On Friday night we lost a game after playing with ten men for the second half. Despite the wretched home run we’ve been on it was pretty tough on the team who scrapped hard to get a point that they probably deserved. With the Barnsley draw with Reading on Saturday we edge nearer and nearer to securing our place in the championship next year which was all we’d have wished for in August. However I can’t help but find that an element of our fans reaction towards some players casts a shadow over a relatively brighter picture in the history of the club. Tom Eaves committed a silly foul that gave a referee a decision to make. He shouldn’t have done it, he’ll know that himself, but football is played by human beings and human beings make mistakes.
The last game I saw him live in was the 2-0 win at Coventry, he was really good that night, holding up the ball well and allowing us to counter Cov effectively. I didn’t see much reaction to his strong performance a couple of weeks ago, but obviously that wasn’t the case after Friday night. The self-appointed experts were out in force and apparently he’s the worst thing to happen to the club since Grimsby Town were formed.
Let me be clear in what I say next. This isn’t a blog about Tom Eaves. So please don’t waste your time by telling me in encyclopaedic detail why he’s terrible or why he’s not good enough. This also isn’t a blog about your freedom of speech. I’m well aware that you can have opinions and express them. This is a blog about the club's tendency to create boo boys and react disproportionately on social media towards players that they don’t like.
This isn’t anything new. In my time as a City fan there’s been countless players to incur the wrath of the fans, some would rebound and become fan’s favourites, some wouldn’t. However there’s been multiple examples of players that were once persona non grata and then turned it around. Michael Turner, Billy Whitehurst, Paul McShane, Eldin Jakupovic, David Meyler, Jay Simpson, George Honeyman, David Marshall and even Harry Maguire were all once branded “not good enough” by portions of the fans only to later win over the same critics with their performances over a period of time.
I’m not saying Tom Eaves is about to go on that journey. Although I generally believe we’ve been better this year with him in rather than out of the team, there’s a fair chance he won’t be here next season and overall he’s never scored enough goals to justify an extension of his time here. But again, that’s not my point. My point is the lad isn’t on social media anymore, and that’s almost certainly to do with the abuse he’s got. Just like our last manager who had to do the same thing.
You don’t have to like Tom Eaves or Grant McCann, or rate them as a player or manager. But I’d love to hear about how publicly shaming them and attacking them improves their performance. It makes our fanbase appear both toxic and spoilt and clearly has a negative impact on the staff. I’ve got no indication that any player at the club isn’t grafting and trying their best. Some will perform better than others but whilst football remains a performance related industry it’s simply not possible for everyone to succeed. Some players won’t make it and will move on to lower leagues, or even the non-league. I’ll never fathom why they are also subject to abuse on top of that.
Most of us are in jobs where we can fail or succeed. I’ve been in education for 26 years. Exam results, Ofsted grades, attendance percentages are amongst our everyday successes and failures, if they aren’t up to scratch it can have a major effect on careers. I’m sure most people reading this have measurable targets they need to complete. We can all fail. I’m just not sure why it’s ok for footballers who fail have the added slap in the face of being screamed at and abused on social media as well.
I’m an opinionated person, I’m sure most City fans who know me would agree with that. I’m not asking for us to be a bunch of happy clappers that smile and cheer no matter what. I know it’s an emotional rollercoaster being a fan and we won’t always see eye to eye on things. I’m also not perfect myself and can express frustration at players too. But there are brighter skies ahead we all hope, and speaking of the “h” word there is more hope that there’s been in a long time. The team need to be better and we need to make significant improvements next year if we are to be more competitive. Perhaps our contribution towards this evolution can be to try and be more of a positive force in the stands and on social media. I’m nothing if not an optimist. The club and the players deserve a bit more respect for their efforts in this fan’s opinion.