Generally, football fans are loyal to a fault.
But sometimes, we’re fickle, us football fans. We tear our heroes down savagely, without remorse. Or worse, we forget our love for them, allowing our memories to be corrupted by deception staged by the media and sometimes our own clubs.
Two recent examples of this behaviour – the treatment of Thierry Henry by Arsenal fans and the treatment of Ruud van Nistelrooy by Manchester United fans.
Henry and Arsenal fans
Long story short – Barcelona were interested in Thierry Henry last season but he snubbed them to stay on with Arsenal. In my view it was an emotional decision based on his relationship with Wenger and with Arsenal fans.
This summer, he’s been linked again with Barcelona (they’re not going to stop), and this time, what I’ve read from Arsenal fans is that he should go, that Arsenal can manage without him, that he’s not as good as people think he is and that Arsenal won’t be a one-man team if he’s not around.
The turnaround is shameful. What changed things?
Was it Henry’s injury troubles that kept him out of most of the season? Was it his status in the Arsenal camp – given to him by the fans and by Wenger? Was it the constant interest in him by Barcelona? Was it the fact that he didn’t categorically state that ‘Yes, I’ll be here at the Emirates next season’?
Could be the last one – although in my view just for the fact that Henry stuck around after the previous season is grounds enough for giving him ‘some’ leeway this summer. Whatever is happening with Henry’s future is in Wenger’s hands, and whatever we’re hearing is from the press which is flooded by rumours from the Spanish media.
Arseblogger says that by his reckoning Henry will move on this summer. A fit 30-year old Henry is better than Adebayor ever will be and is better than RVP in top form. I know I’ve talked about Arsenal needing to sell Henry last summer, but now that you’ve decided to keep him, don’t sell him off, keep him around for 2 more years.
But do the fans still want him to stay? They way some have questioned his ability, I’m not so sure.
Ruud van Nistelrooy and Manchester United fans
The popular opinion amongst Manchester United fans this last season has been that while RVN was a great goal-scorer, he cramped United’s playing style and that Manchester United played better football without him.
I beg to disagree. First, Manchester United played better football compared to previous seasons, when we didn’t have a settled back four, when we had an ageing / makeshift / injured midfield, when Ronaldo still went AWOL and when Rooney was still growing as a player.
The 2006/2007 Manchester United team had 4 big advantages going for it – Carrick and Scholes in midfield, Ronaldo’s form and Vidic partnering Rio in defence. Take these out and the 2006/2007 United team would have struggled to finish 2nd.
How would have Ruud van Nistelrooy fit into the 2006/2007 team? He would have started upfront with Rooney, allowing Ferguson to rotate 3 strikers (Saha, Ruud, Rooney) equally and keeping them fresh. The sheer fact that United could call any one of those strikers from the bench – in a season where we had virtually no quality bench – should be proof enough that having Ruud around would have helped.
Ruud is the kind of player who will instinctively float into goal-scoring positions – imagine a quintet of Carrick, Scholes, Giggs, Ronaldo (the Ronaldo who passes and creates instead of taking on the world by himself) and Rooney creating goalscoring opportunities for Ruud van Nistelrooy. Imagine then whether United would have needed to rest Saha for that 3rd round of the Carling Cup, or whether United would have scored against Milan and Chelsea in those two finals if Ruud had been around.
The fact is – Manchester United played better football this season regardless of the fact that they didn’t have one of the best strikers in the world today in their squad. If Ruud was coming back, I’d have in the United starting lineup in a heartbeat.
It’s not that United cannot survive (or win) without Ruud, or that Arsenal cannot survive (or win) without Henry – it’s just that these two are sheer class as players, and deserve to be treated properly and fairly by their fans.
Although in Henry’s case, you could say that the fans deserve to hear more than “I’m an Arsenal player for now”. And in United’s case, reports of Ruud asking for a transfer two seasons ago doesn’t exactly make him loyal to the club.
But does that make them any lesser players? I think not.