My children are now old and mature enough not to resort to throwing tantrums, but I still remember one spectacular meltdown by my son in the middle of the street in 2003, when he was about two years old.
It had the lot – foot-stamping, screaming until he went red in the face, and even chucking his favourite cuddly toy into the road where it was almost squashed by passing traffic until I rescued it.
When I was finally able to get him to calm down and explain what was causing this classic example of ‘the terrible twos’, he wailed. ‘Dad, it’s because Mick McCarthy has reduced our beloved Sunderland to a functional, prosaic side compared to the swashbuckling Peter Reid team of a few years ago – the one that won the First Division at a canter with 105 points, with the twin attacking threat of Niall Quinn and Kevin Phillips at its apex.’
As I hugged him and reassured him that it was all going to be okay, he carried on; ‘Yes, I accept that McCarthy is somewhat hamstrung by the need to assemble a new team on a tight budget after the inevitable dismantling of last season’s relegated side, but surely he doesn’t need to abandon the attacking principles that made trips to the Stadium of Light such a joy in the late 1990s.’
I suppose he had a vaguely reasonable point, even if he hadn’t actually been born during the halcyon days of which he screeched.
I’ve been reminded of his hysterics a few times lately as fans of a select group of clubs have indulged in sustained moaning about the quality of the football they’re being forced to endure.
Most vocal of these seem to be Everton fans, up in arms about the alleged dross that has been served up since Sam Allardyce arrived as manager.
The fact that Big Sam’s mission to guide the club to safety has been successfully completed doesn’t seem important, even given that when Ronald Koeman left they were a basket case of a side, and one that had benefitted from an eye-spinning £140m of new summer signings.
It seems that Allardyce’s brand of football; organised, with a strong work ethic and focus on targeting winnable matches, has disgusted large sections of Toffees fans.
In truth, Everton have only lost twice at home since Allardyce arrived, to the two Manchester clubs. I’d say that isn’t bad, not least compared to the final season of Roberto Martinez’s stewardship, where they racked up the lowest tally of points at Goodison in a single season since three points for a win were introduced way back in 1981.
Martinez, like Koeman, was heralded as the kind of boss who would get Everton playing the sort of football that fans longed for. Losing football, I suppose.
I heard an Everton fan on a radio phone in yesterday calling for the poaching of Sean Dyche, as if the (brilliant in my opinion) Burnley manager would introduce a style of play that would act as an anathema to the Allardyce way. That’ll be the same Burnley who have scored the fewest home goals out of all the Premier League teams this season, yes? Be careful what you wish for, folks.
Allardyce has heard it all before of course, at Newcastle and West Ham – again, teams that have an expected ‘way’ of playing football.
Beware any club that has a ‘way’ because their fans are by and large stuck in an over-romanticised past and blind to the fact that the game has become far more about fine margins and squeezing every last drop out of every player in your squad, as opposed to letting a gang of fanny merchants stroll on to the pitch and dribble their way to glory.
Then there’s Ipswich Town – they also have a ‘way’ apparently, last seen mostly during the Bobby Robson era of four decades ago (and revived for one top flight season under George Burley).
It’s why Mick McCarthy has finally departed Portman Road in spite of keeping the club punching well above their weight in the Championship, while being chronically underfunded by an apathetic chairman.
McCarthy’s ‘way’ was diametrically opposed to the traditional Tractor Boys ‘way’ and now he’s hit the highway. Best of luck to whoever is next if the penny-pinching blueprint remains in place at the club.
Let’s not forget Arsenal and their ‘way’ – which was actually largely devised by Arsene Wenger, who fans now want to see the back of.
The 1980s version of Arsenal were notoriously grim (remember the ‘1-0 to the Arsenal’ chant?) and after George Graham’s 1991 title win, it all went pretty wonky pretty quickly, with a 10th place finish two seasons later and a dismal 12th as Graham departed in 1995.
You’d take three FA Cup final wins in four years over that, right?
Supporters of the aforementioned clubs have bought into a collective mania that has very little relevance to the modern game.
The clubs that these deluded fantasists follow are all being outthought and outstripped by the likes of Bournemouth, Watford and of course the mighty Burnley, where pragmatism and long-term strategies are bearing fruit, instead of chopping, changing and repeatedly calling for a new manager just because the bloke who is clearing up the mess left by the last bloke isn’t giving it all jazz hands as soon as he walks through the day. Grow up!
As all the best parenting manuals say, you should never indulge a tantrum.