In modern football it has become more and more common place to see fans protesting against the appointment of a manager or hear them booing in the stadiums. Yet with Wolves manager Mick McCarthy speaking out on the issue this week, saying that fans should not do such a thing and that it has a negative impact on the team, just how justified are fans to call for a manager’s head and do managers have the right to tell fans to keep their opinions to themselves?
It is certainly true to say fans pay an extraordinary amount for not just tickets, but travel, food at the game, club shirts and merchandise all to show their support for their team, so surely they should have a voice in how the club is run or at the very least be able to express an opinion when things are not going well?
When looking at certain managers, to say doomed from the start would be somewhat of an understatement, with the media and fans forming sustained campaigns and pressure for the board to remove the manager.
Take Avram Grant at Chelsea – regardless of how the man got his job (being too close to Abramovich and stabbing Mourinho in the back were the favourite rumours of the time) he did lead Chelsea to a Champions League final, and came within a slip of wining the trophy in Moscow, yet the fans never took to the man, likewise with Scolari and as soon as results started to go even slightly wrong, fans were on the back of both the team and manager. Gary Megson and Roy Hodgson suffered a similar fate at Bolton and Liverpool respectively, with fans just refusing to back the manager and essentially forcing them out.
Clearly fans would not take a dislike to a manager for no reason, there has to be something to sustain the continued protests and hatred – look at Blackburn Rovers, who sacked a proven manager and fans’ favourite in Sam Allardyce to replace him with the less than tactically astute Steve Kean. Fans were never happy over the appointment and have made their feelings clear from day one.
Should Kean have then shown he was worthy of the job and done as well or better than big Sam, fans may have stopped their dissent, or at the very least it would have been clear that they had no case for such behaviour, and were just affecting their own team in a negative way. However, given Kean’s performance as manager and the results that have accompanied this, Rovers fans are well within their rights to express how they are feeling, and are rightly worried for their club should Kean stay on as manager.
When fans have a legitimate issue with the manager, and are genuinely distressed at the situation surrounding their club, then irrespective of the money they pay to watch games, they have a right to express their opinions. Clubs would be nothing without their fan base who pour their heart and soul into a club, and they are more than entitled to a view. Yet when fans jump on a media created bandwagon or just simply take a dislike to a manager who is doing a good job, there is little excuse for this, as McCarthy is quite right when saying it derails the team and has a negative effect on performances.
Those Wolves fans who booed the team and manager are quick to forget that McCarthy kept them in the Premier League last season, and Wolves are a club that have neither the players or the finance to expect anything other than a relegation battle. Yes they should be doing better than to be losing half time at home by 2 goals to 0 against a newly promoted side, but they should also give the team and manager a chance to put it right, which they duly did.
We see a similar situation with the national team, and although England have not lived up to anywhere near the expectations of being the ‘golden generation’, for England fans to boo their own players – none more so than Ashley Cole and Frankie Lampard, there is no excuse.
Yes, football fans pay a huge amount to watch their team, and invest not just financially but emotionally, and are always entitled to an opinion, especially when the manager or the team are not gelling and this has been the case for a sustained period of time. There can even be times when booing a player is justified – if Tevez ever emerges for any team in England again one can only hope the fans show him exactly what the country think, even if City do not have the backbone to do so. But to criticise for the sake of criticising is just wrong and ironically only harms their own team’s morale and confidence and both managers and players should come out and make fans aware of this.