Monday, April 22, 2013

SUPPORTER

Noun

1 - A person who approve of and encourages someone or something.

2 - A person who is actively interested in and wishes success for a particular sports team.



The AFTN forum has been full of a lot of talk this season about what being a supporter is all about. After the embarrassing antics that took place at Bayview last Saturday, that debate has got a lot more heated this week.

Most football forums have such discussions these days. It also breeds a modern day blight of oneupmanship, as supporters try to devalue others commitment to the cause.

There's not many things more likely to get my hackles raised on forums than that most boring of debates - "I'm a better/bigger fan than you".

Nobody cares. It doesn't matter why you think you are, everyone has the right to support their football team the way that they see fit. No one fan is better than any other fan. We're all in this as one big group.

What makes a supporter? Can you still be considered one if you don't actively attend games any more? And if you don't attend, should you be able to criticise or have you given up that right by not supporting your team by putting your hand in your pocket and handing over your admission money?

My answer to those last two questions is a resounding yes. If East Fife is in your blood. If you have an interest in the club. If you want them to succeed. Then by definition you ARE a supporter, whether you attend matches or not, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

Is being a supporter all about unwavering support no matter what? In my mind, no.

The above definition emphasises the interest and the desire for success aspect of being a supporter. Not blind loyalty no matter what. Not shutting up no matter how bad the team is playing and not making your feelings known.

Others will vehemently disagree and this is seemingly where a lot of the arguments keep getting stuck in a continuous loop between those that are on different sides of that line.

And talking of lines, there is one between what is acceptable criticism and what is not. We, as supporters, have the right to make our feelings known. We have the right to complain vocally. We have the right to boo and show our disgust. In most cases, we were here before the current crop of players, management and board members were, and we'll be the ones here long after they move on.

All that said, some of the criticism of players at Bayview has been over the top for many, many a year. Every season, there always seems to be one or two players signalled out for the abuse, often by the same sections of the home crowd.

Away from home, the atmosphere at games is a lot different most of the time. Home field advantage seems negated at East Fife.

How does barracking our own players help them? How will it make them play better and not just have them living on their nerves of what the next abuse will be if they make another bad pass or shot? Do you really think they go out there to deliberately play poorly? They haven't picked themselves for the team.

I'm sick of reading posts between the warring factions of those who have walked away from East Fife and those who will keep going to cheer on the team no matter what. Neither group is actually helping the Club.

This season has been a divisive one off the pitch and what makes it all the more frustrating is that ultimately, everybody wants the same thing - a successful and thriving East Fife FC.

Frankly, I don't care if you're attending every week, a few times a season or not at all any more. Our football club needs us more than it has done since those dark Derrick Brown days, and it needs us all to work together for the betterment of the club.

There are little enough of us as it is, and those numbers are dwindling all the time. Fighting amongst ourselves when we are in the middle of a relegation dogfight solves nothing. Uniting and turning that anger into a positive solution for putting East Fife back on a better footing and dealing with the problems that have us where we are, does do that however.

We have three games left in the regular season and possibly up to four more in the playoffs. Save the hostility and the finger pointing and the nonsense until after those. Our only focus just now should be uniting to keep us up.

No matter what happens there needs to be a major close season chat about how to take this football club forward, how to correct the mistakes made this season, how to get some of those stayaways to come back, whilst attracting new fans at the same time, and how to bring some positivity to OUR once proud team.

For now, it HAS to be a case of - United we stand, Divided we fall. Right back in to the Division Three. And NO-ONE wants that.

[This blog post first appeared in the East Fife programme 'The Bayview' on Saturday 20th April 2013]

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