It’s been quite an interesting 24 hours for Imps fans, coming home from the game yesterday I thought there might be some fall out, but that would be understating it somewhat.
I do my best to avoid social media immediately after a game these days, for a couple of reasons. I tend to reply before I think, certainly if I see something deliberately provocative. There’s an awful lot of people who take great delight in ‘fishing’ for ‘bites’, basically saying incredibly dumb stuff and then pretending they didn’t mean it when someone argues back. It’s a pastime of sorts, but one I’m not keen to become embroiled in.
There’s also some genuine opinion which I don’t agree with and given that I’ve been out all day on a Saturday and then come home and done an article, the last thing I want to do is spend the rest of my evening debating the same point over and over. Last night I settled down to watch Kingsmen – Golden Circle and hoped to go to bed without too much incident. I briefly opened up Facebook to see what was being said, it is fair to say I was horrified.
It seems as though the entire social media spectrum was being used for arguing over our 2-2 draw. I saw Alan Long being torn apart, I saw some incredibly offensive posts which, because they were labelled as ‘banter’, were apparently acceptable. I know some of the admins on these sites had a tough time trying to police an ever-increasing whirlwind of abusive posts and contrasting arguments. Nobody will concede their arguments are flawed, from either side. Once again, an Imps draw sees gaping chasms open up between fans.
The obvious talking point was the two goals we conceded, both of which have been either a: laid at the feet of a so-called inept keeper who is out of his depth or b: are the result of team failings causing said keeper, an Imps legend, to become a scapegoat.
At the time, I saw the first goal from the other end of the pitch and completely missed the second. I defended Farms because I don’t ever believe picking a scapegoat is the right thing to do, not during a game at least. Posts from individuals saying he should be taken off and never play for the club again were, frankly, ridiculous. However, I also believe that simply being long-serving and part of last season’s side should not grant you complete immunity from scrutiny. There’s a balance there though, a middle ground which it seems hard for people to occupy. Of course, if the goals were the keeper’s fault then that must be a point we can discuss, but we must always do it respectfully. You see, being part of last season’s side may not grant you that immunity from criticism, but it should grant you a level of respect that some fans did not afford him last night.
I’ve now watched both goals and I’m happy for people to shout me down for my opinions although if you do so, I’ll just ignore you. Debate? Yes. Anger, vitriol and stupidity? I’ll be reaching for the ‘block’ button.
I’m not convinced the first goal is a keeper’s error alone, in fact I’m not even attributing 50% of blame at Farman’s door. I’ve seen Swindon move from their own defence to a shooting position just outside the eighteen yard box in one pass and three seconds. We were meant to be playing three in midfield, yet Ollie Banks has fired a looping shot at goal unchallenged. I believe Paul Farman has pulled off a decent save, not because I like him or because I want to protect him, because that is what I see when I watch the video. It’s curling, looping and I believe he does well to parry it away. Then, their centre forward reacts quicker than two of our players and slots the ball home. If you’re playing FIFA, immediately after the goal goes in Martin Tyler will say something like “the defence have let their keeper down there.”
I’ve posted it, please, watch it again. 45 to 56 seconds, watch the spin on the ball as it flies towards goal. Anyone who has played in goal knows the first thing a keeper must do is save the shot, try to parry it from danger. Catching it is not the priority, stopping it going in is the sole purpose of a keeper being there. The way the ball loops over the back four makes it hard to do anything with, other than parry it away. In my opinion, Paul Farman is not to blame for that goal, just as he wasn’t to blame Tuesday evening for a virtual carbon copy. Once he has parried a shot, a centre forward should not be reacting quickest in the eighteen yard area.
As for the second, they take out our entire three-man midfield with two passes. Firstly Alex and Bozzie are chasing the same ball and both get caught flat. The run Ollie Banks makes isn’t tracked, he comes from behind Freck and leaves him chasing shadows. The referee doesn’t help be impeding Freck, but Banks then has three touches, moving closer to the penalty area with each one. The two centre halves both back off and let him come at them. Six weeks ago, Raggs comes forward to win the challenge whilst Luke mops up, but Wilson and Waterfall don’t know each other’s game yet. Personally I thought perhaps Luke should have stepped forward, but in truth the shot shouldn’t have come in at all.
Yes, when it does Paul Farman deals with it badly. That is the mark of a keeper who is low on confidence. I can’t think why he would be, not after he was abused at Barnet for their goal (not his fault), or against Newport on Tuesday (not his fault). Why on earth would he be edgy and nervous when every goal we concede he is blamed for, but any saves he makes are ignored? All of those fans calling him out last night, not one of them praised him for his world-class save with the scores 0-0 against Peterborough, or his fantastic reactionary double save in the last seconds of the Accrington win. I suppose when he does well it doesn’t make a good anger-filled post does it? After all, we need a scapegoat, do we not?
I try not to be too critical of players when I feel they don’t deserve it. I wasn’t critical of Tom Champion because he received some very poor treatment when he first arrived. I firmly believe his spell here didn’t work out because he lost confidence after the first match and that was that. We drew 0-0 with Solihull Moors after winning three on the bounce and everyone blamed Tom Champion. from there he couldn’t do anything right and his spell went down the pan.
What some fans seem to forget is the players are only human and what they say affects them. Perhaps players shouldn’t be on the ‘banter’ sites, most aren’t, but what is banter anyway? Is it just a name for an allowed form of bullying? Is it just a label we give to a form of abuse that makes it okay? I once had a chat with a teacher friend of mine, one you might know actually, and he told me the pupils at his school would say the most awful things to each other, but when he pulled them up on it they’d go “it was just banter sir.” We didn’t have banter in my day, we had bullies and arseholes. Whatever ‘banter’ is, my understanding is that it is a two-way thing. You call your mate a nob, he posts pictures of you in bed with another man, that sort of stuff. Two-way abuse in which both parties enter willingly. In my mind, abusing a player on an internet page he doesn’t see and calling it ‘banter’ isn’t banter at all. It is actually quite cowardly.
I believe you should have the right to express an opinion and I firmly believe that simply having been here and achieved promotion shouldn’t entirely exclude you from negative comments. Football is a sport of opinion and judgement. As fans we support the club and therefore earn the right to have our say. However, those players give blood, sweat and tears for this club. Last season they gave us memories that won’t just last our lifetime, but will be written about and remembered for years after we’re gone. That man some of you were so mercilessly hammering in the ground and on social media, the keeper whose fault you thought the goals were, he got man of the match at the Emirates Stadium less than 12 months ago. We cheered him off, YOU cheered him off. This wasn’t against Solihull Moors or Boreham Wood, it was Arsenal and that came after Brighton, Burnley, Ipswich and Oldham, none of which are non-league clubs. Apparently he is (and I quote) ‘not good enough’ for League Two, but he won man of the match in a game that also featured Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil and Matt Rhead. That doesn’t exclude him from criticism, but my opinion is it earns him respect, something he was ill-afforded during last night’s feeding frenzy. He’ll be the first to hold his hands up and confess he could have done better with the second goal, of that I have no doubt.
Last season we replaced Paul Farman for a crucial semi-final match and we lost 2-1. Ross Etheridge, in my opinion, was to blame for one of those goals, if not both. Those goals cost us our first ever trip to Wembley, conceded by a loan keeper who was unfamiliar with our defence. In 2011, loan goal keepers conspired to see us relegated, one because his club recalled him and the other because he was simply not good enough. The truth is, looking back over the last decade, I can only think of one loan keeper who came in and did not let us down, who made such an impact that we were delighted when he signed permanently. Now, over 200 appearances later, that same keeper is suffering a crisis of confidence, brought on partly because whenever he concedes a goal, the remainder of the game he has to endure ironic cheers and ‘banter’ from his own supporters. Paul Farman isn’t a bad keeper but if some of our own ‘fans’ keep treating him like a pariah whenever the opposition score, he’s never going to regain his confidence.
Think before you type and post, please.