Television and social media have been midwives to the birth of a new generation of capricious supporter – a strange and intensely emotional meat sack who only deals in extremes.
These “fans” will openly abuse and denigrate their own players if they aren’t meeting their required standards on the pitch. Through a combination of terrace screams and hate filled internet campaigns they can make a player’s life hell.
If the roles are reversed and a player thinks their club isn’t meeting his own standards and he looks to leave to better himself, the abuse flows just as heavily, albeit from a slightly different, oblivious to irony kind of angle. He was never any good anyway.
The fans demand absolute loyalty – forever…….or at least until a player loses form, then it’s “sell the useless c*nt”.
The modern fan displays all the character traits you would expect to find in a celebrity stalker. There is an intense love so strong that it becomes dangerous when it’s unrequited.
I bet there are plenty of Liverpool fans crying and apologising to pieces of cut up Raheem Sterling photographs right now. I reckon they are all blubbering their way through the schizophrenic emotional range of the jilted lover too: “I hate you…no I don’t mean that…….why would you do this to me…….please stay……I never loved you anyway……..I love you……..I cut your name into my arm……..I never want to see you again…….etc etc”.
Ok, I might be going over the top a little. But let’s crack on…
Raheem Sterling wants to leave Liverpool and I don’t know what’s hurting their supporters more: the fact that one of their best players wants to leave, or the fact that their best players don’t see Liverpool as a club that can achieve regular success.
True to the form of the modern football fan (the ones flung from the vagina of a giant be-tittied smartphone), many Liverpool supporters will tell you how “over rated” Sterling is. But if Sterling changed his mind tomorrow and signed a new deal at Anfield, I suspect his stock might rise again.
I don’t want this to come across as me solely picking on Liverpool fans (fun as that is); they are just the most recent and relevant example of a common behaviour. Fans tend to hold players to the same standards of club loyalty that they hold themselves. If you play for their team, then you should count your blessings every minute of every day. But not everyone is going to feel the way you do. Not everyone is going to be like Steven Gerrard or Ryan Giggs. Not everyone is going to think your missus is gorgeous either – sorry to disappoint you. Some people will think she is a munter.
The timing of this whole thing heaps on the misery for an already depressed fanbase and maybe Sterling is the unwitting emotional punch bag: forced to absorb the fan’s frustration at losing Luis Suarez, of a last ditch title challenge collapse and seeing an all time great heading for the exit door without the kind of trophy laden send-off he deserved – all of which has happened in what has been a nightmarish year for Liverpool fans.
Some Pool fans will say it’s all about money, but by all accounts Sterling is quite a down to earth guy, remarkably un-flash for a player of his reputation and potential. It would be fair to say he has been badly advised and that situations like these need to be played out in private as much as possible, but Liverpool have had a hand in creating the public circus Sterling’s future has become.
If Liverpool supporters were to take a step back, they would see that a young footballer, from London, feels that the time is right to move to a club who have a more realistic chance to match his own ambitions. That’s not to say Liverpool are unambitious, but the aspirations of the club and the fans have to be tempered with realism in certain situations.
Football can be cutthroat and cruel. The star of today can quickly become tomorrow’s punch line. If Sterling feels like this is his chance to make the leap to club football’s highest level, then he should take it.
Liverpool are still a terrific club, but they haven’t won a domestic title in well over 20 years. And despite the miraculous near miss of last season, it is hard to see them winning the Premier League in the near or even distant future.
The best players will always want more. Suarez wanted more and now Sterling does too. And while Raheem will be the target for the frustration and anger of supporters, it’s Liverpool’s deteriorating standing in world football that is its underlying cause.