What do we want…we don’t know. When do we want it…now! In the weekend essay Mike Forrest wishes for less social netowrk hysteria and more sense from fans who should know better.

We live in a world where people have a multitude of platforms to express their opinions. Facebook, Twitter, specific club forums to the retroesque radio phone in, football fans have a plethora of ways to vociferate their thoughts on the game, even the least knowledgeable football fan. However it is this array of opinions that can lead to the loss of balanced, educated thoughts in the game.

It is healthy to have opinions. It is even better that many live in a world where they are free to express themselves. However is it a positive that so many can express an opinion on a game that they are not knowledgeable on? I include myself in this question. I am no scholar of the game. I have not played football to a high standard, just schoolboy level. What then gives me the right to question a managers’ tactics or signings or why a certain player hasn’t been playing?

Of course the most obvious answer is that since we pay so much to support our teams in terms of ticket prices and merchandise, not including the expense of getting to games, that fans feel entitled to opinions. However my thesis is fans pay to see a product, if they are happy or unhappy with the result of the product then they duly lavish the team with praise or devour them with criticism. This, I have no problem with. What I am unsure about is why fans think they have the right to tell a professional football manager that he is getting the technical aspects of his job wrong, such as team selection and tactics. For example if you went to a gig to see your favourite band but were unhappy with the performance of the band, you would say that they performed desperately poorly, you wouldn’t speculate as to how you think the guitarist might have had the guitar chords wrongly tuned.

However football fans are a special breed. Once they attach themselves to a club, it is a bond that more often than not lasts forever. Because football is a sport, and despite what anyone says sport is about winning, it is honed deep into the fans psyche that winning is everything. Therefore when their team takes to the pitch nothing less than victory will appease a fans unquenchable desire to win. It is this passion, this lust for victory in liaison with the abundance of platforms to express opinions that common sense begins to evaporate.

Venom spews from the keyboards of the outraged fans baying for blood, demanding players be dropped.

With victory, fans take to online forums to herald their heroes. Now these fans mightn’t even have been at the game, they might have watched the game on a stuttering stream or have listened to it on the radio or followed Geoff Stelling and his team for updates or even followed the game from in game comments on a messageboard, but they’ll be quick to praise their victorious players. (This is in no way a dig at arm chair supporters or an attempt by me to belittle their opinions as I’m fully aware that fans that were at the game itself can be just as melodramatic, and often are, and lose their sense of reason.)  Similarly when the inevitable defeat occurs, venom spews from the keyboards of the outraged fans baying for blood, demanding players be dropped, tactics be changed, managers be sacked It is these kneejerk, rash, immediate reactions for the sake of being heard that irritate me.

Despite the plentiful positives that these social platforms offer, they are also the cause of one of the biggest problems with fans opinions. “Jumping on the Bandwagon” has become more and more prevalent, with the emergence of these social outlets. Here are a couple of examples. A team hasn’t won in several games, messageboards will be clamored with postings demanding that the manager be sacked, and demanding he changes everything from tactics to training methods to the nutritional diet of the players and the more outlandish postings will question the managers’ sanity. Then a victory corrects the equilibrium of the fans mentality and the vitriolic storm calms down. Another example would be a manager signs a player. Fans will go onto Fifa to see the players’ rating, go on the football manager editor to see his current ability and potential ability rating before quickly watching a ten minute clip of said players career highlights. They will go onto the players’ current club forums and garner their opinion on the player, which is useless because the judgment of the opposing supporters will have been compromised yet fans still take it as accurate information. This process forms their opinion which is often the criticizing of the manager for spending too much on the player, or criticizing the player for not being good enough before he even kicked a ball at the club. In recent times when John Pantsil and Bobby Zamora joined Fulham, there was uproar from the Fulham fans. Why were Fulham signing West Ham hand-me-downs? Both players turned out to be excellent acquisitions by the club.

Perhaps my favorite grievance with fans is their opinion of “Why not give the youth a chance?”  Football fans lose all the blood from their head and it flows straight to their penis (not all football fans are men I know) when they think about a youngster from their academy being involved in the first team. Fans get preposterously excited at the thought of grooming a young boy into the first team. Yes, admittedly it is nice to think that a homegrown player will make the first team and go on to become a club legend and everything will be super duper etc etc. However there is so much more to developing a young player rather than the simple solution of throwing him straight into the first team. A young player shows potential, great. Is that worthy of been given a game in the first team? I showed potential in alter serving at mass, I was never given the opportunity to conduct the whole ceremony, does this mean the church was neglecting its young talent? (Actually don’t answer that…). Quite simply put, if a player is good enough, no matter what his age, he will get his chance. So for the sake of my sanity, can fans make a collective promise to stop advocating a first team start for a youngster  who you’ve never seen play and are basing your opinion on match reports and hearsay?

I fully expect to be lambasted and ridiculed for this article. In fact, it is even a quite hypocritical piece. When it looked likely that Fulham were about to sign Bryan Ruiz, I couldn’t help but join in on the intense excitement of the new signing even though I’d never seen him play in the flesh before. But the excitement was so infectious; I couldn’t resist joining in the claims that we had a potential word class player on our hands. I guess my main gripe is that we fans criticize managers for tactics, despite not being educated in the matter; we both harshly criticize and acclaim players performances to a hyperbolic extent. Do fans of Criminal Minds, after watching the show think they are experts in behavior analysis? Of course not. Then why do football fans think they are experts in football after watching a game? If fans, and myself, can take deep breathes, refuse to get carried away in the stream of kneejerk, bandwagon reactions, accept that not every opinion a fan has on football is gospel and think realistically and wholly, it will not only benefit the game but more importantly us, the fans.