Abusing the manager – a fan’s right

Those frothing over fans’ treatment of Arsene Wenger need to get a grip.

Shingi Mararike

Topics Politics

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Following his Arsenal side’s 3-2 defeat to Stoke City last Saturday, manager Arsene Wenger was confronted by a group of frustrated fans. They proceeded to bombard the 65-year-old with playground insults, calling him ‘a cunt’ and advising him to leave the club. According to player-cum-pundit Gary Lineker, the abuse was ‘disgustingly disrespectful and inexcusable’. The Independent’s Jack de Menezes was similarly moralistic: ‘If you were to do the same to any member of the public, let alone a 65-year-old man, you’d probably be arrested.’ If you haven’t watched the clip, and only read those quotes, you might think the accused insulted Wenger’s mother or lobbed death threats at him. But they didn’t. They simply did what English football fans do best. They voiced their displeasure.

Football wouldn’t be the ‘beautiful game’ without hysterical, raging, vociferous fans. The sport conjures up passion among its ardent followers like no other. Supporting your favourite team is a chance to eff, blind, scream and shout in public without being taken away in handcuffs. It wouldn’t be the nation’s game if we couldn’t have a good old moan. You would have thought most people knew that by now, but apparently not. What Lineker has failed to understand is just how important bi-polar fans, alternately fuming and fawning, are to the game. Football supporters are fickle and we love them for it. Just six months earlier, the very same members of the Arsenal faithful who were screaming at Wenger at a Stoke-on-Trent rail station were most likely worshipping him at Wembley, basking in Arsenal’s FA Cup triumph.

In recent years, we have seen the figure of the disgruntled fan rise to prominence. Rants by wild-eyed, scarf-wielding, middle-aged men have taken Twitter and YouTube by storm. Manchester United fan Andy Tate was an internet hit last season. In a thick, Lancashire accent, with fire in his eyes, he took aim at United’s then manager, David Moyes, or ‘Moysey’ as he insisted on calling him, after United had lost three-nil at home to Liverpool: ‘You are nothing, you are a fool and you are a waste of time, goodnight.’ This season, an Arsenal fan, ‘Claude the Gooner’, has aired his grievances against Wenger with similar fervour in video interviews which have amassed thousands of views, likes and shares. If we were to go by Lineker logic, Andy and Claude are also ‘disrespectful and disgraceful’. After all, they have also aggressively voiced their displeasure with underperforming football managers in public. You take the moaning and heckling out of football, and you also take the passion out of it. It wouldn’t be the same without it.

Vehemently criticising a man whose managerial skills have obviously faded over the years isn’t exactly hard to understand. From a statistical perspective, Wenger has consistently failed to deliver for nearly a decade. Arsenal have clinched one trophy in eight years, have failed to win a league title, and haven’t come within a sniff of Champions League glory since a final showing in 2006 (aside from a semi-final in 2009). Arsenal fans’ patience with Wenger is wearing thin. The north London outfit may have smashed Galatasaray in a meaningless fixture in midweek, but expect the likes of Claude the Gooner to be ready with a tirade once the Gunners turn in another disappointing display. As football fans, we sit in stadiums, or in armchairs, or sometimes in the pub, getting wound up about things. It could be the winger who doesn’t run fast enough, or the centre-back always caught napping. It’s just part and parcel of being a supporter. If a bunch of Arsenal fans want to get up-close-and-personal with Wenger and speak on behalf of a growing majority, then so be it. Getting angry at a football manager isn’t disgraceful at all – it’s normal. If Arsenal somehow miraculously win the league title this season, the very same fans would love Wenger again, and we’d love them for it.

Shingi Mararike is a spiked intern. Visit his blog here.

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Topics Politics


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