The is written by Stephen Lawrence
So much has been written and said about the predicament of our club following the various dramas both on and off the pitch. Fingers are being pointed at all possible potential reasons from the move from The Boleyn, to the crowd issues in the new stadium, to the size of the pitch, to the distance of the fans from the pitch, to the abilities of the new players, to the volume of injuries, to the attitude of the players, to the number of injuries, to the training methods, to players playing out of position and so on.
Whilst all of these matters may be an issue in their own right, collectively they are the symptoms rather than the cause. The real cause of our difficult situation in my opinion is EXPECTATION. It was so high at the start of the season that you’d need a parachute to get down from it. We finished last season just falling off from making the Champions League places. We were moving to a new stadium, the scale of which would rival some of the best in Europe. We were buying players rather than selling. We were holding onto Dimitri Payet who was a star of the Euros. We had the second highest level of season ticket holders in the EPL. We had arrived at the big time. Overnight we had transformed. We were now a big club, on a par with Arsenal, Chelsea and the two Manchester clubs. It had happened.
But it hadn’t. We were just led to believe it. We believed our own hype. We bought into our own dreams. We jumped on the bandwagon that was taking us to glory. We had sky high EXPECTATIONS.
In arriving at this dreamy state of delusion playing Juventus in a pre-season friendly and imagining this was just the start of life in the fast lane, we dismissed the Astras and Watfords of this world as the also-rans from the level we had now left behind. Small clubs and easy pickings for us. We were one the big boys now.
But it doesn’t just happen like that. Transformation of anything from one level to another is usually a journey and you don’t start a journey at your destination, you follow the road to get there. This is where we are struggling now. We have forgotten about the journey. We have set the bar right to the top and expected the players to suddenly be right there. In hindsight that’s just plain silly but we’re all allowed to dream. But the extraordinarily high expectations we had collectively formed may have served to just add pressure to everyone, especially to the players and manager. And that pressure is clearly showing both on the pitch in the performances of the players and in the stands in the frustration of the fans.
So now, let’s just take a breath and reflect that we are on a journey of transformation (whether personally we like it or not). We are headed onto bigger things. The stadium, the increased fan base, the increased squad size and the higher level of commercialism are all ingredients for the journey. But let’s not kid ourselves anymore. Reality is clearly showing that the journey won’t be a breeze. There will be bumps in the road, twists, turns and hills to climb. We’re experiencing some of those now. But, eventually, the road will level out and we’ll be in reach of our destination.
We just need to manage our expectations that we may have been silly to think we’ll get there overnight.
Let’s wish the manager and players the best of luck. Let’s recognise that this will be a season of transformation and it may be tough. Let’s make sure we’re behind the team, giving them our full backing, and being the 12th man that helps them make the transformation successful. And let’s keep our expectations realistic.