Blind nonsense: ‘getting behind the Lads’ no matter what

Birflatt Boy pulls no punches. Monsieur Salut may have urged caution on SAFC’s inability so far to announce a single new acquisition, amid rumours that this or that target could end up elsewhere, but our hard-hitting contributor defends the right to aim robust criticism at the club we love …

What does it mean to be a Sunderland supporter? I’ve always regarded it as a lifelong lesson in humility, and in so many ways. After all, there’s never that much to get really excited about is there?

As the number of blogs and fan sites has propagated it’s become a lot easier to access and understand the widespread and perhaps not so widespread mix of opinion and attitude held by fans of any club, on just about anything. We all love SAFC, but have different ways of expressing that devotion, I suppose.

On some sites today you’d find some of our fans enthusing about the positives of signing players like Liam Ridgewell and David Ngog.

If I were a fan of, say, Wigan or Swansea I don’t think that my cap would be flying through the air at the prospect of cheering these boys on next season. Cold rice pudding or last Friday’s fish would hardly be less appetising.

There is one thing that has really struck me in recent years, and that is the rift which appears very quickly between our fans when any criticism is aimed towards the club, manager, chairman or players.

There may be few issues which unite all of us, but I am constantly disappointed by the mantra of “just get behind the team” or “you’re just like that lot up the road” when someone’s credentials or performances are called into question.

I’ve never been able to understand why criticism of players or managers who frequently fall way short of what’s reasonably expected should be received in such a negative fashion. Blind and unrelenting faith is the alternative which is as close as to stupidity as you can officially get without resorting to some form of psychological assessment.

It’s as if criticism through the written word will automatically transcend into name calling from the stands, booing and generally getting on players’ backs.

All too often, the result of legitimate comment and questioning is a response that, in its own way, impunes the integrity and allegiance of the questioner.

Personally I had little faith in Bob Murray, and I had even less in his predecessor Tom Cowie. Did that mean I had deserted the club? Of course not. In many ways it reinforced my support during a (lengthy) period when I was convinced neither of these chairman had the wit, intelligence, contacts or other attributes with which they could raise the fortunes of SAFC beyond the mediocre.

By and large, my lack of faith in those custodians of our beloved club was proved justified as – two decent finishes under Peter Reid excepted – mediocrity became our byword. Substitute the term “lack of faith” with “expectation” and Niall Quinn’s personal albatross has been the weight of expectation that increased when he took the helm.

Let’s take the Quinn example further. The burden of expectation that he carries is the price of the “faith” we have all bestowed upon him, to a greater or lesser extent.

For some, Quinn’s actions are beyond question. For the more intelligent fans (and Salut! Sunderland shows that SAFC have a great many), judgement on performances, behaviour and appointments falls directly or indirectly upon that chairman; he or she carries not only the weight of expectation, but also the responsibility and authority to manage outcomes that meet those expectations. To accept blindly, without question, is a notion belonging to the Middle Ages, as puerile as it is out moded.

That brings me to the question of “cause and effect”.

There are those who argue against debate on forums such as Salut! Sunderland, in the mistaken belief that negative comment will somehow translate itself into an evil curse that hampers the performance of individuals or indeed the team if “we don’t get behind them”.

For those misguided fools (thankfully few in number), “Getting behind the team” is actually what most of us have done over the course of our lives. And let me tell them this: it makes not one iota of difference to outcome. Not a jot.

21 thoughts on “Blind nonsense: ‘getting behind the Lads’ no matter what”

  1. And that, gentlemen, is that. I do not propose to stay up all night editing out name-calling and bare-knuckle fighting. I like to tell people this is a reasonably literate football site where intelligent and even robust opinions are welcome but pettiness is not. Without pointing fingers in any direction, I feel this debate has fallen from our own high standards and it is therefore closed.

  2. If you’ve seen the last epsiode of “Ashes to Ashes” you’ll know what I’m on about!

    If only the regular contributers on here could meet up in a mythical pub, somewhere in Limbo, what a night of beer, debate and hopefully debauchery we could have! My choice of venue would be The Brewery Tap circa February 1977.

  3. Siesta’s are a necessary component of a senior’s afternoon, and I am glad I was able to help out in that regard Bee Bee.

    I missed neither the point nor the negativity of the article. I simply posted factual examples of your inability to support upward momentum. And how you reject, and pour scorn on those that give it to us.

    The only likeness I have to a bull is resident in my under-johns young men. Good night. This gold medal don’t half suit me.

  4. Birflatt has no intention to responding to Martin Mr Taylor, because he has rather regrettably missed the point of the article. Maybe he should consider corrective eye wear after all.

    I was not discussing progress, and in fact made no mention of progress although it was clear that the view of Mr Quinn and SAFC’s status in the world has improved. That much was implicit but subtle comment is rather wasted on him. The subject was debate and the healthy need for it, which is what other intelligent contributors to this thread have recognised. Had this been a tirade against Messrs Quinn, Short, Bruce et al, then rest assured, this article would not have left many readers confused about its intent, (well apart from Martin, obviously) who in rather traditional fashion set off like a bull charging at a gate. There are of course occasions when you can simply walk, ie when the gate is open. That’s the trouble with the average bull.

  5. Is that Martin that’s just come out?

    It must be time for bed


  6. Of course I would, Martin. It’s impossible to beat someone who talks such a good fight as you. You and Steve Bruce deserve each other because he’s proved himself to be another one who’s all mouth and trousers. Birflatt Boy can take you on if he wants but I shan’t waste my time or energy.

  7. I don’t wear glasses Bill – You?

    Is that the best you’ve got? If so I’m a little bored.

    Don’t fence with me – you’ll lose.

  8. Firstly – congratulations Phil whose post is infinitely more worthy of mention than the article writer or the miserable Bill Taylor, both of whom will leave this mortal coil with a scowl on their face, leaving in their wake a plethora of friends and loved ones who will remember them for their negativity and their profound inability to differentiate between good and bad, hope and no hope.

    I sit in utter disbelief that you two old dinosaurs appear completely unwilling and unable to embrace our progression, our powerful financial backing, our phenomenal leadership and moreover the nucleus of a far superior team than we have ever had before.

    We all love the club and we have different ways of expressing it. Not a truer word was spoken in the above tragically negative article. Some of us embrace positive steps to compete with the biggest club sides in the world. Some of us are enthralled that we have one of the best stadiums in the country to accommodate the best fans in the country. Some of us embrace Niall Quinn’s monumental efforts to take our club to where we all want it to be. Some of us appreciate that most of the promises are being delivered, either wholly or in part. Some of us welcome the vastly superior football as we witnessed for the first half of last season, and that now more than ever before we seem to be attracting players like Darren Bent, Stephane Sessegnon, Craig Gordon, Asamoah Gyan, Lorik Cana, Lee Cattermole, Danny Wellbeck, Seb Larsson, Michael Turner, Sulley Muntari, Fraizer Campbell, and the list goes on – all brought in by the awesome Steve Bruce.

    Then there’s the tiresomely unenthusiastic brigade with a predisposition to malicious rhetoric, whose only reaction to blissful improvement is scornful rejection. With General Birflatt and Lance Corporal Taylor in command we are in safe hands folks.

    What do you think your own psychological assessment would reveal Birflatt? Here it is (with no charge). After years of exposure to the mediocre, the bad, the disappointing, and being so accustomed to complaining about it, you are quite simply stuck in a rut – a time warp. Incapable of accepting change, incapable of recognizing and welcoming positive strides forward. To write something positive is stepping out of your comfort zone, and only a regimen of gentle exposure to it under strict supervision (in case convulsions occur) would help towards your recovery from “woe-is-me-itis”. You’re only happy when you’re not happy, right? I would be intrigued to ascertain if this unfortunate personality trait infiltrates into other aspects of your life. If so – read a book called the “The Secret”. It has some enlightening advice for you.

    Take for example your attitude to us not signing anyone yet. In the summer in recent years it’s July when it all starts to happen. They’re on their holidays, or are waiting on the advice of their agent to see who else comes in for them. Whether we like it or not, although we can compete in the field of fees and wages, there are still a number of clubs deemed more fashionable than us, and therein lies the problem. Personally I have faith that SB will succeed in bringing in the players that will balance us and improve us. N’gog for example is lightning quick, he has genuine ability, and to pick up on Phil’s point, experienced football people have identified him as an excellent prospect (albeit it is yet to be fulfilled). With regular games he is more likely to realize this potential. The fact is we need 3 strikers, and in Steve’s mind N’gog could be intended for the role of third or even fourth stiker, initially. Did you stop to consider that Bee Bee? But your propensity for moaning burns too strongly within – doesn’t it?

    In what way has Steve Bruce “fallen short of what’s reasonably expected”? Ask yourself this. Considering our best player deserted us despite his sickeningly insincere spoutings about how he loved the club. Considering we had an exponentially horrendous injury list, when at one point 12 players who would potentially feature in the starting 11 were missing, and we still finished in 10th place. Is that not something we can be happy about?

    If we had a healthy team throughout, do you think we would have finished higher up the table?

    Were you pleased with the way we were performing in the first half of the season?

    Were you not at least a little content that we weren’t buying Phil Brown or Claudio Marangoni, in favour of the above list of players?

    Frankly – anyone with half a brain would answer affirmatively to all of the above, but somehow you astonishingly lack the where-with-all to accept the bad luck and misfortune Steve Bruce had to endure. What does that say about you and Mr Taylor?

    When we got beat 2 – 0 against Everton at Goodison, the effort levels and quality of play were utterly lamentable. Justifiable criticism followed, and I was totally behind the protestors. But the fair minded, more discerning among us are able to redress our bitter outbursts with positive realignment when it’s warranted.

    I challenge you to say something positive. My reward – I will switch allegiances, throw my cap in the air and start supporting Swansea.

    But it won’t happen guys. Mark my words. He’ll come back with “you’re the type of supporter I was referring to in my article”. But you know what? I’m going to let Steve prove me right, and quietly rejoice in the knowledge that you two old complainers are devoid of material.

    However, at our first home game against Newcastle you will find Birflatt Boy and Bill Taylor in their regular spot in the Albert Tatlock Stand, whining like a recently castrated coyotes. I weep for you.

  9. Birflatt Boy is absolutely on the money here. So is kable. All blind faith does is eventually get you walked smack into a brick wall. Stifling debate is never healthy. By the end of our season, I found myself stifling yawns — if that’s not unduly critical of those who know more and better than we lowly supporters.

  10. Personally I believe debate and constructive criticism is healthy. I subscribe to the old adage it’s a game of opinions and unless someone can produce the SAFC Oracle I’m happy to give mine and respect the right of others to do likewise. What a dull place it would be if we all agreed and followed blindly like sheep.

  11. I am obviously one of those aforementioned supporters , showing blind and unrelenting faith , which makes me stupid and in need of psychological assessment . I won’t apologise for it either BB !
    But let me remind you , I posted many times last season , saying we would finish comfortably whilst yourself and many other doom-mongers , had us being relegated and not winning a game in the last 8 matches !!!

  12. The mantle of Sunderland supporter is generally inherited, some in certain areas switch to Newcastle and jump about depending on success, but most supporters in the area are diehard one way or the other and are as a matter of principles and DNA are unable to change. To watch other teams soar is frustrating and to see the likes of Chelsea and Man City purchase success strikes home and we are left wondering Why don’t we do that? To be a Sunderland supporter is like a marriage, we would have liked to marry some glamourous beauty, but it didn’t happen, you can’t remind your wife every day that she isn’t Sophia Loren it just wouldn’t work. Messi will never play for us and nor will many other great players but that doesn’t mean you have to tell an honest hard working player such as Bardsley or Joe Bolton he will never play for England and as such he is worthless. I now live in South Africa but each time I return to Blighty I fine the level of moaning has increased throughout the land. It seems moaning and unjust critism has become a way of life and is seen as a right. Quinn does his best as did Murray ( the chairman with the best league record for some time) but we make them feel worthless and sub standard because we didn’t win the league or whatever. We are striving to be as good as we can with the resources available but Geography has always been against us holding on to our home reared talent nigh on immpossible. Henderson, Venison, Todd all leaving while young, but we are now an established EPL team attempting to get to the next level and it is a giagantic leap and if it ever happens will take time and a huge amount of funds. Getbehind the team and give them a chance to achieve and be as good as they can be.

  13. Agree with Phil. Also understand BB a bit but take exception to:

    my old man a Sandancer by birth but a staunch Sunderland supporter always

    …not that you left out a d but the insinuation few people from the town support Sunderland. Attendances at SAFC would be significantly down without the support from Shields. When I grew up there all my mates supported the club. Your dad is not unusual. It used to be 70-30 Sunderland though that has changed a bit with the Keagan years – I have a scumbag cousin who switched.

  14. Opps, something messed up in my last paragraph there… there’s a bit missing in the middle. Too hasty with the “submit” button.

    Let me reword it…

    Many of the loudest critics during a match, when confronted by a fellow fan asking them to stop being critical and get behind the team, don’t seem to realise that those positive-thinkers do so not out of blindness or blinkeredness to the situation, as those people are just as able to see the faults of the team as the loudmouthed critics. The difference is that teh positivist is aware that negativity won’t ever make the players perform better, whereas a bit of self-belief can.


  15. One aspect of being a fan that you seem to have overlooked in your article is this…

    What gives a fan the right to criticise anything that goes on at their chosen club? Maybe “the right” isn’t the correct wording (and will no doubt get the heckles up of those fans that believe it is their divine right to be allowed to find faults in other people, but bear with me and I’ll try to explain further.

    How many of these fans that criticise the manger’s decisions (such as the “ineptness of substitutions” remark in the preceding comment) have any kind of formal training in football?
    A: Very few. Of those, very very few have done so in the Premiership, and yet they feel that they are experienced enough to criticise the decisions of managers who have been in the game their entire lives and have managed teams for years in the top tiers of the hardest league in the world.

    Notice, I’m not talking about those that “question” the decisions in a “can anyone explain to me why he did it like that?” way, but those who actually criticise in a “the manager is obviously inept, and I know better” way). I can only assume it’s a habit they’ve got from TV and radio commentators, who, let’s face it, don’t generally rate very highly on the IQ scale and generally haven’t any management experience (and in many cases playing experience) of their own.

    And how many of the people criticising the players’ performances are aware of the instructions the manager has given those players that particular day? The fans might like to see “Player A” making forward runs, but if the manager’s strategy for the day involves that player staying back in a deeper position, then the negative-thinkers in the crowd instantly assume that player is being lazy that day.

    My point is that we just don’t know. Not you, or I or anyone else that isn’t in the dressing room with them when they’re receiving their instructions, and this is just one of many types of situation in which fans can get the wrong end of the stick, and in those situations everyone has a choice – give them the benefit of the doubt and give them the support they need to perform, or option 2: assume the player is rubbish / lazy and shout out at them, either in the stands or on your blog, and then feel vindicated in your negativity when that same player fails to perform for the rest of the match / season.

    You criticise the “get behind the team” message that the more positive-thinking fans like to invoke, but it’s been a fair few years now since schoolteachers and parents have been instructed to encourage students/their children, because nowadays it is a well-known fact that the vast majority of people (of any age) perform better when they have more confidence in themselves, and this is transferrable to the football field as much is it is to every walk of life outside the US Marines.

    Many of the loudest critics during a match, when confronted by a fellow fan asking them to stop being critical and get behind the team, do so not out of blindness or blinkeredness, as those people are just as able to see the faults of the team as those loudmouthed critics. The difference is that the positivist is aware that negativity won’t ever make the players perform better, whereas a bit of self-belief can.


    Equally there are those supporters who are of the opinion that fans who rarely attend matches are not “proper” fans.

    We are each entitled to our opinions but without Salut and one or two other sites how can healthy debate be instigated, how can opinions to which we are each entitled be exchanged.

    How perhaps we should be asking ourselves can we be sure that the fans opinions reach the manager without knowing perhaps that he reads our views, other than if those opinions are expressed on the terraces.

    As ever in life there is a time and place for EVERYTHING and my old man a Sandancer by birth but a staunch Sunderland supporter always said that during the match flack and wit toward individual players are indeed picked up by the manager but you never boo the team or individuals during the match. It is the fans role to lift the team if they become disheartened or to greater heights if they are in the ascendancy. Hence the Roker Roar.

    As I Kid I used to grin at some of the jibes such as that’s not Gurney its Gurney’s Granny.

    Teams always know when they have let the fans down but just sometimes the manager needs to know just how dissatisfied we are when there has been either a lack of effort or mare particularly ineptitude in time of substitutions of player choice

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