It is one of the most nauseating signs a football fan can see these days. The players are accepted to be mercenaries taking home ludicrous sums of money and being more out of touch with the economic climate than ever. Is there any gesture they can do to prove their appreciation of the football club? Or is it about time they put the nostalgia to one side and kept their emotion away from their job?
This is definitely a conundrum for the modern day football supporters. They want to see their players illustrate their passion for the club, but such elaborate signs of love for a team can be seen as fake. A regular demonstration of this in the Premier League of this is Steven Taylor, the local lad that persistently kisses the badge and professes his undying affection for the Toon Army. The supporters get it but it’s boring if he is not delivering on the pitch. Then by the same token there is a reaction of disgust at Assou Ekotto admitting he only plays football for money and that this is his main motivation for playing.
There needs to be a showing of something in between. I am always appreciative of a player coming over to an away end to clap the supporters, showing thanks for their travels to see them. It may be a sense of facing the music and apologising for a dior display. If the team has lost this doesn’t make it better but it helps. The fans need to see an understanding from the team and supporters that they are there and being heard. The manager is the one who usually shoulders the responsibility of talking to the fans in some shape or form consistently. There is always regular chanting at games for insert boss give us a wave as the fans pin their manager up as an idol for their hopes.
The players do have a responsibility too. This is not to be let your emotions boil over and cost your team. The fans of Manchester United definitely don’t see Rafael lunging himself into challenges failing to pick up the ball and instead a yellow card as passion. Again, the sulky Mario Balotelli act of storming down the tunnel after a display of petulance grows tiresome. The crucial element of endearing supporters is to show persistent desire to do well on the pitch and this will earn them respect with minimum fuss. This doesn’t mean that a touch of personality goes amiss. Davide Santon after arriving from Inter Milan told the Newcastle fans that he had never seen a Mackem in Milan alluding to a regular chant from the Magpies fans. These small little touches help. It is all about doing little things but often enough so the supporters notice.
There are cliché lines that footballers use when they fulfil their press conference and saying to join is a boyhood dream as you had supported the side as a kid is a line you can only use at one club. Robbie Keane has been noticeably guilty of saying such statements at Liverpool, Tottenham and Celtic making it hard to wash. There is a definite need to be careful of what is said and heard especially with foreign press which can lead to a complete misunderstanding from the English media. The player will ultimately be judged by his merits on the pitch, but an understanding of where the club is at and not providing sugar coated statements or actions that are over the top buy them time. The fans will celebrate a goal over exuberantly and kiss their badge plenty of times over, to cover the kisses for the players on the pitch.
At the end of the day the fans are not all that bothered if a player loves the club if he delivers on the pitch. There just needs to be a subtle awareness of the culture of the team they play for, being careful what they say and showing a keenness to play football. The fans may get over-excited in the moment of a goal and kiss the badge but they expect better of their players. They know that it is highly likely these players won’t see out their careers at the club, so they don’t need persuading that this is the team for them. Those who spend a whole career at one side are often mocked for their lack of ambition to carry themselves forward, such as Steve Harper.
The answer is that actions on the pitch speak louder than those off them for the fans. So the toning down of this badge kissing culture wouldn’t be missed by anyone.