Why so sad?

Martin Samuel with a very good piece on the latest Wayne Rooney problems.

It was not the swearing that appalled. It was the total absence of joy, of fun, of love for the game or its fantastic rewards that was so offensive about Wayne Rooney’s goal celebration on Saturday.

There was no sense of pleasure, no evidence of the thrill all footballers say they get when the ball strikes its target. Instead, Rooney was angry. He always seems to be angry. Everybody seems to be angry these days.

Football is locked in a cycle of violence, emotional if not physical, in which the majority of those in the stadium appear hugely dissatisfied at being there, as if they have been forced on to the pitch or into their seat at gunpoint.

Alan Shearer hasn’t covered himself in glory, either, consistently asking that we all move on as Rooney “has apologised.” Apologies mean nothing these days though, and anyway, surely Shearer should have stressed that “the Manchester United press office have drafted and issued an apology on Rooney’s behalf, so can we all move on?”  Bah.

Meanwhile, another emotional man gets some good press.  Mark Hughes talks up Clint “Driving Force” Dempsey:

I say to all my players that every game they go in to they must have an impact on the game and be positive and that is what Clint is in every game he plays,” said Hughes. “He’s a very determined, single-minded character and his ability to get the best out of himself is there for everyone to see.

“He’s a guy that drives himself and as a consequence drives other people – he wants to win, you can see that from his attitude and he’s a great influence.”

I remember a couple of years ago I heard on the grapevine that the player all the young players in the club looked up to most wasn’t any of the usual suspects, but Clint Dempsey. This was a bit of a surprise at the time, but it seems he’s a good influence all over the place. Nice to have a manager actively embracing Clint’s peculiar mix of skills and personality; it’s Dempsey’s best season (and the others have been good), and for that we must be thankful (the talk on FOF about Baird being player of the year instead is frankly daft).

32 thoughts on “Why so sad?

  1. For player of the year a case can be made for Baird, Hughes, Hangeland, Murphy, Dempsey or Duff.

    That speaks volumes for the team ethic, effort, attitude and consistency of the squad.

    I could vote for any of those but Baird earns points for the way in which he fits into any role he’s asked to play and the effort and intelligence he shows.

    The goaline clearance on Sunday was athletic but above all it involved anticipation. He seemed to be racing to the right spot before the ball was hit.

    I think he’d be a deserving winner and it might mean more to him than some of the others.

    1. I can’t go along with this. Baird’s been fantastic, and would deserve the old “clubman of the year” awards we used to give out at our cricket and football club, but if he’d broken his leg in August we’d have muddled through with Paintsil and Kelly and not lost a great deal (some, but not loads).

      Take Dempsey out of the equation and where are we?

      Murphy I agree with 100%, Duff to a lesser degree because he only found his form later on in the season.

      Hangeland’s been immense, I don’t think hughes has quite been at his best this year but still more than good enough.

      I love Chris Baird and all he brings to the team, and it’s fantastic that he’s been rewarded for working hard and sticking at it (who’d have seen this coming in 2007?) but ultimately I suppose it depends what we mean by player of the year. Dempsey has to win for me.

      1. Would Dempsey have been player of the year then if the other strikers had been fit?

        How would we have done this season if Baird hadn’t been available to fill the holes? Essentially he’s done in defence what Dempsey did in attack.

        I think Baird is the modern day equivalent of Stan Brown. In 10 seasons he wouldn’t ever have won the award but looking back he would have deserved to do so for the continuing effort, intelligence, versatility and willingness that he showed.

        If Baird doesn’t qualify then frankly neither does Dempsey.

        Murphy’s the man that pulls the strings and conducts the orchestra whilst Hangeland is the defensive rock but maybe the award should be spread about a bit more.

  2. The disribution of Dempsey’s goals:
    only scorer in draw: 3
    only scorer in win: 2
    a scorer in draw: 1
    a scorer in win: 1
    a scorer in loss: 1
    assists: 3

    He’s effectively earnt us (taking the games where he’s the only scorer) 9 points in his own – without these goals we’d be bottom of the table. He’s scored more than Bobby “England International” Zamora did last year, leaving goals scored in Europe aside.

    And he’s not even a striker! I’d argue that Dempsey has impressed more than Baird has in terms of playing a new role.

    1. Dempsey should be docked points for that rubbish penalty (and that ludicrous overhead kick which followed it) against Chelsea, mind.

      1. I still see it as a team game though. I don’t like the emphasis on the scorer or the man with the assist.

        The third goal on Sunday was a routine tap in by Etuhu with a simple assist from Hangeland. It came about though from Murphy’s free kick and Dempsey’s header. And I think it was Johnson who won the free kick. Not sure who passed him the ball.

        1. To a certain extent I agree, but change:

          [The goaline clearance on Sunday] (by Baird)


          [That goal] (by Dempsey on X occasions this season)

          “was athletic but above all it involved anticipation. He seemed to be racing to the right spot before the ball was hit.”

          Goals are all about the build up, football wouldn’t be much fun otherwise, but people pay a lot of money for strikers who happen to be there for the tap in. Do you think Kamara/EJ (etc.) could have got 10 this season?

          I’m not sure that they could, and for this reason I worry about what would have happened to us had Dempsey not stepped up.

          Good debate to be having though, isn’t it?
          -top ten scorer in the league (ahead of Gyan, Nasri, Torres, Bale…)
          -member of the best defence outside the top 4

          1. We needed Dempsey because that’s all we had.

            I’m certainly not rubbishing him. He’d be a deserving winner but Baird regularly does the defensive covering and I reckon without him we’d have shipped a lot more goals.

            Goal line clearances are something of a habit for him.

            1. Good point on the goal-line clearances – it’s a shame people don’t track that, but he does seem to have come up with a few.

              Your point on team play is bang on I think. I’ve just been reading about the 75 cup team, and in that run you had Moore and Mullery prominent throughout, but at various stages Mellor, Busby, Mitchell and others all made huge contributions. The same goes for our European games last year. But this league season, built again on the fine work of the defence and Murphy ahead of them, has needed someone to do something up front, and Dempsey’s been really good. If he hadn’t played I don’t for a moment think that any of our reserve forwards would have scored 5, let alone 10 goals, and as Imperial White has suggested, these have been important goals, too, scored just when we needed them.

              It is messy, trying to pick out key individuals in a team game, but I guess the forwards get the attention because they are the exclamation marks at the end of the sentences.

      2. You mean the rubbish penalty that he himself earned at a point in the match when we would all have been happy with a draw?

  3. Mixing the two topics: Tell me when Clint hasn’t looked angry after scoring a goal? Very rarely does he show joy. Instead it’s intensity and some sort of chest pounding.

    I remember years ago in MLS Clint would score and have fun with celebrations. Like when he taunted the Chicago Fire by scoring against them and then doing the “stop, drop and roll.” When he came up off the turf he was all smiles. But that joy seems to have turned into some sort of mission and for players like that it may be that intensity that drives them forward. But I do sort of have to agree with old Harry.

    “”Why do these young players have to be so angry with the world? I don’t know why. They are getting hundreds of thousands of pounds a week.”

    Then again, there are times when one could say the same thing about old “silly” Harry.

    1. Harry was a winger who played with a smile on his face, a distate for any physical contact and no obvious understanding of team play.

      The last player you’d have expected to be a manager.

      I can see why he’d be bemused by the angry mentality.

    2. ha ha, that clip’s really good. To be fair to him, journalists do deserve that sort of response. That said, he’s been an excellent manager in all places he’s been able to spend masses of money.

  4. I am confused about Dempsey’s lack of support from fans at Fulham. Earlier in the season, everyone was up in arms that Gera was benched and Dempsey brought in. Now after being a key player this season, he is behind Baird for player of the year in most opinions.

    What is it about his character/game that people struggle to warm to? Is it that he is a scrappy style player (and that is not meant as an insult)? Is it because people think he spends too much time on the floor? Is it because people think he is lazy?

    Clint is a fine player and a real asset to Fulham. He may go down too easily on occasion, but this does gain us free kicks. He certainly is not a wimp, I always keep an eye on him at games and he is all elbows and sly kicks when without the ball. Against Chelsea, his tete a tete with Essien was enjoyable to watch because having elbowed Essien repeatedly throughout the match, he got him to overreact with that stupid two footed lunge that got him a red.

    If Dempsey does not win player of the year this season, it will be as big a travesty as Zamora not winning it last year.

    1. There was a thread of FOF awhile back that slated Demps. If FUSA wasn’t a shell of a shell of it’s former self, I’d never post on that site because of that nonsense.

  5. To some extent I feel that anger will always be present in professional athletes because, for some personality types, it is such a strong motivator. There are countless of examples of individuals or teams that get hyped up for a match on the basis of a slight against them, either by the other team, from the media, the fans, whoever. Often this slight does not even have to have any real factual basis. In the Final Four on the weekend there was a story about how Butler guard Shelvin Mack was particularly motivated against VCU because one of his teammates told him the VCU player assigned to guard Mack had trash talked him in the press. Mack googled the player and found no comments so he knew the story was false but he nevertheless said it contributed to his pre-game motivation (sidebar: if only that teammate had thought to do the same thing before last night!).

    Perhaps an even more ludicrous example, which occurs very frequently, is when the top team in a given sport tries to create an “us against the world” mentality – they all hate us, they think we have nowhere to go but down, they think they’re the better team. I have no idea about how Ferguson tries to motivate his players but perhaps he has been stoking a fire in Rooney by telling him everyone thinks he’s rubbish now. If so, it might put Rooney’s reaction in context.

    The simple fact is that different athletes have different personalities, which entails different sources of motivation. There are extreme examples of players who play joyfully (Ernie Banks) and those who play spitefully (Barry Bonds). Most fall in between, drawing motivation from either pole.

  6. I’m not really interested in picking between Dempsey or Baird in this debate as they’ve both been very important to us this year (along with Hangeland & Hughes as well).

    I do think that it is telling that no matter what combination of players are available for selection each week, Dempsey always finds his way into the starting XI. Even this past week after he endured two transatlantic flights and played in two tough internationals, he was still in the lineup when we probably didn’t need him to be.

    Going into the season, I don’t think that Hughes rated him very highly and that obviously has changed after he’s watched Dempsey play.

  7. “He always seems to be angry. Everybody seems to be angry these days” because anyone who’s played a sport can tell you it’s all a part of the culture.

    No matter who your opponent is, the message from the coach and his assistants is to win, kill, maul; whatever it takes to get that W.

    All this is one major reason why I started playing ultimate frisbee: after games, you’d drink with the other team. In my experiences with other sports, you got on your bus and went home in a huff.

      1. Hey — no, actually play out in Catonsville. There are some leagues/pickups in the city, but the best is in the county (sadly).

        But, familiar with Druid Hill Park? Kudos! Fulham fan too?

        1. yeah mate – live a half block south of the park (on Eutaw) – and i’ve been supporting the whites since a visit to London in 2006 when I broke off from the family and pilgrimaged to the Cottage (by way of Bishops park) to see McBride in action (sat in the Hammersmith end with some Italian Roma supporters). We play pick-up in the park most Saturday at 3:30 if you care to join us (the old soccer pitch at the end of Red Road). We see some ultimate frisbee folks from time to time and, as you probably know, there is some kind of frisbee golf range or something on the North side of the park…

          1. Oh yeah, I’m familiar with all that — still haven’t played frisbee golf there for some bizarre reason…And Reservoir Hill eh? Several of my friends have moved there. Pioneers I suppose, considering it’s reputation.

            Well this is creepy. I too started following Fulham after a random, impromptu visit to Craven Cottage in 2006.

            Anywho, email me at timmyintransit(at)gmail[dot]com if you ever want to catch a game together. I think that brings us up to, oh, 6 total fans for the entire city.

            1. Are you kidding? 6 is a crowd! We should plan on all getting together for a match…for me Sunday afternoons/mornings work best.

              1. I’m in Iraq right now but will be back in Baltimore sometime early next season. Hopefully, I can find you guys for some pick-up and watching the Whites on TV.

                1. alright, it sounds like we’ve got the makings of a Baltimore Fulham supporters club! I’ll email Timmy at the address he provided and perhaps you guys should do the same. And though Slainte is the obvious place to watch, there is a new spot opening up called Liam Flynn’s Ale House on North Avenue (it has a web-site that comes up if you google it).

                  Be safe in Iraq bro.

                  1. Sounds like plan. Timmy and I have tried to connect to no avail the past few months…jobs and family have a way of doing that :). Like I said before, with my current schedule, Sunday mornings/afternoons work best for me.

                  2. Well, unfortunately for me, because the club keeps moving games around/my work schedule(farmers market just started)/other activities, I’m probably going to be missing every game from here on out unless it gets tape-delayed–which is something FSC hasn’t been doing lately.

                    But if things change I’ll let y’all know!

                    1. Timmy I play ultimate frisbee as well, for a half decent club team out of New Jersey on top of league, etc.

                      Just be happy you dont have tournaments, as they really kill watching the games live.

    1. “No matter who your opponent is, the message from the coach and his assistants is to win, kill, maul; whatever it takes to get that W.”

      Beg to differ mate. The largest part of football is fun, always was, always should be (to me, anyways). That little man Balotelli is a great example of the great joy all the fans enjoy after he scores. :|

  8. To some extent isn’t Rooney’s anger a direct result of the constant attention the media place all top level footballer’s under? It’s not often I agree with Alan Shearer but I do think there’s been too much exposure for Wayne’s latest transgression.

    Should you swear angrily down a live television camera? No.

    Should you be punished for doing so? Yes.

    Has he been punished? Yes. Job done, no need for debate.

    Instead we get pages and pages written about what he did and why he did it, and TV companies re-showing it again and again. It’s almost like they need to fill several pages of newsprint, keep their websites interesting and maintain a 24 hour sports channel.

    And Martin Samuel. Why is Rooney angry? Why doesn’t he enjoy playing football? Because every second of every game he plays in is scrutinised for the opportunity to critise. By you Martin. A fat man with a beard who was never ever good enough to play to anything near the same level.

    OK. Taking a step back from my anti-media rant. There are plenty of players, in fact a good 90% of them, who don’t feel the need to be obnoxious. Who can enjoy playing football and the life it gives them. But I reckon that number will only go down as the rewards and media intensity increase.

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