Ally Moncrieff is back with some more heartfelt football writing. This time on why football transfers need to make the right impression with fans…
‘We need a box to box midfielder’, ‘if we don’t sign a striker I’m not renewing my fucking season ticket’, ‘I’d swap members of my immediate family for a half decent centre back’. These are not uncommon utterances amongst football fans, a version of them may even have fallen from your own mouth, it’s understandable, you see an obvious problem with your football team and logic dictates there must be an obvious solution.
Everybody loves a new signing, their arrival is filled with nothing other than the promise of goals and glory. It’s worryingly easy to spend hours poring over the strengths and weaknesses of your new addition, YouTube videos and the rise of in depth blogging mean that before your next no.9 is pictured draped in the club colours, standing on the edge of the pitch you will already know that he has a tendency to drift into wide positions which can confuse the opposition defence but also leave the attack without a focal point, it’s the age of information and it pays to do your research. But one crucial attribute is almost always overlooked, the players likeability.
In a world where clubs are becoming ever more removed from their initial community based roots, where the disconnect between the life of those on the terraces and those on the pitch is a swiftly widening chasm it’s increasingly important that you don’t actively hate the players you cheer every week. Because if your club sickens you with its rampant commercialism and morally suspect owner then you need some decent lads out there pulling on the shirt, otherwise there’s little other than duty making you turn up.
The kind of player I’m talking about isn’t necessarily the best player, he isn’t necessarily the captain and he doesn’t even have to be local either. What this guy will have is an understanding of what it means to play for your side, a bit of patter, not moronic shit in your pockets ‘banter’ but a genuine sense of humour. Oh and it helps if your rival fans fucking hate him as well. When this guy takes to the pitch, and he doesn’t have to be a regular by the way, you will him to do well, you cheer his goals louder than that brilliant but moody striker you suspect is just using you as a stepping stone, you also forgive his mistakes and overlook his flaws all because you honestly like him.
The likeable player isn’t of any particular type; he can be the honest grafter, the goalkeeper that has a bit of a laugh with the fans behind the goal, the ‘header everything that moves’ centre back or even the talented but hilariously lazy number 10. Likeability transcends positions, it even transcends talent.
Ask any football fan to come up with their five all time favourite players from their club and you can bet that it won’t be the five best, sure the top scorer and cup winning captain might be in there but there will be a couple that get a mention for reasons other than their ability or achievements. So next time you see your club linked with someone in the gossip pages, sure have a look at his YouTube compilations, by all means check out his ‘stats page’ whatever you like, but don’t forget to ask yourself if you’re going to like this guy, if you’re going to enjoy cheering him on a Saturday (there should be a site where you can find a player’s ‘likability rating’. Maybe I should set one up?).
Football is changing some of it beyond all recognition, sometimes for better sometimes for worse. What will always remain true however is that for clubs to survive and then prosper they require fans to emotionally attach themselves to them, and having players you like, players you can relate to is a huge part of that.
Oi, follow me on Twitter: @AllorNothingMag