Booing a substitution is like watching X Factor – it kind of makes you a moron, says Andrew Lawn. But is letting out a massive boo worse than getting up and leaving a match early? There's only one way to find out...
Sixty-nine minutes into one of the best defensive performances by a Norwich team I have witnessed at Carrow Road, Alex Neil made a substitution. His decision was to replace our lone striker Cameron Jerome, who had thanklessly run his bollocks off, with a like-for-like but, crucially, fresh replacement: Dieumerci Mbokani.
I imagine, because you are able to turn on a computer and read words with more than two syllables, your reaction to that is something along the lines of: “well that makes sense, what is your point?”
You will no doubt be surprised to learn that not everyone saw fit to react in such a sensible manner. Instead, as the clearly exhausted Jerome made his way off, perhaps expecting a little applause for his efforts, some people booed.
Imagine that. The team you want to win are very obviously (and wisely) set-up to frustrate a team with the technical quality to pass the ball through teams in the blink of an eye. They are performing this difficult task brilliantly, holding Swansea at arm’s length, and forcing them to tire themselves out as their little arms/passes swing aimlessly back and forth. The game is two-thirds over and while Swansea rack up hundreds of passes across their back four, into Jonjo Shelvey and back along their back four, we look the far more likely to win the game.
We have judiciously sat in, nicked the ball high up the pitch on a few occasions and created at least one clear-cut chance (the Jerome header) and three or four half-chances. All it will take to wrap a win up at this stage is one timely boot to the balls, yet people are booing.
Two minutes later, having used his fresh legs to help us win a corner, the lively sub loses his man, nods an intelligent header back across goal (rather than wildly over the bar, but I digress) into the waiting path of a lurking colleague to open the scoring. Balls booted (or at least headbutted).
That’s worth repeating: two minutes after a substitution that some people booed, that same substitute had assisted a goal that all but clinched the three points – while ensuring we still had five midfielders holding Swansea’s little head and watching their tiny arms aimlessly flail. Do you still want two up front Mr and Mrs Boo?
I’d go as far as to say that if you couldn’t see that the set-up Neil had us playing – which he then protected by replacing like-for-like – meant that Swansea didn’t look like scoring if they had five games, let alone the 20 minutes that remained, you should choose another sport to follow. I’d suggest not chess.
In the same weekend the adorable Jürgen Klopp admitted that the effect of Liverpool fans streaming out of Anfield after Scott Dann’s 82nd minute header put Palace 2-1 ahead, and thereby deserting their team in their moment of need, left him “feeling alone”.
Klopp’s comments led to my former Crystal Palace physio friend Paul (he rather presciently suggested Lewis Grabban wasn't going to be troubling Mensa when Norwich signed him) asking me which I thought was a more embarrassing indictment of English ‘fan’ culture: booing an obvious substitution (and risking demotivating a player who has just ran himself into the ground, not to mention the player tasked with replacing him), or leaving with 10 minutes to go when your team are in need of a lift?
Sometimes leaving a game a few minutes early is unavoidable, although “to miss the traffic” is a woeful excuse. Where else would you pay through the nose for 90 minutes of entertainment only to miss the climax in favour of getting home 10 minutes earlier than you otherwise would have? Do these people put books down with a chapter to go so they can get it back to the library early?
I struggled to answer Paul’s teaser, thinking it of a similar question to “which would you rather watch: Strictly Come Dancing or X Factor?” It’s a false dichotomy. Neither is good and while sometimes both are unavoidable, choosing to do either highlights some very serious character flaws.
The reply to anything like this is always: “people pay good money to go, so they are free to express their opinion”. This is bollocks. Money doesn’t, or at least shouldn’t, buy you carte blanche to be a moron.
I suppose the point of all this is that as supporters, we should be supportive. The clue is in the name. Sure, sometimes booing (Burnley at home under Nigel Worthington or Bury away under Glenn Roeder for example) or even watching X Factor is unavoidable, but that doesn’t make it right and it certainly doesn’t mean you should do it every week.
While we all fancy ourselves as manager, how about the next time Neil makes a decision we don't like or understand, we take half a second to think "maybe he's done that for a reason, maybe he even knows something I don't, maybe he even has a plan"? Maybe that’s better than turning on a man whose shoulders all our hopes rest upon.