The Men Who Stare At Scapegoats

By Dan Buxton
Last updated : 15 March 2010

Stokies are an easy going breed. We work hard, love our families, love our football club. We're as passionate as you can get, loyal and vocal. We love tough tackling, we love flair, we love playing with our hearts on our sleeves and we love the scapegoat. For as long as I can remember, we've had them, Dave Bamber, Keith Scott and Bjarni Gudjohnsson all got their fair share of stick from the home support, although in all fairness, Bamber and Scott deserved almost everything they got. This season however has been a momentous season in the scapegoat stakes in that we've managed to have four of them. As well as Danny Collins, Dean Whitehead and Richard Creswell, you can now add Mamady Sidibe to the list of players booed and abused by our own 'best supporters in the country' this season, and it makes not one bit of sense.

The players that get singled out for this incredible treatment are always the same though. Players going through a rough patch, and low on confidence. And What better medicine to boost their already faltering belief than to boo and abuse them? 'We'll be with you' is quite readily belted out by all and sundry at The Brit, but as soon as the game has kicked off, it's as though a numerous section of our support are waiting for certain players to make a mistake in order to jump on them. As soon as Mama mis-controlled his first ball (of many if truth be told) on Saturday, every block of the Brit was filled by some smart-arse declaring to anyone willing to listen, how garbage our Malian Striker is, and how he should never be on the pitch. These people might be right. But what do they want, for further unsettling a player who continually busts a gut for us, is a role model and a gentleman on and off the pitch and who loves this club as much as them? A medal?!

The ridiculousness has already been proven this season in the shape of 'Player of the season' in waiting, Dean Whitehead. How many of those chanting 'Deano, Deano' on Saturday were the same ones abusing his every move at the start of the season? Or more to the point, how many are willing to admit to it? Danny Collins is another one who is still receiving abuse from some parts, but who in credit to him seems to be ignoring it, and growing in stature with every game he plays. A player who was voted last season's 'North East Player of the Year'.

I honestly don't know what these people are hoping to achieve. Do they pray that Collins or Sidibe will hear some fat bloke on row 18 shout obscenities at them one time too many, and decide to simply take off their shirt and give it to them instead? I'm sure that beer gut makes you as quick and nimble as a ballerina, and a much better candidate at left back than Sunderland's Player of the Year 2009! 

I'm a big believer in football being a business, and as 'customers' we are all entitled to our opinions, and to moan when things aren't going as we should like. Every single person who pays money into our club buys with it a voice and is free to use that voice as they feel necessary. There comes a line of which some people seem to overstep though. We all moan down the match, every one of us. An open goal missed, a mistimed challenge, a ball given away. But that's our right though, because we all want the same thing; Tony Pulis, the players and us. We all want to win. We all want what's best for our football club. When you are constantly jeering an individual's every move though, to the extent that you're effecting their game, you've got to ask yourself serious questions as to why you're there in the first place. If you think you're doing the team any good, you're more deluded than the red half of Nottingham who still think it's 1980.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not a big fan or Mama. As a bloke he seems pleasant enough, and has been an excellent servant. We'll all keep with us precious memories of his two goals against Bristol City in our promotion run in, and his late winner against Aston Villa in our first ever home game in the Premier League. For his service to this club alone, he never deserves to be booed. That said however, on recent form he doesn't deserve to play either in my opinion. Not when Dave Kitson and Ricardo Fuller are sat on the bench. The same could be said for Richard Cresswell. His goals in our promotion season were priceless, including THAT goal at Layer Road. So why was it that he came to get booed by his own 'support? Of equal importance however you could say, why was it that he deserved to be playing week in, week out?

But that fault lies with Tony Pulis. Sidibe doesn't pick himself each week, and neither did Richard Cresswell. These were footballers doing a job they had been paid to do by their manager. Be honest, how many of you reading this would honestly question Tone's judgement if he picked you out of the crowd on a Saturday and asked you to play Right Wing?!  

Everyone has their job to do on a Saturday, Pulis, the players and us. Is booing our own players really what we should be doing, or is this the equivalent of us scoring an own goal? I for one would love to see Mama single out someone who had been booing him and follow him at their place of work and continually berate them as they try to flip burgers in McDonalds. Lets see how many stars they'd get on their badge with a 6ft 4 Malian judging their every move....

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