Last October I was lucky enough to visit Stamford Bridge and bask in the unfamiliar glow of football’s elite, as Chelsea cruised to a 4-1 demolition of Norwich City. These were certainly happier times for Blues fans, but that didn’t mean the team and indeed the manager were devoid of criticism.
As Grant Holt fired in the opening goal of the game, the crowd reacted as if he’d just consigned the club to relegation. A cascade of abuse broke the initial wave of silence, which was a strange response considering Chelsea had been in complete control and were surely only moments away from finding an equaliser.
Now, before I attract the same batch of insults, I remain convinced this is a familiar theme right across the Premier League, especially among fans that are accustomed to success. However, it does strike me that an overwhelming number of people demand perfection as standard and therefore place their expectations on an unattainable plinth.
It stands to good reason that once you’ve witnessed something utterly incredible, take Arsenal’s invincible season or Chelsea’s Champions League triumph, it’s almost impossible for anything else to resemble that same euphoric feeling. Of course, no one expected Arsenal’s silverware drought to last this long or Chelsea to crash out in this year’s group stages, but it’s not unusual for surreal highs to be swiftly followed by all-time lows.
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In the past, Liverpool fans have found themselves tainted with a reputation for harbouring unrealistic expectations, thanks largely to their decorated history. Gerard Houllier has even previously claimed their craving for former glories has mutated into an unrelenting obsession.
“There is too much expectation at Liverpool – they expect you to win the Champions League every year.
But the obsession is the league. Rafa finished second and I finished second once but, for all the cups we won, they wanted us to win the league.” (This Is Anfield)
Things do appear different on Merseyside these days, with fans now relaxed and composed, much like the patient build-up play installed under Brendan Rodgers. However, this also demostrates that winning on its own simply isn’t enough anymore, you have to win with style. Barcelona and indeed Spain have set standards at a worryingly high level, with scores of supporters oozing with jealousy as their own team struggles to replicate the same precision passing.
Perhaps fans are fully justified to expect more with each passing year. As ticket prices continue to soar it’s only fair to request that the enjoyment factor of watching football improves as well. It’s natural to expect world records to be smashed every four years at the Olympics, because it is advertised as the pinnacle of physical and mental strength. But if the Premier League wants to merit its title as the best in the world, surely it has to display a similar level of progression?
As a fan of Crystal Palace, I have experienced my fair share of elation and misery. We are the clichéd ‘yo-yo’ club, having been relegated a record four times after achieving promotion to the Premier League. We’ve endured administration on two separate occasions and repeatedly witnessed our most talented prospects poached by clubs with a bigger bank balance.
However, I feel eternally grateful that I get to watch my team on a weekly basis, having nearly faded from existence almost three years ago. The club may sit second in the table at the moment, but I won’t be calling for Ian Holloway’s head should the club fail to gain passage to the top flight.
I find an increasing number of supporters take their club for granted and I almost pity the likes of Manchester United, because they are unlikely to ever experience the joy of snatching an unlikely last-minute equaliser, against a distinctly superior team. Likewise, now Manchester City have won their first title in 44 years, anything less this season – especially at the hands of Manchester United – will be considered a failure.
Many of you may argue that it’s the new breed of football owners that expect too much, unwilling to share the same tolerance levels as a lifelong supporter. However, when results go awry on the pitch, it is the reverberation of boos around the stadium that prompts the chairman to wield his axe. Unless you’re Roman Ambramovich of course, but no one appears capable of living up to his expectations.
Does the modern football fan expect too much? Leave your thoughts below.