There’s a great scene in an old episode of Sky’s wretched footie soap “Dream Team” in which one of Harchester United’s soon-to-be WAG-humping pretty boys dogs it during training because Saturday’s match “is only against Charlton”.
“YOU WILL SHOW ALAN CURBISHLEY PROPER RESPECT!” bellowed a deeply offended Ian Dowie-type, whom would probably have gone totally apeshit had he witnessed scenes at Upton Park Wednesday night, in which Curbs’ West Ham had a tough time with Macclesfield in a Worthless Cup early-rounder. Observing home supporters tear into their manager, the Guardian’s Rob Smyth surmises, “he is everything West Ham fans aren’t – undemonstrative, equable, impassive – and, as with Sam Allardyce at Newcastle, they never warmed to him from the start.”
As well as being obviously counter-productive, booing your own team shows an utter lack of class and cool. But this mob rule is increasingly prevalent in football and, while the Proper Fan tries to blame it on the admittedly lamentable post-Italia 90 brigade of supporter, it is clearly not as simple as that. Let he who has never tasted a prawn sandwich cast the first stone.
That Curbishley is under such pressure is a reflection of a game that has lost all perspective. Curbishley, after all, is a man who has won two of his three games this season (and whose side were drawing 0-0 when they were reduced to 10 men), having finished in the top half last season. In short, he has done OK: 6/10 maybe. Factor in an injury list that verges on the macabre and a significant reduction in the funding promised when he took over and it’s nearer 7/10.
In the past you had to be on the useless side of mediocre to get the sack. English people laughed at how those crazy Italians turned over managers like a lothario does partners. You can get sacked – sorry, you can agree to leave by mutual consent – for anything these days. On occasion it can be justified, if there is an upgrade as obvious as Juande Ramos for Martin Jol or a manager as palpably out of his element as Sammy Lee, but for the most part it is the product of English football’s increasingly ruinous obsession with the grass on the other side.