Rob Fielding is still reeling from the events of the last 24 hours, but in light of Micky Adams’ comments about abuse from fans, he makes the point that “respect runs both ways.”
Rob Fielding writes…
What can we make of the repercussions of the Bristol Rovers defeat with Micky Adams slamming some supporters for “idiotic” abuse?
Well, several things actually.
Firstly, this managerial abuse is not exclusive to Vale fans. One only has to glance at Stoke City forums to see the insults hurled in Tony Pulis’ direction and as for Paolo di Canio, I saw an entire thread on a Swindon Town forum where he was referred to as a word that rhymes with Noel Hunt’s surname.
But the difference between Vale and these other clubs is how the managers react. Tony Pulis has played down any fan disenchantment (“You accept criticism from your own supporters because they are the ones who pay and they will be here long after I’ve gone”) while Paolo di Canio continues to praise the Swindon supporters (thanking them for their “incredible support”).
That’s not to say that the abuse is correct, just that with the manager effectively goading the fans on, what did he really expect?
Compare that with Micky Adams’ approach. In recent days, he been effectively challenging the fans to criticise him. On Tuesday he said “They can give me criticism because I’m big enough, bold enough and brassy enough” and last weekend he commented in the same vein saying “We’ll have to take a bit of stick and I will too. But I’m big enough to handle it.” With those comments out in the press and with results declining, it is any wonder fans decided to follow Micky’s own advice? That’s not to say that the abuse is correct, just that with the manager effectively goading the fans on, what did he really expect?
It is astonishing that football, as a business, feels it is OK to criticise their own customers. When Tesco or Asda report disappointing annual results, they don’t criticise disloyal customers for jumping ship. HMV and Blockbusters didn’t blast disgruntled customers for their administration plights. I was therefore surprised that CEO Norman Smurthwaite felt inclined to criticise some fans recently.
To me, it echoes the actions of someone like Michael O’Leary, CEO of Ryanair who clearly doesn’t give a damn who he criticises because he knows, ultimately, if some people want to fly from some destinations they will have to use his company, like it or not.
In other words, by criticising you stand a good chance of losing a paying customer and gaining a non-paying critic.
Isn’t football like that though, you may say? I would argue it isn’t. While it is rare for a football fan to jump clubs, if he feels he is being continually blamed for everything, he is much more likely not to turn up to games. And while he’s at home, he’s pretty damn likely to start criticising the club who have upset him. In other words, by criticising you stand a good chance of losing a paying customer and gaining a non-paying critic.
So, in my book, it’s not the brightest idea to criticise a group who bring in a significant percentage of club income. Micky Adams prides himself on being a bluff and proud Yorkshireman, so perhaps he ought to take some bluff Yorkshire advice and “keep his cake’ole shut” when asked to comment on the fans.
Now, none of that makes some of the fans’ actions any better. Some of the personal attacks on players and manager are simply unacceptable. While I firmly believe that the attitude and comments of fans will ultimately have no effect on whether the club gain promotion (that’s down to manager, coaches and players alone) and I respect the right of paying customers to offer constructive criticism, I do wonder what some fans are wishing for?
At the moment, I feel that some fans would rather take failure over success.
This could be our first promotion since 1994 for goodness sake! Do you really want to stretch that run to nearly twenty years? At the moment, I feel that some fans would rather take failure over success.
I’m not suggesting “happy clapping” but I do feel that the manager deserves more respect from some for what he has done this season. He’s not perfect as some fans would have you believe at the start of the season but neither has he turned into a bad manager overnight.
Right now, if you pardon the pun, considering the theme of this column so far, it is the “business” end of the season and the manager and the team are asking for our support.
Let’s give it to them but both the club and manager need to understand that respect runs both ways.
Up the Vale!