I wrote an article just the other day about my growing concerns about the increasing amount of foulmouthed abuse that the team and individual players and indeed the Brentford management are increasingly being subjected to both at matches as well as on social media.
It is a subject that I feel extremely strongly about as I fully support the right of all people to express their opinion but only if it is done in a reasonable manner, and I think that most sane and sensible people fully understand and realise when the line between acceptable and unacceptable behaviour has been crossed.
I also fully accept that football is a passionate game that stirs the emotions and fans can quite easily lose momentary control in the heat of the moment particularly when, as is the case at the moment, the team is neither playing well nor winning games.
Frustration, fear, confusion, disappointment and anger are an intoxicating brew indeed and can well lead to behaviour that in the cold light of day would be deemed well out of character.
That though is not to excuse it and some of the aggression and comments that I have either witnessed or read recently are, in my opinion, totally beyond the pale and serve only to further break the crucial bond between the team and the fans, and indeed create divisions between different factions of supporter at a time when we all desperately need to be pulling together.
The time for inquests is surely at the end of the season, or when our fate is finally sealed, and not now at a key point in the season when we need to be united and act in concert to support the team unconditionally and do whatever we can to help ensure that we get over the line unscathed by obtaining the points required to ensure our Championship survival.
I was not sure what reaction my initial comments would receive and whether I would simply be seen as out of touch and a dinosaur but the article seems to have touched a cord amongst many Brentford supporters, young and old who all contributed their views on this difficult and emotive subject.
Edward Coleman also had an upsetting experience at Loftus Road last Saturday:
I was sitting in the lower stand with my fifteen year old daughter and was appalled. When I have been at previous way games it has been noisy but with an element of humour. This was just nasty. It was reminiscent of an English Defence League rally (I am not saying this flippantly as I was caught up in one several years ago.)
I live in South Ealing where Fulham and QPR fans are mixed in with Bees and I do not hate my neighbours. Whilst I am a newish fan (I got back into football because my daughter is football mad) I am not some sort of prude. I have worked in nightshelters and used to work in adult mental health. We sit at home in Braemar Road because both of us enjoy the adult repartee. I met another local fan who was at the match with her daughter and she also found it very frightening.
Steve was far more succinct and forthright in his comments:
Well said Greville. Keep this blog as a beacon of sense as elsewhere there is madness.
Regarding the insults, seeing men in their forties screaming abuse at teenagers playing football does make me wince. How do they think it is either acceptable or likely to help the players?
More of the same from Lew:
You’ve touched upon something that’s been aggravating me for a while but I’ve not fully been able to vocalise it. As a group we’ve been split into two rough groups for ages: keep the faith or go back to how things were, we’ve stopped getting behind the team and started looking for excuses. But that lack of unity in the stands is just as important a factor as the lack of consistency on the pitch. It would be excellent if everybody modified their opinions and just cheered as one on Saturday.
Wise words indeed and I totally endorse his analysis of the situation.
Simon Pitt took a different stance:
Last season we finished fifth and were told by Matthew Benham that the club needs to be taken in a different direction to make us more competitive with big clubs with more resources in the championship. Finishing fifth to me suggest we are going in the right direction and so (if it ain’t broke don’t fix it) why the need for change? If we finished in the bottom half or survived a relegation battle then fair enough.Every player and athletes in general thrive to reach the top of their sport and those players of last season must have known how close they were to achieving their goal of playing in the Premier League.
Matthew Benham’s vision should have been put on hold and encouraged the players and manager to give us one more year. I fully respect Matthew Benham and understand his philosophy, but he got the timing wrong. Mark Warburton obviously had huge respect from the players and I’m sure that if he had stayed so too would have the players. A couple more signings and I’m sure we could have done it this year. This is why the fans are so angry, frustrated and mystified as to what has been going on and so normal placid fans are making there feelings known.
When I asked Simon if he felt that the manner and way in which disappointed and disgruntled supporters are currently making their views known is acceptable and if he agreed that it was just making things far worse rather than helping as the extreme negativity being expressed so unpleasantly is driving us all further apart and polarising us rather than bringing us all together, he replied:
No I don’t think it’s acceptable but it goes on at most grounds up and down the country and will never change and there is very little that can be done about it. If people are offended then stop going and choose a different sport to follow.
I understand his frustration but cannot accept that the end justifies the means and that we should simply ignore the problem, put our head in the sand or simply stop attending matches and let the idiots win.
Rob shared my view:
Greville, great blog as always and I totally agree one hundred percent. Although we qualified for tickets quite early in the process we as a family passed up on the QPR game. My eleven year old hates football at the best of times but surrounded by a Bees mad Father, Mother and elder brother he has to put up with it. However various away games this season (and last) really have put him off away games. The vile verbal abuse seems the best we can resort to rather than creative singing and chanting to try and raise the team.
I recently attended the Brighton versus Sheffield Wednesday game, midweek, rubbish weather and to be honest very poor football. But over fifteen hundred Wednesday fans, no matter how poorly they were playing, not only stood as one throughout, but sang their hearts out in encouragement – even when the simplest and most basics of mistakes were being made by their team. Compare that, and I do understand we are at the other end of the table, to the abuse dished out not just at away but also home game to individuals in our team.
For thirty-nine years I have watched good and bad performances and players (more bad than good I’m afraid) but never feel it is either our right, nor correct that players should be abused or booed. The trouble it would seem is with the relative success over the last few years or so, those thirteen to fifteen year olds who started with their fathers as supporters are now sixteen to eighteen year olds who believe in a culture where they feel through social media it is their right to verbally abuse and insult not just the players, but management, coaches and owners.
They spout off regarding team selections, who should be sold and who should be sacked all in the strongest terms and yet then in the next sentence complain how tough their A-Level homework is! They have no experience of life and yet feel they know all there is to know about running a football club (and much more!) and engage their brains without any due consideration to the impact of where they are saying.
The next best thing in their mind is launch into vile, personal and disgusting abuse. Those older should know better, but they are role models for those younger who without any consideration to their actions don’t really care about much else than themselves.
It is not my intention to point the finger at all within their age bracket, but the same bunch that demand immediate gratification and believe it is our God given right to win promotion season after season are the same ones who sometimes make me ashamed to be a Bees fan.
John Hirdle has also seen and heard more than enough:
An excellent article as ever and something that i think has been waiting to be said by somebody for a while now. It is the way of the world these days though and sadly I don’t see it changing any time soon. I am old school like yourself and do find some of the vitriolic stuff rather distasteful I must say. We are all frustrated and angry at what has happened over the last year and our current spectacular nosedive. None of us, including myself, are exempt from letting our frustrations boil over from time to time, but there is a fine line between momentary passion-led shows of disappointment and personal targeted vile abuse which gets us all nowhere.
I used to love standing amongst the younger lads at away games and having a good sing song. But in recent seasons I must say I deliberately make sure I book seats well clear of the back of the stands and most of the smoke bomb idiots. It was the main reason I chose the Upper Tier at Loftus Road on Saturday as I knew I would be amongst more reasoned people.
I don’t by any means label all of our younger lads with the same tag as I personally know many and they are good guys, and indeed some of my own generation and older are just as culpable of foulmouthed and offensive behaviour. Maybe it is just bigger crowds brought about by the success of recent seasons and you notice it more, but I, like you, have become more aware of the less than savoury minority element of support we now have both at games and across social media. Or maybe I am just getting old?
Rebel Bee was characteristically hard hitting and forceful in his comments:
Some of the stuff that went on on Saturday really wasn’t good and it is completely right and fair to raise it in your fine blog. But with huge respect to you and other posters I am going to try to offer some mitigation and push back a touch. Rangers fans were dishing it out to us all day and it wound a few Bees up before and during the game – getting spanked by them brings out the worst in people, and I too had to walk out before the end to avoid losing the plot. Is it right – no, but we are watching football not rugby – football people and its culture is different – warts and all.
As to aggression between Bees fans, I’ve seen this a few times and it is sad to see, trust me it is coming from both sides of the argument over the club’s deteriorating fortunes. People have invested in our big new ambitions massively, many are confused, anxious and angry at the way this season has been conducted.
By the way this part of a far wider football issue than you may think, I’ve heard of Arsenal fans turning on each other recently – and the same at many other clubs. We invest more than ever in support of our team and I don’t just mean in monetary terms.
You reference Rotherham – sure, but they are as mean and hostile a bunch of fans as you’ll find on their day, this has been lacking at Griffin Park this season because we don’t have a unified cause or purpose and aren’t pulling together – but they are not a group of librarians – trust me.
Where I strongly agree is the use / misuse of social media. It is easy to be really offensive when you are anonymous or don’t face your victim. It is a societal problem though, often football fans get blamed for things that go on and are worse in wider society – it’s always been that way since I’ve been around. We all used to go to the pub to let off steam and say what we needed to say in a confined space. Now people jump on to Twitter and most regret if afterwards.
Whilst it may not be ideal, football fans come from all backgrounds and types of upbringing, some are more articulate than others. It doesn’t mean that really bad behaviour should be blindly tolerated, but it should also not be forgotten that it has always been the game of the working class. Fan culture and tribalism are aspects of all that we love, some times it boils over and is ugly.
Finally there is a risk that we allow the narrative to shift over our club’s failings this season, and move the root cause so that it becomes the fans’ fault for being so negative. I see this happening already, those that have backed all the big decisions said we’d be fine, and they aren’t so sure now, fair enough but please let’s not put this on our brilliant fans – regardless of their point of view on the big topics. Football fans are always such an easy target.
Saturday was a bad day all round – we move on and hopefully can pull together to get the wins we need to all be able to leave this season behind us – united again.
Red Rose Bee blames matters on the new batch of so-called supporters:
Empty vessels make the most noise and drunken empty vessels desperate to impress their equally empty-headed mates make a great deal of noise. One of the problems of our great success of the past five years is that we have attracted some idiots who have jumped onto the band wagon and who lack the intelligence and maturity to realise that supporting a team like Brentford will inevitably have more downs than ups.
I never saw these characters at places like Scunthorpe, Rochdale, Macclesfield and Morecambe in the very recent past.The only bright side to our present plight and possible relegation is that they will take themselves elsewhere and go and pollute a different club.
Spanish Bee agrees with him:
I think Rebel Bee is making a very valid point here. There is no justification for the behaviour you criticise and from a practical point of view, it doesn’t help the team, so it is self-defeating or to put it another way just stupid. However, changing everything so radically when we had had our most successful season for decades was a very risky thing to do and it has not turned out well. Without going into details, Brentford Football Club has significantly raised expectations and then has fallen very short. We should not blame the fans for this.
Lawrence Bending also puts the blame on raised expectations and the presence of glory hunters:
The sort of bilious hatred on view by some supporters leaves a sour taste regardless of the outcome of the match. I first watched the Bees regularly in 1967 so QPR will never be favourites of mine – but funnily enough – their fans and players are just other human beings. The atmosphere has changed recently due to our relative success, and probably huge disappointment at seemingly throwing this away, has contributed I believe to most of these excesses – it is ironic that if God forbid we are relegated it will largely disappear. For goodness sake lets pull together and concentrate on supporting the team and not abusing the opposition.
beesyellow22 tried to take a balanced view:
I’m sure we would all like for us to beat Blackburn and come together as supporters and a club. Unfortunately I don’t think it will be as easy as that. Yes, a win on Saturday will help, but until survival is guaranteed and there is something positive to look towards next season I think that many will continue to share the philosophy of Simon Pitt (one I don’t completely disagree with myself) and question where the club is actually going and why Matthew was so happy to dispense with the services of our greatest manager in the modern era.
Of course it does not excuse the kind of behaviour that Greville is talking about – but at the same time there is an enormous amount of frustration amongst supporters, surely borne out of a perception that so much of what we have witnessed this season has been self-inflicted.
Yes, it is up to the fans to continue to get behind the team and the manager – but it is also up to the powers that be to give the fans a reason to keep believing. Is blind faith the answer? Sometimes – particularly when you love your club. However, blind faith after ten defeats out of the last thirteen games is a hard thing to muster.
Jim Levack is also fed up with the behaviour he has witnessed:
I totally agree with Greville’s take on the unfortunate civil war that seems to be enveloping the club and its supporters.
I have had, at times, quite heated disagreements with some close Brentford supporting friends since Mark Warburton left the club so I know how easy it is to become embroiled in an exchange of views.
The common theme among these rows is passion, we are all passionate about our club and passionate about how we feel the current slide can be arrested.
Last week against Charlton I watched one player – I think it was Sergi Canos – chase a lost cause. He didn’t win the ball but was roundly applauded. If Brentford fans see total effort they respond. if they don’t they won’t.
We want the people running the club to be as passionate as we are, but currently the lack of action in strengthening the squad gives the impression – most likely a false one – that they don’t share our passion. To my mind they have forty-eight hours to allay fears by bringing in at least two loan players to freshen things up and give Dean Smith a fighting chance of putting his mark on the side. If they don’t their actions could be considered as bordering on negligent.
Whatever happens though, in-fighting – however satisfying it might be in the short term – will do more harm than good to our chances of staying up.
Bernard Quackenbush made a pithy comment:
One of the things I hate about the modern game is this practice of abusing others quite mindlessly and then excusing it by referring to it as banter.
Finally, Garry Smith gave his measured view from afar:
I have been moved to contribute by the current situation and the very raw tones of all your contributors of late (dare I say many of them in panic at the potential loss of a league status that all but the most recent of supporter recruits have yearned for, for a long peiod of time.)
I will re-iterate my previous assertion that whilst used by many generations, social media is the younger person’s preferred (if not only) avenue of communication and that a fair amount of these critics are the very same recently attracted supporters that only know the successful Brentford, we need these young blood supporters as they are the future, but we must understand they are trying to compete with their peers who support Premier League teams who they can support via television and the internet and therefore these supporters are far more frustrated with their first period of hardship than us who have seen it all before.
I am not sure what the driving force behind the older generation of critics is, maybe they have always been critics (and maybe always had poor performances as a reason to be) or maybe they too are recent recruits. Maybe the in-fighting is an attempt by the hardened critics (who are really loyal supporters) not liking the attitude of recent critics, I don’t get it anyway, because a supporter is allowed to moan but should never be in a big enough minority to actually affect everybody else!
Here is the nub of why I wanted to contribute again, I am sure that a conscious decision was made by senior management (once the Marinus experiment failed) to bring in a proven English style manager (who likes to play a passing game) with a view of building for next season, it was felt that enough points (no small thanks to Lee Carsley) and enough good players had been accumulated for us to survive and at the same time gain premium prices for players we were never going to find it easy to hold onto, so we could hoard our resources for a real go again next season.
I have always been fully behind this approach, this is the first time we have been in the second flight for two successive seasons in all my fifty-three years of supporting and I KNOW we have Matthew Benham to thank for this, I am sure recent supporter recruits will not fully understand this for the reasons given above.
Unfortunately it has probably been underestimated how quickly and vehemently the fans would turn on senior management, coaches and players. This is contributing to an undermining of confidence in players and coaches alike, which cannot fail to translate itself onto the pitch. Yes I know our current squad has nowhere near as much skill and quality as last season, but I am sure they are a lot better than they are appearing at present.
This is where I would like to make my big plea, please can all supporters reading this, or being influenced by fans reading this, realise we will be in serious trouble if we do not all pull together very soon. I will harp back to Martin Allen again, whose contribution I will never forget, One man pulled everybody together by being positive. We can only pull this around by being together – the negativity, in-fighting, criticism of players, coaching Staff and management, can only harm our chance of remaining in this division until we restrengthen our squad.
Please, please, all pull together and encourage the players, staff and each other, even (or maybe especially) when we don’t always do things well, this is real and it is now. We have enough winable games left if we all get together and pull in the same direction.
Go On You Bees !!
I cannot end this article on a better note than with Garry’s rousing rallying call.