The ShirleyMush View - Supporters Who Love Too Much
Wednesday, 25th Aug 2010 09:53 by ShirleyMush
On Monday afternoon I noticed a book on a colleague’s desk entitled Women Who Love Too Much.
Being a naturally nosey person I picked it up and read the blurb on the back. According to some American psychiatrist, women who love too much put themselves in situations where they are bound to be hurt and disappointed. This is probably b*ll*cks, but it may well be true of football supporters. For the first time in some time, I came away from St. Mary’s on Saturday feeling like the team had let me down. Looking back on the game with the benefit of a clear head and the perspective offered by others, I feel different. Yet I thought that rather than writing a conventional match report, I might try to explain why I reacted to Saturday’s match in the way that I did.
I have often felt that some of my older, male friends who are Saints supporters have a sort of one-way, paternal relationship with the players. This can take two forms- protective, blinkered adoration, or immoderate criticism borne out of intense resentment of their younger, more successful sons. Having hit thirty, I am wondering if I might be developing this trait too, particularly with regard to our younger players. I have increasingly found myself bragging to anyone who will listen about how good Adam Lallana is, even trotting out positive quotes about him from newspaper articles as if they were his school report cards. I have indulged Morgan Schneiderlin’s occasionally anonymous displays on the grounds that he is “only a kid”. I have fought back tears of pride as Theo Walcott and Gareth Bale have flourished after flying the nest, and found a way of blaming others for the shortcomings of Lloyd James and Olly Lancashire, just as Dot Cotton always believed that Nick was innocent of his indiscretions. I have also openly treated Dan Harding like the proverbial ginger stepchild- the illegitimate sprog that no one likes but who has become an unfortunate reality of family life. I have accepted him, but that doesn’t mean I would gladly turf him out of his room should Dexter Blackstock or Nathan Dyer return, or should Oscar Gobern need a place to keep his drum kit.
On Saturday though, I adopted the demeanour of the competitive dad from The Fast Show, openly booing my own children and deriding their efforts even though they were (presumably) doing their best. As I harrumphed my way through several post match pints, various friends alternated playing the role of the doting mother, explaining that the promise was there and that I just had to be patient. With the benefit of hindsight I can see that they were perhaps right. My complaints about the team’s performance had centred on that most heinous of footballing crimes- a lack of heart. Yet “heart”, in football parlance, is an abstract concept. It is almost impossible to know for sure how hard a player is trying. There are any number of reasons, beyond a lack of effort or (that most cherished of attributes in the British game) passion, for a player underperforming.
This in turn led me to suspect, rationally or otherwise (these are, remember, my surrogate children, and parents are seldom rational if they think there’s some problem with their kids), that there was some other problem. Instability behind the scenes, perhaps. Yet a less partial, more balanced interpretation would likely be that certain players just didn’t happen to be “in the zone” that day.
In truth, my frustration was probably down to me having projected qualities onto these players that in reality they don’t possess- not yet at any rate. Like the parent who thinks his child is best because they’re his, my conviction, for example, that Schneiderlin has the talent to dominate games is, in truth, based upon the fact that he plays for Saints more than on any real evidence. That doesn’t mean he won’t develop into a top quality player, it just means that my assessment of his talent isn’t objective, and in turn that my disappointment with him on Saturday was probably not commensurate with his actual contribution. Likewise my anger about Dean Hammond’s uncharacteristically listless display was, in retrospect, unfair. Even assuming Hammond was fully fit and his morale was good, in my irrational rage I overlooked the reality that footballers- League 1 footballers- are prone to the occasional off day. That, to some extent, is why they’re playing in League 1 at the age of 27.
So I suppose what I am driving at is that while Saints got a cr*p result on Saturday, the actual performance was perhaps not as bad as I felt it was in the immediate aftermath of the game. Just as a good result can mask a poor performance, sometimes a poor result can detract from a performance that might not have been all that bad- especially when it comes against a poor side who we expected beat. This piece has obviously leant quite heavily on an extended metaphor, but the reason for this is that I’m trying to make the point that balance and reason are usually lacking from people’s appraisals of their football team’s efforts as they are from family life. Saturday’s case was more extreme than most in that it was the first game since the death of the beloved Markus, and my first reaction to the game was that by failing to win Saints did the equivalent of turning up p*ss*d at their uncle’s funeral then trying it on with their cousin. Yet in reality, they dominated possession and the man of the match was undoubtedly the Orient ‘keeper. If Saints were guilty of anything it was poor finishing- particularly Lee Barnard, who paradoxically had his best game for Saints in terms of link-up play. Since Gazza’s tears, football has increasingly become a game where emotions are expressed very openly and often inappropriately. On Saturday I allowed myself to become a supporter who cares too much. I can’t think that I was alone.
Photo: Action Images
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