A brilliant, thoughtful piece by friend of the FanCast and home and away Chelsea season ticket holder, Martin Wickham, on the state of the football twitterverse…
Some people are never happy.
As I write, Chelsea sit 8 points clear at the top of the league, and in the last 8 of the FA Cup with a tough but winnable quarter-final at home standing between us and a Wembley appearance.
And yet, some people are never happy.
This isn’t a social ill that is restricted exclusively to football and football fans, and from my own personal experience I can think of a few people I know of who would whinge if they won the lottery (“wasn’t a rollover week though, was it?”). Yet the binary attitudes of ‘Football Twitter’ lead to emotional outbursts (or “nappy shitting” if you prefer) that are occasionally humorous in their nature, but for the most part, are childish, petulant and in some extremes downright vile. All are examples of the worst aspects of an environment where one is restricted to 140 characters per post, personality nuances are flattened, and controversy creates clicks.
From a Chelsea perspective, it is currently manifesting itself in the scapegoating of certain players, in spite of the rather healthy position we currently find ourselves in. The recent draw at Burnley being a case in point, when it was Nemanja Matic’s turn in the ducking stool. Admittedly it was far from his greatest performance, and I have been critical of him in the past – especially when he appeared to have forgotten how to play professional football last season, but the reaction to him personally was entirely disproportionate, and led to howls for him to be dropped/sold/jailed from the usual, tedious quarters. Whatever happened to winning or losing as a team? Or does a draw in Arctic conditions against tough, well organised opponents allow for different emotions? I’d have got involved in the debate but had lost the feeling in my fingertips by half time (yes I was there, no I do not think that makes me a better fan than someone who wasn’t, so let’s nip that one in the bud).
The above is merely one example, and fairly mild, in comparison to some invective I have seen hurled at other players and managers. It is not restricted to Chelsea by any means, in fact I have visions of clickbait factories sat at banks of desks (one bank dedicated to each club) setting up social media accounts with weak puns on player names, dedicated to throwing out ludicrous accusations because a midfielder missed a tackle, a striker scuffed a shot on goal, or a corner failed to beat the first man. Actually the last one is me at Stamford Bridge so let’s forget that!
That these battery farms of idiocy gain any type of reaction is sadly indicative of a wider society that increasingly sees things only in absolutes and definitives. Something or someone is either the best in the world, or a fraud who has been exposed. Two world class players cannot both be appreciated and admired for their abilities, one must be superior to the other in every way, shape and form. If we aren’t winning every game 5-0 after half an hour something is clearly wrong and must be changed by the manager or he’s clueless. Marcos Alonso is obviously rubbish because he played for Bolton and Sunderland, the absolute state of this club (conveniently omitting Fiorentina and Real Madrid from his CV to advance the argument, alternative facts and all that).
All of the above, plus the occasional casual wishing of serious injury on certain players, is so far removed from my own experiences of watching the game and talking about it with mates and occasionally work colleagues that it feels like another world entirely. Real life isn’t black and white, and anyone who believes otherwise tends to find themselves having very short conversations with people. Whilst not wanting to go down a wormhole with the ‘match going fans versus armchair supporters’ argument, it isn’t something I’ve heard at any game I’ve attended in all the time I’ve been going (just over 20 years for any credential checkers!). These opinions and attitudes exist in a digital hinterland where football players and managers are robots and machines, where everyday human life and interactions do not exist and certainly cannot be offered as an excuse for overhitting a through ball against a ‘poverty’ defence. And anyway, that six figure salary a week should be enough to insulate you from worry if a family member or dependant is battling a serious illness, shouldn’t it?
Going back to Nemanja Matic, I can see why he starts most games, but where opponents are expected to sit back and defend, especially at the Bridge, Cesc Fabregas picking some locks is needed, it’s already proven that the Kante Twins can cover him defensively. Not an original opinion I know, but certainly more constructive, reasonable and nuanced than setting up a Twitter account called @FUCKOFFMATIC and typing in caps that he should LEAVE MY CLUB NOW. I accept the team going forward needs reinforcements, especially with the likely return of Champions League football next season, and that some of the current team who have excelled this season will lose out a result. I’m certainly not counting down the days until this happens, not least because I’m still dealing with the Ivanovic and Mikel having gone last month! I also anticipate the inevitable squealing and moaning when certain transfer targets don’t materialise, and the reporting of half-baked rumours as truth to boost website revenue, will drive me towards taking an increasingly closer interest in cricket, horse racing and rugby league over the summer months.
For all my moaning about social media, I should remember that it has led me to meeting so many people over the last 5 years who otherwise would have been little more than passing figures as I go to and from pubs, trains stations and grounds. It has led to lifelong friendships, and been a ticket saviour for many on more than one occasion. It can also be rather funny at times. It has enhanced the experience of going to Chelsea for me and no doubt many others, and will continue to do so. It is just unfortunate that to find the good stuff, so much rubbish has to be sifted through in the process.
So, we are 8 points clear at the top of the league, with an FA Cup quarter-final to come. To those still getting angry and outraged over the slightest setback, and taking it out on individuals and sounding like a sandwich board screaming THE END IS NIGH, stop bloody whinging and enjoy the view from the top.