COS columnist Tom Victor wonders if some White Hart Lane fans have very selective memories.
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Tottenham Hotspur manager Harry Redknapp, never one to shy away from speaking his mind, has in the past made comments which have divided popular opinion.
But his latest outburst – criticising Spurs fans for appearing to boo their side off after an underwhelming draw at home to Sunderland – has most people on his side.
Redknapp questioned what the White Hart Lane faithful had to moan about, claiming “Anyone who enjoys watching football has to enjoy how we’re playing.”
And it certainly seems odd for such a swift about-turn in emotions less than a week after a Champions League win over Internazionale which made the footballing world sit up and take notice.
This is not the first time a Premier League manager has seen his side subjected to booing after one or two sub-par performances in the middle of an otherwise-reasonable run of form.
Rafa Benitez famously saw his Liverpool side subjected to boos after a goalless draw with West Ham in 2008, despite that result taking them top of the Premier League.
How long ago those days seem now – one wonders whether those members of the Anfield crowd that December evening might wish to take back their cries of disgust.
Of course hindsight is 20:20 and people could come up with just as many instances where what they believe to have been justified booing having a positive impact on the team, which brings me on to my next point.
In an age where fans are consistently vocal in their criticism, be it of their own team, their own or their opposition’s players, referees, and even football’s governing bodies, why should the fans themselves be untouchable.
This is not a call for Wayne Rooney-style barracking of fans in the face of arguably-justified discontentment. Rather it is a suggestion that we ought to acknowledge the relationship between a team and its supporters should not always be one-way.
On a personal level, I do not believe it is ever appropriate for fans to pay money to watch their team and then boo them off the pitch. This belief is founded on the concept that it is – with few exceptions – counter-productive, diminishing any positivity or momentum garnered by previous results.
Consider how rarely a team is cheered of the pitch (I don’t mean a polite round of applause or even a brief standing ovation from those fans who could be bothered to stay until full-time, I mean really cheered off). The idea of incentivising victory with the promise that a side will merely escape censure is hardly conducive to a consistent run of form.
I was at Alan Curbishley’s last game as West Ham manager, where the team was booed off at half-time while trailing at home to League 2 Macclesfield Town (please don’t accuse me of being a bitter West Ham fan, though). This was despite the club sitting fifth in the Premier League, after finishing comfortably in mid-table the previous year and winning their season opener against Wigan.
It is difficult to see how morale or performances will be boosted by such an approach, beyond providing fans with mild self-satisfaction and a release of tension, and the same can be said of Steven Gerrard’s comments ahead of the England’s friendly with Hungary that he “probably would boo…we deserve it.”
These are not perfect points of comparison when one considers the varying form which preceded these two ties, but this element arguably only serves to reinforce the ridiculousness of Tottenham supporters’ actions last night.
Their team is one home win away from making the Champions League knockout stages with a game to spare, having earned a deserved victory over the reigning European champions the previous week. In addition, Redknapp led his squad to fourth place in the league ahead of a significantly more expensive Manchester City outfit. I won’t even get started on how far they have come since the days of Juande Ramos.
What’s more, for an hour of the Sunderland game a depleted Tottenham side were bossing the game, and but for a questionable non-award of a penalty might have been out of sight before Sunderland woke up.
When fans complain about players throwing their toys out of the pram (incidentally often expressing their dissatisfaction through the medium of booing said player), such complaints are generally greeted by recycled arguments about the players having a ‘duty’ to their fans.
Fair enough, the fans are the ones who pay their wages so may feel they are owed something in return, but should the fans themselves not be required to show at least some minimum level of courtesy and gratitude beyond purchasing tickets and replica shirts?
Booing during a dismal run of form characterised by what fans deem pathetic performances – whether you consider that just or not – is one thing. But booing during one of the most exciting periods in your club’s history, after a performance full of fight but merely failing to produce the desired result? That, my friends, is madness.
To read more from Tom Victor visit his excellent blog Pele Confidential by CLICKING HERE