Fake news, previously known as news, has taken hold of a fan-base so consumed with what’s right and what’s wrong that if you’re not on the higher ground your loyalty is in question. The fact no one seems to be on the lower ground is of little importance here.
Whether it’s defending Paul Dummett whilst simultaneously criticising Ben Arfa, opinions of our players seem to be loosely based around how much others negatively or positively rate them. 140 character judgements are turned up to 11 or flippantly regarded as agendas, or that you must play FIFA, or that you don’t know how bad it used to be. When maybe you just think Jamaal Lascelles isn’t very good and Mitrovic hasn’t had much playing time.
It took 12 years for Daryl Murphy to score the number of goals Mitrovic has in his career, with over half of those coming at Waterford United and Anderlecht respectively. I’ll not compare the two clubs. This isn’t a dig at Murphy, with a fondness for him already established he’s clearly a very good centre forward in this division. Playing him ahead of Mitrovic if both fit would be a mistake in the development of the Serbian however. Benitez already doesn’t seem keen on giving him playing time and to dilute that further for a 33 year old backup would almost signal the end of his time here. Which would no doubt please those that simply think he’s an old fashioned target man not doing his job. A position that requires a certain form of wily experience. In goals scored he’s ahead of Costa, Drogba, Ibrahimovic and even Shearer at the same age. Of course it’s unlikely he’ll reach the heights of those mentioned, partly due to his brain, but anyone of the belief that the local lads get it worst when this youngster has divided opinion more than most, you’re somewhat mistaken. Of course some like him because he’s radge, it’s why they embarrassingly cheered Sammy’s return at the weekend. Personalities create bonds, as exemplified by the relative coldness towards our 20 goal striker.
Dummett and Colback meanwhile, like Shola and Taylor before them are the warning signs of a club that was so comfortable in mediocrity that the standard of their performances were an after-thought to their ease of management and wage demands, coupled with the fact that no one else seemed to want them. Shola was a terrible goal scorer with a career record total less than Mitrovic has now having just turned 22. But his personality and a few goals against the mackems made him the light-hearted relief throughout the darkness, impossible to hate, impossible to rate. The local lads are given longer than most to succeed as we want them to do well, there is nothing better than a local hero story, the stick inevitably comes because of the continued duration of their dire performances and lack of improvement. Playing better would help them, not that this seems to have been a deciding factor in their selection and contract extensions over the years. Simply put, all four have and never will be anything above average.
The only notable player to come through the academy and have another club actually want them in recent times is Andy Carroll. Unless you count Gascoigne as recent. Thankfully we have a manager that has already rebuilt an academy before, his work at Liverpool was successful beyond the pitch so the future for us is most certainly brighter. But in the meantime I’ll continue to watch our left hand side be a complete irrelevance. An imbalance that was a major factor in our relegation and one that continues this season with regards to attacking threat.
There is and always has been an eagerness to form opinions, Gary Speed and Demba Ba faced immediate criticism before settling down and proving their worth. But twitter and the changing shape of journalism has increased this need for immediacy and reaction. Everyone has a voice and often it’s not always a voice worth listening to, whether the quietest or loudest it’s worth finding out where that individual viewpoint comes from before labelling a whole section of the fan-base as negative or never happy. The most extreme opinions always stand out, yet by their very nature they are never the most common.
The local beat writers have had to follow this trend to be heard as their adjective-laden tweets suggest that articles are “excellent” in reporting about the “excellent” performances that were far from it. Almost Trumpian in their enthusiastic rhetoric whilst telling us nothing in an almost constant stream of revenue generating clicks. They may argue that good journalism costs money which can only lead me to assume that they spend nothing as two of The Chronicle’s sports desk tweet constantly about goal kicks and throw-ins throughout matches before filing their reports. Unfortunately, the informative long-form articles by Mark Douglas in particular are few and far between which results in a paper of soundbites, and when your opinion lacks reasoning you’re left with the inevitable “WTF is he talking about?”. The legitimising of fan opinion for content generation has given ammo to those with Rafa-tinted geps, and generating news through fans is becoming a large part of the paper’s strategy with the clapping of funeral perverts featuring more regularly than it should. Tragedies though they are, we are not at a wake, we’re at a match that sounds like we are.
Those with unwavering, unquestionable support for Benitez have ignored the negative aspects of his career to claim he knows what doesn’t work and he will no doubt fix it. This is a huge rebuilding job and there’s few I’d prefer in the role, he’s clearly intelligent and passionate about making us better which shouldn’t be as novel as it is. He’s a man that deserves our respect and belief. But not at the expense of enjoying the one constant of the sport — voicing opinion knee deep in pints.
Putting aside the lack of tempo and aggression he frustratingly seems to favour, the suggestion that he knows what to do in the transfer market in particular ignores what he’s done in the transfer market, even for us. Hanley, Sels and Diame have been mistakes as much as Gayle, Ritchie and Clark have been successes. The man who spent £110 million in two years to make Napoli worse shouldn’t be trusted in the market so easily. Of course he deserves respect but if you’re not sitting on the fence about his ability to buy you’re on the wrong side. For every Alonso there’s an Aquilani.
Pragmatic success is never as emotional as glorious failure, just ask any of the sell-out crowd who sit in silence, waiting. Souness, Allardyce and Pardew blamed the crowd for the pressure we put on them and we thought of them as frauds. Rafa suggests it and those on the high road nod in unison. The fans feed off the team and as far as I can tell the atmosphere is in keeping with the style of play. I have no doubt it’ll be different next year as he sets us up as underdogs defying the odds as appropriately as he deems necessary, but if you’re annoyed at the bloke behind being less than impressed as the bottom of the table side rock up and stand some no-name midfielder next to our best player and we have no answer, then you’re as lost in the extreme as the one idiot who wants him sacked. Were it not for Rotherham’s decision to start fouling our lads we may never have become energised as both a crowd and a team. There’s a strong chance they would have been booed off after one of the most abject performances of the season but that goal was a killer and we cruised through the second half with confidence. A confidence and attitude I would like to see more of.
It’s perfectly acceptable to question individuals, the manager, the way we play, and still support the team. It’s also perfectly acceptable to ignore those that do so through abuse and peeve. It is not acceptable to use a minority of twitter users to propagate the idea that you are one of the most righteous of fans, when all I see is self-serving Rafalytes tapping his wiki honours section instead of watching the match.