18 months ago, if someone had asked me my opinion on Theo Walcott, I would have been at the front of the queue to tell anyone who would listen a long list of deficiencies in his game. It pained me to watch him play.
Yet now, having spent the previous 18 months in denial at the player’s improved performances, it finally seems time to admit it – Theo Walcott has developed into a very dangerous football player.
18 months ago I felt justified in my criticisms of Walcott, in the main being that he would consistently run down blind alleys, he had no final ball and above all his touch was far too inconsistent for a Premier League player.
Yet now, it seems that Walcott has improved those aspects of his game no end. In big games he has performed well more often than not, scoring and creating goals as well as seemingly developing a much more sure touch.
Walcott’s improvement was clearly not overnight, it was a gradual one and even a month ago despite the evidence I was still firmly questioning Theo’s role at Arsenal and for England. It was then I realised it was time to say enough is enough and accept his improvement.
Walcott is far from the finished article, he himself will admit that and it is likely he will always frustrate me, with my natural inclination being towards quietly efficient players. The Frank Lampard’s of this world you may say. Offer me a player who will score half a dozen 30 yarders a year or a player who will score 10 tap ins and I will take the fox in the box every day of the week.
However, the transformation of my opinion on Theo Walcott got me thinking, while not wishing to stereotype, football supporters are a notoriously stubborn breed. In my experience, those who are passionate and talk about football do not express their opinions lightly. Indeed, once an opinion has been expressed you’ll be hard pushed to see a change in that person’s opinion.
‘He’s poor going forward and he’s poor defensively, what is he doing?’, ‘He’s an awful referee’ and ‘Tactically, he doesn’t have a clue’ are just the sort of criticism we hear of players, referees and managers on a weekly basis.
The harsh reality of football is the unforgiving nature of supporters. One mistake is more than enough to wipe out 10 good acts.
A striker who scores week in week out will still be slated for missing a tap in. A referee who performs consistently well all season will have his reputation tarnished for one mistake in a big game. A manager who has shown loyalty in transforming an entire club will be slated following a downturn in his clubs form, for a recent example just look at the recent criticism of Mick McCarthy at Wolves.
Michael Carrick is another player at the top level who springs to mind when considering what some might see as undue criticism. At various points in his time at Manchester United Carrick has faced criticism from journalists and fans alike, with the argument often that he has not regularly contributed significantly to the side, indeed went the whole of last season without scoring.
Yet, in his 5 seasons at Old Trafford the club have won 4 league titles, a Champions League and a league cup. Carrick has played in over 40 games in every one of those seasons. Surely such criticism is unjust? Football is a team game and if Sir Alex Ferguson feels justified in selecting Carrick, with United winning games, surely that must be good enough.
Football fans will always have opinions, it’s what the game is based on. While some players are idolised, others must face the wrath of the fans, it is natural.
In the same way, football fans are stubborn, although every so often swallowing our pride is something we have to do, if I can with Walcott, anyone can.
Do you agree with my comments on the stubbornness of football fans? Comment and follow me on Twitter @CamHumphries