Signing off

I returned to this quite abruptly this Christmas. With time on my hands and interesting things happening it seemed like a good opportunity to get stuck in again. For those who aren’t aware – most of you perhaps – we moved away from London in 2012 I think, and with two small children football got left behind. My wife worked, and still works, on both days of weekends, and neither of the kids likes football. Also we had no money. So really I had to put football behind me. I’d written this since 2006 and enjoyed most of that, and the opportunities it brought me, but there was realistically no way to keep it up. Which was saddening as I’d have preferred the Championship on a number of levels, but the timing was off and that was that. And it got very very negative towards the end of the Premiership run. I’d forgotten that but was reminded recently when results went bad and stayed bad.

This is important because it’s why I’m signing off again now. I am aware that football is very important to a lot of people, and I’m not going to judge anyone for that. But where I take exception is to how some of the club’s fans behave when things aren’t going well. I am not someone who relishes negativity or conflict, especially around something that’s supposed to be a bit of fun, so this has all become unusual and not especially enjoyable. Of course a football team being relegated isn’t going to be everyone’s idea of a good time, but it doesn’t have to be the end of the world either. I mean, as best I can tell, people loved last season in the Championship. So going back doesn’t seem to be a disaster.

It would be a problem if the club had spent itself into oblivion and saddled itself with stupid contracts this January, but it didn’t, so the team that gets relegated will be reasonably sustainable. The transfer money spent will have been broadly in line with income I should imagine, and wages will be a problem that can be dealt with through outgoing transfers or contractual reductions. Relegation doesn’t seem to be a catastrophe for the club in that sense.

So why all the anger?

There is a perception that the club has not been run well, and I don’t know that I have the energy to explore that particular challenge here. I have written a fair bit over the past month or so and if you are a regular reader you’ll have a sense of my perspective. The club was promoted before it was ready, had to replace too many players, and didn’t get everything right. The manager then had a nightmare and, depending on how you look at these things, this was either because Tony Khan and the laptop of doom gave him awful players, or he completely failed to coach a decent group into a unit able to sustain itself at the top level. The truth seems uncomfortably nearer to the latter than the former to me, with transfers that were more good than bad, if not especially efficient.

The team also did some new things, and if you do new things and get them wrong you can expect problems.  There were a couple of stories in the news to stir this particular pot, fed to journalists and not indicative of reality (I believe), and some of that has been impossible to shake off and has basically dominated the narrative ever since.  I mean teams make bad signings all the time but hey.

I also believe that the club has been almost comically unfortunate. The Brighton penalty, the Anfield goal that wasn’t, and the sheer volume of individual cock-ups by defenders who really do know better. I don’t know how you prepare for this. The team has a soft underbelly but we’ve seen enough of Callum Chambers and Alfie Mawson to know that they are good footballers and could have been a useful centre-back pairing together had the team been set up properly. Chambers of course was written off by the experts in the stands as “shit” quite quickly, but of course who could look good defending in the team as it was set up? Nobody. It was a disaster on the pitch and much of that was coaching (I believe). The players are alright.

Joe Bryan looks okay and if Cyrus Christie’s not everyone’s cup of tea, a team can function without a star right-back if it plays to its strengths and doesn’t do anything daft.

In midfield we have Cairney and Seri who are obviously both quality footballers (that people couldn’t see Seri’s quality remains baffling but perhaps indicative of something.. I mean his play’s been one of the most exciting things about this team, he’s beautiful to watch, incredibly so.  Wonderful player, and yet people were writing out ideal teams without him in them well into the season.). Anguissa never showed what he could do under Jokanovic, but wasn’t alone in that and I’m assuming would look more than decent under Ranieri in the current setup. Then Mitrovic up front, Sessegnon and Schurrle…I mean that should have been a team capable of staying up. I don’t know why Schurrle is so bad. It doesn’t seem inevitable that he would be.

The squad doesn’t have everything but it’s not a bad collection. To me, this does not deserve the abuse handed out.

I typed “Tony Khan” into twitter this morning and with no amount of scrolling got the following.

TK
This is what I’m on about and it’s symptomatic of the general tone of the fan base. Khan famously told a fan to go to hell, but only after said fan had told Khan to “leave my club” (yes, the *fan* used “my”). There’s been almost never-ending abuse, and while Tony would have been well advised to delete twitter and not look at the internet whilst focusing on the job in hand, his social media strategies have inflamed people whatever he does. If he announces a signing it’s him trying to get credit. If he stays silent people want to know why he isn’t saying something. He can’t win. He is damned whatever he does, even acknowledging that his overall performance has not led to the results expected.

It hasn’t been that bad though, in my opinion. This doesn’t make me an idiot, or an apologist, it’s just an evaluation of the work carried out and what might have been expected to happen from said work. He bought some good players. Maybe not quite enough, but the car crash of football that ensued is not all down to him. This isn’t one of the three worst squads in the league, and even if I’m wrong and it is, that only emphasises how strong the league is now. (shrug).

Personally I have no time for all the negativity. People have the right to enjoy their hobby as they wish and I have the right to do something else. Whether that’s a poor reflection on me as a fan I don’t know. Probably it’s a reflection of the times we live in, in which the internet is a festering hive of opinion. And we all have opinions, don’t we? And we all think they’re important and they’re right because we’ve been watching this for years and we think of nothing else so of course we know what we’re talking about don’t we? And we pay our money and that gives us every right to call Tony Khan a cunt because the team’s second from bottom and we hoped it wouldn’t be.

Fuck it. Honestly, this isn’t for me anymore.

It’s not the losing, I can deal with that. Football’s football. If you lose you play again next week and do better. If you keep losing you have to do that in another division, but that is fun as well and then you win some more. No big deal, not really. Unless the club’s at risk, I get that, but as best I know it isn’t.

So this little return is over for now. Thanks for reading and good luck to you. Obviously I’m still going to be following the games but it’ll be on my own terms, which is the right thing to do, no?  COYW.

7 thoughts on “Signing off”

  1. Thanks Captain for all your insights, stories and commentary in the past. It will be sad to not read them anymore but I completely understand and agree with your reasons. For some people, when the going gets tough, the tough get whinging. People probably had too high expectations after last season and the realists among us knew it was going to be damn difficult to just survive. Hopefully after taking a break, it rekindles your passion to write again. I’ll be waiting.

  2. I don’t have any trouble understanding your point of view.

    I only dabble in social media. Internet and FFC message boards but not Twitter, Facebook and whatever else now exists.

    I’ve always been entirely clear that football simply doesn’t matter. We all have constant issues with health, family, finances, careers etc and that’s just the personal stuff. Whatever your political views the World generally is a scary, nasty place and the great virtue of football for me is that it serves as a diversion from the serious stuff and for me that works very well.

    20 years ago the only opinions you heard were face to face or in newspapers. Now everyone’s opinionated and angry and it all feeds off itself. Personally I’d rather do without all that but keep the football. The trick I think is simply to avoid or ignore all the very loud background noise.

    Best wishes to you and your family.

  3. I am with Tony Gilroy here. I watch much less sport than I ever did before, now being over 50 years old. I still enjoy it, but do not have the time or willingness to drop other obligations and enjoyments for sports. That said, there is something different following the Fulham, even from over here. CCRN is what really helped to cement my allegiance to Fulham some 12 or 13 years ago (a short-timer compared to so many, however their similar history to the New Orleans Saints of my youth helped form the affinity.) I am deeply saddened to see you go. Given the Twitter stuff you posted, this club is more in need of your measured approach, your intelligent commentary supported with empirical foundation. Your leaving, again, leaves the rest of us wanting.
    I wish you and yours nothing but the best. Many of us will still be here awaiting such time as your life gives you a little time to worry about Fulham and its supporters.

    Godspeed, you are and will always be missed.
    Tommy

  4. Thanks for writing again, Rich – really enjoyed this little return, as brief as it has proved to be. My views on Fulham and football in general have always felt pretty well aligned to yours, so it’s nice to see them written out so articulately once again.

    I moved to Australia just before the play-off final last year, so I now follow Fulham just by tuning in to the game each week via (legal) streaming, either at 2am or on demand the next day if that’s possible. In one sense, it’s helped detach from all the negativity – I can just watch the game, form my own opinions based on that, then switch off and get on with my life on the other side of the world and 10 hours away.

    Sometimes, though, I get sucked into reading Twitter and message boards and everything else because I’m interested in Fulham, and interested in news about what’s going on. But it always depresses me hugely for all the reasons you’ve outlined here, so as the season’s gone on, I’ve done it less and less.

    The motivation to tune in when you’re this far away and the games are on in the middle of the night is hard enough when we’re playing well, so it’s getting a bit challenging when we’re not playing great and there’s tons of negativity everywhere. I find my connection to the club inevitably loosening a bit, which saddens me (not helped by the fact that professional football here is really soulless, played to a low standard [which actually doesn’t bother me] in large, near-empty stadiums [this really does bother me]).

    I’ll still keep up with the scores, and the good writing on football published in the UK and elsewhere – it’s always been better when this blog has been a part of that, but enjoy following Fulham on your own terms. You’re completely correct that it’s the right thing to do, and it’s what I intend to – no less a ‘proper’ fan that anyone else (whatever that means anyway).

  5. Sad, but completely understandable.

    Unfortunately football attracts more than its fair share of hype and nastiness. It has more opportunities to manifest in this internet age, but let’s face it, fans have had to be segregated for decades due to their inability to be civil to one another. In how many other sports does this happen?

    Anyway, a big thank you, Rich. I shall look forward to your next appearance, however brief and however distant it may be.

  6. Disappointed to hear that you’re leaving us again, but understandable – there’s just so many opportunities for negativity to get amplified and sane voices like yours don’t get heard the way they should. I’ll miss your columns (again) but I’ll be keeping your feed in my reader in case you decide to make another return. In the meantime I’ll just say: thank you.

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