Whether due to the international break or a group of fans having too much time on their hands, Matt Turvey asks why the panicking is back, and how validating false beliefs only leads to ruin.
A few months ago, I wrote a piece discussing how I was happy that now Paul Lambert was installed as manager, fans were together and the dark days of supporter anarchy during the Alex McLeish reign were banished to the past.
I’d thought to myself that a headline following the club’s loss at White Hart Lane would be “Panic on the streets of London, panic on the streets of Birmingham?” as the Smiths once sang. Well it turns out that a group of our fans are well and truly panicked. The often loud group of anti-establishment minority fans are back again and are, unsurprisingly, angry and unhappy.
With Aston Villa in the early stages of this season’s campaign I’ve seen all sorts of sensationalist headlines about “Villa’s worst start in 25 years” and how “Lambert needs to be sacked.” While the points total is low as the first headline states, points alone mean nothing without context. Starting the season also has nothing to do with how the team finish it.
I’d like to say that I’m shocked by the reaction of this minority of fans but, sadly, I’m not. It seems that nowadays, due to the sheer desire for a certain group of fans to appear “smart”, sensationalist, or otherwise the centre of attention, they are writing stories poking holes in what the manager is doing, and how doing x, y, or z would clearly have done better.
Perhaps writing this article shines a light on these people when they should be ignored, but there comes a time when the elephant in the room needs to be addressed - these fans aren’t helping Villa’s cause, they are acting much like a cancer on the club’s chances of recovery.
There’s an over simplistic logic used by this minority suggesting that if x doesn’t work, y will. This is of course nonsense as you can play 4-4-2 and lose, and play the exact game with 4-5-1 and still lose - football is not that simple, and changing one variable does not fix a problem.
However, it’s not uncommon to see many arguments over simplified on today’s anger ridden internet sites, but these false arguments only serve to build even bigger problems - the self validating fan.
After all, what these fans do is reify their own beliefs by postulating that by doing y, that which they suggested and not x, that which the manager did, then things really would have been better which, in reality, is nonsense in factual terms. An opinion, yes, but a fact, no.
That isn’t to say a particular change couldn’t have made a difference, rather that there is certainly no way of proving it could and, therefore, it would be foolish to assume so. The escape route for these type of fans is that you can’t prove doing it their way wouldn’t have worked, but then you can’t prove it would have.
Such an attitude is the ultimate way of eternally fuelling arguments - look at religion - and Villa have a similar level of zealotry amongst this minority. This of course works to their advantage by making their views the centre of the media’s attention.
Subsequently, this is the reason why the national media think all Villa fans are ungrateful and fickle, that they don’t understand football, and that fans live in the past. The reality is that it isn’t all fans, but the ones screaming loudly make it appear that way - as an old saying says “Empty vessels make the most noise.”.
However, many fans are doing exactly that, validating their own views based on evidence that will never be seen, and acting as though the man in charge clearly has no idea because what he is doing isn’t working.
The reality is that the average fan will never get the chance to manage Villa, but many of us - myself included - do think about tactics, formations, and who we’d like to see playing. The difference on this side of the fence is that I don’t use hindsight knowledge to beat the manager over the head with in a losing situation - it is largely pointless.
So why does this group of fans do such a thing? To appear intelligent in their own little communities, to appear popular by going along with the illogical “If I complain more, I must be more passionate about my club than those that don’t.” Such a rationality, if you pardon the irony there, is totally irrational - how does moaning mean you are more passionate?
To give an example, would you be seen as more of a passionate person if you constantly berated your children when they did badly? It doesn’t really require a doctorate in teaching or psychology to know that such an attitude will rarely bear fruit, and the being supportive - the core of what a supporter is supposed to do - is trying to be objective, not universally egocentric.
Which, sadly, is what these fans are doing. Ironically, in their announcements that they are more passionate or otherwise “better” than any other fan, they are just reinforcing their own beliefs - that their thoughts are correct, that all choices they make would have been different, that things would be so much better if only things changed.
As a former Villa European Cup winner said to me over coffee “It is much easier to complain or be negative about a football team when they have done something wrong. Anyone can do that. The challenge is to be positive when things aren’t going well, and to do what you can to make things different.”
Which is what everyone from the owner, to the manager, through the players and supporters should be trying to do. Not whining, not making statements about how “things would be better under my direction and that the manager is an idiot”, and not talking sensationalist rubbish about how Lambert, a manager who has potential but who will need time, should be sacked.
So, for those that do choose to see the world through purely their own eyes, and not the eyes of a player, manager, or other person involved in the game, think about how objective you are really being. If you take a step back and realise that this incessant complaining isn’t helping, quite the reverse, and that opinions based on “what ifs” are only opinions and not facts, then things would be far better amongst the fans.
The manager has a hard road ahead of him, something I had stated months ago back when many of the same complaining fans thought that McLeish’s departure would be a panacea for all of Villa’s worries, and that more spending would be the answer.
Turns out it wasn’t, and it wouldn’t be the answer. The future’s about thinking long term, not panicking short term. So relax, sit down, and realise things aren’t as easy as they look on Football Manager or FIFA so if you’re that desperate to appear the all-conquering manager, go coach a kids team - who knows, maybe you might prove me wrong and be the greatest manager I never knew about.
You can follow Matt Turvey’s regular opinions at his own site, Aston Villa Life at www.astonvillalife.com, via the site’s Twitter account @astonvillalife, or via his own Twitter account @MatthewSTurvey.