I didn’t enjoy last Saturday’s match, but the team’s performance wasn’t the reason.
We weren’t great, but neither were we as awful as the reaction of the fans, both in the ground and on social media, would suggest. Apart from a first half period either side of a goalmouth scramble where Sutton claimed the ball had crossed the line, we were the better side, although we failed to create enough chances.
Having fallen behind, we responded, equalized, then penned Sutton into their penalty area for five minutes of added time without being able to put them to the sword.
The spirit the team showed when they were behind was particularly noteworthy, as it came in the face of a quite awful reaction from the crowd. The atmosphere was edgy from the start; poor touches and misplaced passes were greeted by grumbling from a crowd which expected more from this season.
However, it all boiled over after Sutton scored a soft goal against the run of play. I’m not naïve, I’ve been in plenty of angry home crowds, both at The Racecourse and elsewhere, over the years. This was as bad as I’ve experienced though.
There was a gleeful feel to the chanting against their own side from a section of fans behind the goal. One particular song, which I can’t quote here, celebrated our poor performance with obscene relish. In the face of that, I admire the way the players kept plugging away.
I’m not saying the fans aren’t entitled to vent their frustration. Things aren’t right, and having a moan at your struggling team is an ancient tradition. But this was different. A section of the crowd seemed to have come expressly to mock their own team, to make a concerted effort to humiliate them in an effort to draw attention to themselves. We’d be better off if such “supporters” stay at home if they’re not willing to back their team when they need it.
It seems to me that some of the fans who love singing “I’m Wrexham till I die” are actually “Wrexham till we go behind.” My suspicion was further confirmed when we got the late penalty which led to our equalizer. All of a sudden the fans who were so dismissive of their side were right behind them, roaring them forward. No doubt they’d have claimed the credit for inspiring a winning goal! Fickle? Not half!
Since that match I’ve seen two examples of how you’d hope your fans would react to conceding a goal. Watching “Match of the Day” that night, the roar from the crowd when Manchester City pulled a goal back at Norwich was notable. It wasn’t the visiting fans who were making the noise though. Faced with a goal just before half time which changed the momentum of the game and appeared to be the first step in City’s inevitable fightback, the Norwich fans didn’t complain. They screamed their encouragement.
Likewise, when Liverpool conceded in the remarkable cacophony of Napoli’s San Paolo, their fans, outnumbered as they were, responded by drowning out the jubilant home fans to urge their team on.
Our response to conceding was a chorus of “You’re getting sacked in the morning”, aimed at our own manager, a man who distinguished himself on the pitch for our club and inherited a lop-sided side which he is trying to turn around. I’ve never heard fans aim that song at their own manager before, and I was embarrassed.
I’m sure the performance was partly provoked by a desire to show-off in front of BT’s cameras, but all it did was reinforce what a National League official told me before the game: that our fans have the most impatient sense of entitlement in the league.
Impatience is one thing, abusing and humiliating our players, manager and board is another. I don’t know exactly what it is, but it isn’t support.