some dis­tance the di­vi­sion’s high­est scor­ers, sit­ting third in the Cham­pi­onship ta­ble.

In the sec­ond half they plun­dered four goals to win com­fort­ably and move up to sec­ond. Were the boos re­ally nec­es­sary?

Poor

Not­ting­ham For­est sup­port­ers have been quick to scorn Ai­tor Karanka and his play­ers this sea­son too, de­spite the Reds rarely be­ing much more than a win out­side the play-offs.

Af­ter their sum­mer spend­ing, though, ex­pec­ta­tions have soared. But af­ter the de­feat against Norwich last week, Karanka gen­tly re­minded fans that the at­mos­phere they cre­ate can both help and hin­der the play­ers. As is of­ten the case, many fans didn’t take very kindly to that sug­ges­tion.

It is noth­ing new of course. Mick Mc­Carthy’s ten­ure at Ip­swich de­scended in to a mood sim­i­larly as ran­corous as that at Home Park – a point the Trac­tor Boys sup­port­ers have been re­minded of with some gusto this week af­ter the dis­missal of his suc­ces­sor Paul Hurst. When Mc­Carthy dared to la­bel those sup­port­ers, whose vit­riol he reg­u­larly ab­sorbed, as “numb­skulls”, many on­look­ers winced. But he was right.

Sup­port­ers are seen as sacro­sanct. To ques­tion their loy­alty is akin to blas­phemy. But why should you not call out be­hav­iour that over­steps the mark, or that which makes it more dif­fi­cult for the play­ers to per­form, and win – which is ul­ti­mately what ev­ery­one wants to see?

It is worth re­flect­ing upon the cir­cum­stances in Devon last sea­son too. Ar­gyle had ex­actly the same points re­turn af­ter 15 games. And even though Adams had lifted a once mori­bund club into League One for the first time in six years, again there were calls for his head.

Ar­gyle stuck by their man, though, as they have this sea­son. And the up­turn was so re­mark­able that a sev­enth-placed fin­ish took them within a whisker of the play-offs. Should an­other resur­gence ma­te­ri­alise, how­ever, those sup­port­ers vent­ing their spleen should know that nei­ther Adams nor his play­ers are likely to for­get it in a hurry.

MIXED EMO­TIONS: Ai­tor Karanka, West Brom against Read­ing, and Mick Mc­Carthy POINT­ING THE FIN­GER: Ply­mouth man­ager Derek Adams didn’t hold back in air­ing his views

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