Time for a reality check

By Keith Allman
Last updated : 01 January 2005
This time last year, we came up into the Premiership as Champions of Division One. The pundits said we were going down, fans of other top flight teams said we were going down, even some of our fans thought we were going down. And yet we finished 13th. But, to our obvious annoyance, every single time we beat someone, it was always nothing to do with our own ability. It was because they had played badly, it was because of Reason X and Reason Y - it was never anything to do with the fact that we were actually a decent footballing team. The thought of a newly promoted team being able to mix it with the big boys with one that could not be stomached.

And here we are at the start of 2005. Norwich, freshly promoted as League Champions, came down to Fratton Park with a game plan. Hit by injury, the idea was clearly to defend like bastards and catch us on the break whenever possible. And let's give them credit, because despite the obvious problem of getting a man sent off after only five minutes, it just seemed to stregthen their resolve and instill a real "us against the world" mentality. Our midfield and strikers were closed down, hassled and harried, our defence worried by the pace of Huckerby - in short, they played very well.

Or so you might think.

According to those around me, this is NOT what happened at all. The fact we could - shock horror - only draw, was because we're "f***ing s**t". Yakubu, Griffin, Fuller, Taylor and Faye should all be sold. Quite how we plan to name a team after this mass clearance is beyond me, but hey - those with logic need not apply. Because we dared to draw 1-1 with little old promoted Norwich, it's enough to boo the team off at half and full time. And that is truly pathetic. A section of the crowd has turned into the sort of supporter than we so mocked last season for being unable to handle anything less than a five goal mauling over a supposedly "inferior" team - regardless of the fact anyone can beat anyone in the Premiership.

I'm not saying we played fantastically well today. For all our possession, we struggled to use the wide men as much as we could and dithered from time to time. But how much of that was due to the pressure applied by the visitors, not giving us the time to pick out the ball we wanted? How many crosses were hacked away by the sheer weight of numbers in the area? We didn't reach the height of our performances against Arsenal, Chelsea or Liverpool, and yet we still managed to take a point that leaves us in a healthy midtable position. Well worth booing the team off for, of course.

I'm not the sort who likes to dish out labels for fans. "Fairweather supporter", "Johnny Come Lately", whatever - it's impossible to try and sort between different "breeds". In short, there is no direct correlation between "amount of time as a fan" and "percentage wanker". Whenever booing occurs it's normally claimed that "it's those new Premiership fans" - not so. The guy behind me has been there for years and boos and shouts constant abuse. The bloke in front has also been there for many a moon and yet leaves early, another bone of contention amongst supporters.

They pay their money, they're entitled to their view as much as I am - but if these people have seriously shifted their expectations so much and have such short memories that they can't see the links with our own good results from this time last year, then you have to wonder when they'll ever be able to take a deep breath, step back, and ENJOY going to football matches. We didn't win and we might have done. So what, look at the bigger picture. We're in the Premier League, I have no doubt we'll be in the Premier League next season, and Velimir is still finding his feet as manager. It's just a shame that some stopped hoping for results, and have become expecting, nay, demanding them.

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