Back To Basics:

Have we forgotten how to be supporters?

‘Something’s clearly not right.’

‘There’s tension, you can see it in their body language.’

‘They just didn’t look interested. Have they gone on strike?’

‘Something’s happening behind the scenes.’

I’m as guilty as the next person of over-analysis of the football psyche. The journalists and the pundits all do it. Now, it’s common place for supporters to proffer their amateur sports psychologist-speak as an answer to why their team aren’t playing well. I’m not knocking professional sports psychology. I think it has much to offer. But most of us haven’t studied sports psychology, so maybe we should get back to being supporters.

At Chelsea, our fans can probably be forgiven for going down the ‘something’s not right’ path every time our team has a bad run. We sometimes feel the club’s being run like a soap opera. Or a funfair. Roll up, roll up, all the fun of the managerial merry-go-round. It’s little wonder that when an ex-manager is spotted watching a game, the media go into overdrive. Chelsea have form in this respect. Our owner is infamous for pressing the ‘Sack’ button – sometimes a justifiable decision, at other times bafflingly so – at regular intervals. And, given the fiasco of two seasons ago when it did appear some players had stopped playing for Mourinho, we sort of expect it to happen again, and continually brace ourselves for the latest instalment.

I can’t help feel, though, that we supporters are feeding back into the perceived drama a bit too much. We tweet about every kick of the ball. We tweet about players as they come out of the tunnel. Do they look ‘up for it’? What was Cahill’s sniff of all about? Was it a sniff of contempt? Complacency? Clue: He could just have been suffering from a common cold. Or was it not a sniff, but a sneer? And then the tales get taller and taller.

Chinese whispers have always been a part of the beautiful game, but before the advent of social media, they were confined to print journalism and the two stalwarts chatting over a pint down the pub. One of them had a neighbour whose sister was tea-lady and she saw the manager and his centre forward have a brawl after the 4-0 drubbing. But contemporary football supporters are saturated with news, fake or real, any time of day or night that they care to peruse it.

It’s hard to get my head around the fact that in 2007 when Jose Mourinho was sacked in his first spell at Chelsea, I didn’t know till I heard the news on breakfast radio. No smart phones then, no Twitter to be perpetually connected to. Whilst things weren’t going so well early that season, the news was still a bit of a shock for those of us not party to The House Of Roman. In hindsight, I would probably have preferred a little forewarning. But I think it’s gone too much the other way since.

Being amateur sports psychologists, means we can’t have a single day where we don’t predict what’s going to happen, or fret about what already might be happening. Last summer, after winning the league but losing the FA Cup Final, the constant rumours spoilt the enjoyment of the season. I hardly had a day where I could revel in being being Champions of England. Conte had apparently had a rift with the board over frustration at the lack of signings. That may have been partly true, and given our current situation with injuries and a wafer-thin squad, it could prove to be our downfall during this campaign.

Of course we all want – and are perfectly entitled – to voice our opinions on these issues. But I feel we’ve reached saturation point. Our brains can’t cope with the constant stream of rumour on social media. I can’t count how many amateur sports psychologists, would-be journalists and budding football managers I have had to block on Twitter, as they spread their opinions and ‘analysis’ from their bedrooms in Zachoalia. Or Upper Piddlington.

I would love to read good old fashioned match analysis and a bit of a grumble.

Well, we got three points but we’re still not on form. Bit crap at times. Defence is looking wobbly, needs sorting. Anyway, UTC. Buzzing for Bournemouth mate!

I’m a bit weary of : You can tell he’s not happy, he went straight down the tunnel after waving to the fans. Clue: He could have been desperate for a slash.

Or: He was smirking. His head’s not right. Did you see the way he pouted just then? Yea, definitely gone in January. Clue: If we were filmed continually during a game, how many different facial expressions do you think we’d have? I have seen screen shots of myself during matches. At times when we’ve been winning comfortably, I’ve looked decidedly angry. At times when we’ve been losing, I’ve looked as happy as Larry. I must be plastic, then!

As I said, I am as guilty as anyone of over-analysing. But I’m trying to do less of it. I don’t have any control over what happens during games anyway, other than getting behind the team as much as possible. Like, when we’re losing or playing badly, urging the team on, rather than bad mouthing individual players. Players can, and often do, respond positively to crowd encouragement. Now that’s real sports psychology!

© Carol Ann Wood
Sunday 22 October 2017


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NOT Just Saying: Carol’s comments on feminism, fashion, food and folly
Only in Erinsborough Carol Ann’s fun look at the lives and loves of the characters from the Australian soapNeighbours


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