In the world of football, analyzing a calendar year feels a bit strange. Given the fact a season lasts over nine months from August-May, fans find it hard to look over 12 months when in one year, a season ends and begins, managers change, players leave and arrive, form dips and rises.
Though one thing that you can take from this 12-month period is that debate surrounding the sport we love has deteriorated to a shockingly low level.
Now before I continue I must set a couple of disclaimers:
- There are still places to find good, rational and intelligent debate.
- Not everyone is responsible, and I bet a guess that most people are reasonable despite what their online profiles may suggest.
- Passion and emotion are key tenets to why we love football. Not for one second am I suggesting these things should be stripped from the beautiful game.
Now I’ve got that out of the way when I use the broad term of “debate” what am I referring to? In truth, a multitude of things. Lets start by going for the snake’s head – and that’s Twitter. I’m sure, you use Twitter as much as I do and have spent countless hours trawling through your timeline.
However, my urge to completely abandon the platform has grown in recent months. After Chelsea’s first defeat of the season to rivals Spurs, I fearfully opened my phone to gauge the response, which I already knew wasn’t going to be pleasant. The Blues had been well beaten on a disastrous night at Wembley.
I wasn’t foolish or deluded enough to expect any smiling emoji’s pop up on my feed, though what I found was pretty astonishing. Not only were people criticizing the display but throwing the baby out with the bath water. Suddenly after one ninety-minute period, Chelsea were in “crisis”, a “disaster”, “behind the times”.
Players like Jorginho who had been praised up to this point had suddenly become “limited” and manager Maurizio Sarri was clearly out of his depth to manage a club like Chelsea. Take away the fact he had overseen the best unbeaten run for a Chelsea manager in their maiden campaign and had his side only five points from the summit of the league table. Let’s rip it all up and start again!
Part of what makes a Chelsea defeat feel worse is the reaction to it, rather than the actual result in its own context. The counter-argument to all of my points expectedly would be – “Just delete the app”, but we can’t do that, can we? We’re addicted to it, and in truth, there are glimmers of sanity which keep me believing things can change.
How did we get here? Arguably, this over-reactionary culture of football fans have always been there in the pre-social media age and that the emergence of Twitter, Facebook and YouTube have only shone on a light on the issue. I’d argue that the growth in fan channel culture and the obsession for views and hits have turned discussion on its head.
Once a bastion for a cult-like, underground movement that aimed to give a voice to disenfranchised fans against the owners of their club has evolved into an off-shoot of tabloid journalism (despite how much those will claim they despise The Sun and the Daily Mail).
Go on YouTube now and you’ll find in BIG BOLD CAPS a plethora of extreme titles regarding the latest topics in the football world. The viewership for this type of content has only grown and grown, “YouTube” fans don’t want long-form debate, they don’t want calm, they want outrage.
SMASHED, DESTROY, CRISIS, IMPLODE all explosive adjectives to draw your attention and rack up the subscriber count.
This culture, especially for a younger generation has empowered fans to demand more from their clubs. They not only want to see a win on Saturday, they want glorious football, they want every player to have outstanding displays. They want their clubs to spend massive fees on the flavour of the month, whilst also promoting every youth player.
The old and new media feed off this want and build their platforms around it.
Also what social media has influenced is hatred and abuse towards players that have never been seen before. The scapegoating and rabid nature of some “fan” accounts to go after and despise their own players has grown in popularity. At Chelsea, the likes of Willian, Marcus Alonso, Gary Cahill, and Alvaro Morata have all felt this wrath.
Here’s another disclaimer: To be clear, I’m not stating that all forms of player critique equate to abuse, we all have our frustrations and all have our own opinions. That’s acceptable.
Luckily, these groups still feel a small minority when you enter the ground, either home or away. Good punditry is also in short supply with many ex-pros filling our screens to vent their anger with the modern game or present the most ludicrous opinion on any topic to cause a storm. (I’m looking at you Chris Sutton and Craig Burley).
Where do we go from here? It seems sometimes like you feel alien, caught in a hyperbolic tidal-wave that is inescapable. However, the glimmers I was talking about do give me hope.
Sites like these, where a variety of fan voices are free to write in detail their thoughts on topics is a plus. Podcasts as well are a great source for good debate and as the format has grown you have many options to choose from on a Monday to greet your earbuds.
Will things change? Probably not. At the end of the day, I’m not advocating these things be stopped, censored or shut down. In a lot of ways you have to applaud the business savvy that is now earning many a living outside of the BBC, Sky or BT.
Though I will always try my best to be reasonable. When Chelsea lose a game, it hurts, it is annoying – but it’s not the end of the world – until it is and then I’ll join the rest on loony land myself.
Thanks for reading.
Follow me on Twitter @sonofchelsea