How do you solve the problem of our fear?
(with no apologies to Julie Andrews)
I hate “The Sound of Music” and therefore loved the alternative lyrics dreamt up by “Cocky” – a 1970s Cornish (I think) comedy folk group whose lines included “How do you solve the problem of diarrhoea?” and “High on a hill lay a steaming goat turd”.
Somehow, those lyrics crept into my thoughts on trying to solve the enigma which is Sunderland, and our home form and consequent flat crowd atmosphere.
The present situation is at one and the same time both baffling and yet perfectly understandable. You have on the one hand a hugely passionate set of fans who are made up of the most generous people I have ever met. (I say this with no hint of self praise since I am not local, although my parents were). On the other hand you had a sizeable number of those same people booing our ten men from the pitch at the end of Saturday’s draw with Fulham.
Now, I am not about to say that the game was anything but grim to watch. However, I don’t see what is to be gained by booing the ten remaining players. In former times it was standard practice to give a standing ovation to “the ten men”. By all means boo Rodwell for his foolish behaviour but not the ones that had given us the chance to fight another day in the replay. Yes, I know, “freedom of speech”, “I’ve paid my money so I’m entitled to boo”, but just pause for a moment to consider the effect.
You have a bunch of players whose collective, if not individual, confidence is presently low. This can be evidenced by the high proportion of backward or sideways passing in our play. Players low on confidence are unlikely to attempt forward passes or dribbles, fearful of losing possession. If you then compound this by the noise of the collective “uugh” from the crowd if possession is lost and you soon have almost no-one prepared to take the risk of forward play. I have not named individuals because it is probably unnecessary and I do not wish to risk making things worse.
However, you can see the opposite effect in Seb Larsson. Little over a year ago he was struggling and the home crowd were “on his back”. Gus Poyet gave him not only a chance but clearly some boost to his confidence. The same crowd now give him nothing but positive support. This then leads to even better performances from him. So the evidence for positive support is clear.
Now, I am not saying that it is easy for fans to give total support all the time while watching some pretty dour displays, but what I would do is ask fans to consider the role they play during a game. You know that you love your club and would do “anything” for it. What you could do to improve your team’s chances of winning a game would cost you nothing. You have already paid for your ticket and any additional costs such as travel so your commitment is made and not in doubt. Now imagine how you would feel post match if we won. I know how you would feel, of course, and you can help it happen. How? Simply think what would motivate you if you were lucky enough to be on the pitch at the Stadium of Light playing for Sunderland? Forget money. You are so engrossed in the game that your brain is unable to focus on anything else but if you were straining every last muscle and sinew to outrun your opponent would it help if 40,000 people were roaring you on?
Now, unfortunately, you are not playing but you can make the difference for those that are playing. Don’t be a sheep and wait for someone else to cheer. Get there first!
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