Where do we draw the line?
Many of you would have seen this week a tweet from Neil Etheridge basically calling out a fan for suggesting they would ‘cheer’ had they seen the incident that lead to him taking an injury this week. I tracked a lot of the different reactions from players, ex-players and more importantly the fans over the last 24 hours and decided I would put my thoughts down on here.
The first thing to note is that as you can see, the fan didn’t direct this to Neil by ‘@’ing him or replying to one of Neil’s tweets, simply putting it out on his own Twitter feed – but does that make the sentiment any better? Probably not IMO. Let me just preface that non of this article is directed to that fan specifically, it was just the catalyst that make me want to get my thoughts down.
I’ll rewind to the start of the season first. Many of the ‘boo-boys’ (as they get deemed on our social media pages) I do find very frustrating. After the first 10 games of the season there was a general consensus amongst the most negative fans (and others) that we would be either in a relegation scrap or would get relegated…Now the season is coming to an end and we are safe from the drop, the same fans seem to find it an outrage that we haven’t broken into the top 6…
A minority of fans just can’t seem to decide what they want to moan about. Should they have an opinion and be allowed to voice it? Of course. Is there a difference between voicing an opinion and being needlessly divisive or negative- Yes.
You only have to look at our many fan pages online to see how wide ranging and passionate the opinions are of our fan base (no doubt someone will read this and think ‘who’s this prick?!’…probably my Dad)- but one thing I can never really understand is what are fans trying to achieve by being outright negative? At games or online WHAT IS THE POINT! In what way does it help Walsall Football Club? Constructive criticism and heat of the moment outburst from the terraces are part and parcel of the game and no player should ever think they are above the opinion of the fans in that regard- but sometimes I do wonder what outcome fans are looking for on Twitter.
Last season I seem to recall Romaine Sawyers and Rico Henry taking the brunt of a lot of online criticism towards the end of the season. Tweets directed specifically at them with nothing but insults- I still don’t understand what those Tweets were meant to accomplish.
In the case of Neil specifically, maybe he is leaving. The signs look like that may be the case. Should we be celebrating injury on someone with over 80 appearances for the club? No. Neil has kept us in many games over the two seasons and won us just as many single-handedly. He’s made mistakes like every other goalkeeper in the league but I think it would be a massive shame if he leaves the club with an injury and under the impression Walsall fans are glad about that. He was one of the few starting 11 from last year who actually stayed following the exodus at our failure to win promotion and that is something that should not be forgotten either. I remember him sitting in the lower tier on a few occasions too and interacting with the fans; though he may not be the most passion inspiring player on the pitch, I think it’s a step too far to suggest he doesn’t care about this club or our results.
If Neil does end up leaving this summer I would say one thing to both the boo-boys and Neil himself; Be careful what you wish for. Many players have left the Bescott expecting greener pastures only to wind up bench warming and dropping back to League 1 or lower. Equally to his critics, it is very difficult to replace a proven goalkeeper and I personally think he has been a good servant to Walsall Football Club.
Whatever your opinion on players or other fans, one thing that can be forgotten is that we all want the same thing; 3 points on match-day.
We need players to show passion and give the fans something to cheer about and hopefully there’ll be very little negativity left to be thrown around…better not lose on Friday then eh? COYR