It must be quite frustrating being a supporter of a mid-table football team.
It’s a marginalising pursuit. You’re always on the outside, watching other clubs occupied with a battle for survival or competing for silverware, all the while painfully aware that you’re little more than an irrelevance to the wider football audience.
A bit like Richard Keys.
No-one cares about mid-table teams except fans of mid-table teams. And that should be enough – in the past, it was. Some even craved the sweet security of mid-table banality.
But not any more, it seems.
— James (@JDHayward91) October 21, 2017
Lately, judging by the vast outpouring of social media and radio phone-in angst, it appears as if supporters of clubs like West Brom and Stoke are determined to fly in the face of basic logic and demand that their beloved second-raters make a charge for the top four. What about Leicester?, they scream when this inevitably does not happen.
But Leicester’s title was an aberration. A once-off that’s unlikely to be repeated within the next half-century. It’s a waste of time for supporters of similar status teams to hold it up as an example of what a previously afterthought outfit can do.
The elite have reasserted themselves.
Transfer spend is often held up as a stick with which to beat the manager or players, but in reality it’s no longer a factor. In the modern era of the Premier League, English top tier sides often spend a lot of money in order to ensure nothing more than the anonymity of a 7th-15th place finish.
Just because Bournemouth now apparently have the spending power of a medium-sized Eastern European nation doesn’t mean they’re going to make the leap from 9th to 5th. Everyone in the division is pumping the cash into their wage budget and transfer budget – but they can’t all finish in the Europa League or Champions League positions.
I knew this would happen this season stoke must act quick and get Hughes out before real damage is done,but what may save is who we get
— Mark Andrew Nixon (@MarkNico1972) October 22, 2017
Mid-level sides are by nature inconsistent. Sometimes they play well, sometimes they play badly. Teams who always play well win the league, or at least challenge or qualify for Europe. Teams who always play badly get relegated.
So what exactly do mid-table fans want?
A break from the monotony via a decent cup run? ‘Attractive’ or ‘attacking’ football? Both are reasonable things to ask for if your club is never going to be involved in anything meaningful in the league.
But if you don’t get them, is that any reason to call for the head of your team’s manager?
Not really. West Ham aren’t going to start knocking it around like Barcelona all of a sudden, no matter who the coach is. Maurizio Sarri isn’t about to jack it in at Napoli and show up in Staffordshire.
Very few managers can get teams playing exciting football while also winning games consistently. Those who do – well, you guessed it – end up at the top teams.
All this is not to say that mid-table supporters should be happy with mediocrity. But there’s no justification for demanding things their clubs can only accomplish through the vagaries of good fortune. Things like cup success and silky football undertaken by charismatic players are a bonus, not a right.
Perhaps it’s time for a reality check.