Chris Lakey: West Ham FA Cup farce proves fans have been left behind
- Credit: PA
As West ham stumbled to ignominious defeat number one of the last week – thrashed 5-0 at Nottingham Forest – the TV cameras managed to take their lens off the utter debacle in front of them and focus on the supporters.
Amidst the anger and the disbelief, they picked out a young lad, who was crying. It was difficult not to feel for him; anyone who has supported a football team will have gone through the very same emotions at one time or another.
It was, perhaps, the perfect picture to put in front of Sam Allardyce (pictured) and any other manager who feels it is right to send out a team knowing it is not the strongest available and, therefore, was prejudicing the chances of a victory.
The growing trend to 'field a weakened team' in order to preserve the more serious objective of garnering league points has become over-used and disguises what football clubs are all about. It has somehow gone into lore that managers are able to actually have less than 100pc commitment to the core target achievement, which is winning.
It is a tactic borne out of greed and an ignorance of the framework of our national game.
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Those who allow such deception are cheating supporters out of good money.
Football clubs are there to serve the supporters. Without fans, they would be nothing: empty grounds, no atmosphere, no sponsorship, no Murdoch money, no shirts sales, no free publicity.
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Yet still they treat us like fools.
Those who do not go into every game with the express intent of winning are not looking after the customer first; they are looking after themselves and the fans become an after-thought. How on earth has our game evolved into something where customers/fans can be overlooked?
Don't get me wrong, I understand the reasoning behind Allardyce's and any other manager's prioritising. What worries me is the evolution of the practice. It appears to have historical mitigation.
A few days after their FA Cup exit, West Ham went to Manchester City and were thumped 6-0 in the semi-final first leg of the Capital One Cup. They put up the most feeble of efforts. Did the previous weekend's attitude play a part? If you play for a man who is prepared to, essentially, give up a game, then what would his attitude be in going to the best team in the land? Damage limitation rather than any ambition? Give the fans some respect.
A friend of mine used to say 'you can't put brains in pumpkins'. Curiously, it was way before the footballer Chris Smalling arrived on the scene.
The Manchester United defender dressed up as a suicide bomber for a fancy dress party. His costume consisted of empty bottles of Jagermeister and cans of Red Bull strapped to his chest – something to do with the Jagerbomb drink.
How utterly stupid.
Lob a few beers down your neck and you might find it amusing, until someone who has been affected by violence of any sort taps you on your shoulder and reminds you of how unfunny it all is.
I don't expect footballers to be any more or any less angelic than the rest of society – are they not just normal people? Smalling did apologise, but through his management company, which wasn't particularly sensitive or sincere either.