FANS eh – where would foot- ball be without them? Well, a damn sight better off in some cases. That’s flippant, of course. Without the punters, the game would collapse. Chelsea and Man City might plod on but, with nobody to play, how long would they last?
Whether your chairman likes it or not, fans really are the lifeblood of the game. But that doesn’t mean you should pay them any attention. Take, for instance, Wolverhampton Wanderers and the hideous mess they became circa 2013.
Wolves supporters are numerous, passionate and friendly. They are also some of the most loyal in the country. But in drumming Mick McCarthy out of the club in February 2012, a vocal minority pressured the owners into a suicidal decision.
When McCarthy took over in 2006, he inherited just ten players and was handed a transfer budget of £1m. Two years later, they were in the Premier League. Three years after that, he had kept them up twice.
For a club of Wolves’ limited resources, it was a remarkable achievement, way above par for the course. But with another relegation battle looming, the boos started to rain down.
“I almost think some turn up hoping it is going to be that way so they can have their whinge and get shot of the manager,” said McCarthy at the time.
“They are not going to get shot of the chairman or the players, so it’s a case of, ‘Let’s give it to the gaffer’. He finally bit the dust after a rancorous 5-1 defeat to West Brom, starting a spiral of destruction that saw Wolves come to rest in League One.
Would they have ended up there with McCarthy at the helm? No chance. Like Charlton, Wolves are an object lesson in being careful what you wish for. In 2006, Addicks chairman Richard Murray told Alan Curbishley to ‘sign a new contract or leave’.
His belligerence was fuelled in no small part by – once again – a minority of fans who had bombarded messageboards and phone-ins with negativity. It was the usual ill-informed bluster.
Charlton should be pushing for Europe. The football was an eyesore. And that perennial favourite, Curbishley had “taken the club as far as he can”. They, too, ended up in League One.
Fans are entitled to vent their anger and frustration. They are entitled to an opinion. But when experienced businessmen place it above their own judgement, the consequences are usually disastrous.
As Wolves celebrate promotion back to the Championship under the fabulous stewardship of Kenny Jackett we may hope the lesson has been heeded.
Yet as Charlton contemplate relegation from the Championship after sacking club stalwart Chris Powell, we should probably accept that it hasn’t.