I recently read an article that described Chris Sutton as a miserablist. That’s a great word and if I had known it as a child I would have used it to describe my dad at football matches. He wasn’t the sort of fan who shouted and screamed. He just stood there with a look of contempt on his face and only occasionally muttered, “Rubbish!” to express his opinion of the standard of play. Occasionally, when a player did something skilful, I would see him smile but that didn’t happen at every game.
I never heard my dad boo and remember 1950’s Birmingham City fans as being supportive. It’s quite possible that my memories are rose tinted but I think that it was common for our fans to sing “Keep right on …” when the other team scored a goal. When our crowd does that now, I get quite emotional because it stirs childhood memories. I’m sure that it helps to lift the team; it certainly seemed to help them get the come-from-behind win against Sheffield Wednesday.
I am equally certain that booing our players during a game is counter-productive. However much they get paid they are still human. That rhyme about sticks and stones breaking bones but words not hurting is as untrue for them as it is for the rest of us. How much a player feels it depends more on his personality than his pay but I’m sure some of them are hurt by booing as much as they are hurt by crunching tackles.
A few fans have been booing David Cotterill recently. I’m glad he was voted Man of the Match on Saturday. He put in some very good crosses and probably deserved it. But I suspect that some of those who voted wanted to show what they thought of the boos.