Good supporter/bad supporter debate part three

To the anger of some, Roland and Michael have stated their views on the message board culture and ‘Plan B’ argument on BfB this week; but if you don’t mind, I’ll add mine too.

Firstly I’ll say that I like message boards and their ideals. I’m a highly irregular poster myself, choosing only to chip in to respond to an opinion which particularly riles me or to join in with some banter (during the summer someone found a link to a porn film where the male star’s surname was Daley, and joked this was why our Omar was struggling for fitness – so I replied asking what the poster was doing to lead to him stumbling across this film). I do enjoy reading the boards though, and find the topics of conversation interesting and, sometimes, enlightening.

I can see why people participate in them, as talking about City as much as we’d like isn’t always possible with our loved ones; as we’d drive them round the bend and they are unlikely to say anything meaningful back. So I read threads from City’s Official Message Board a couple of times a week and enjoy some of the topics. Like being on your own on a train and listening to a group of friends nearby hold an interesting and funny conversation; I hope the participants continue speaking at a level I can hear and don’t notice I’m there.

But message boards do have their flaws too. I dislike the fact people don’t post under their real name. I appreciate it’s a culture that goes beyond Bradford City and to the wider world wide web, but it takes away accountability and gives the user licence to write statements they don’t have to back up with their own John Hancock. If you have conviction over your views, why hide behind an alias? Even though the people reading wouldn’t know who you are, it’s harder to write Stuart McCall is a muppet using your real name.

And yes, I should point out that I am no better. I have my own alias for the rare times I post. Once upon a time I did use my real name, but it had been recognised from appearing next to articles on here and I was soon receiving abusive responses and been asked where my mate Roland was.

The other problem I have, which Roland was getting at in his piece, is the lack of balance message boards have. There are many who’ll routinely post comments on them and make good points in victory or defeat, but when the latter occurs the amount of posts dramatically increases as several others join in, usually to criticise players and/or management. After the Bournemouth defeat I was glad I was straight out for the night with friends and wouldn’t have the opportunity to go online until Sunday evening, sure enough there was a higher number of posts than usual and a lot of it stinging criticism.

Look at the history of posts from a participant starting off the ‘McCall is useless’ thread, as you can do on the Official Message Board, and more often it’s their first post in weeks and months – probably since the last time they were angry with a City defeat. Where are these people when things go right and Stuart isn’t ‘useless’? This is where message boards lose perspective.

It’s a wider mentality though, if City win many of us will sit there content and go home in good spirits, lose and we’re moaning loudly and often booing and this kind of tone is continued in pub conversations after the game, to work mates on a Monday morning, oh and I’m still not satisfied that enough people have been told what went wrong, let’s go onto the message board…

My final irritation with message boards is the lack of argument those who criticise make. If you’re going to tell the rest of us Daley is rubbish and Paul Arnison isn’t up to it, at least explain why. It’s this last issue which has so riled Michael and Roland this week and, while no one disputes the right of others to hold a different opinion, failure to back it up with reasoning means it lacks credibility.

So we have some saying Stuart has no Plan B and that is why we lost, then when it’s argued by others that we did and it involved taking Graeme Lee off and bringing on Barry Conlon we’re then told it was a stupid plan and our manager is tactically naive.

My personal view is did we need a Plan B anyway? If we have conviction to play a certain way and players of sufficient ability to do so, why not stick to those principles to force our way back? I’m not saying don’t make substitutions or slight tweaks, but was there a need to launch long balls into the box with 20 minutes to go, instead of the passing game we favour in home games at least? Sure with five minutes to go launch the ball into the box, but for how disappointing Saturday’s defeat was we could easily have pulled a goal back minutes after Bournemouth had gone 3-1 up through playing the way we like, then it would have been game on.

That sort of conviction, to trust in your players and believe in the way you want to play, might not be something City can possess for sometime. I don’t know yet if our players are good enough, relative to this division, to beat most of others by playing better football – but I hope they can prove they are. Looking back to our last promotion 10 years ago I can recall only very occasions when manager Paul Jewell changed tactics in a game, even if we were trailing. Sure, players should be switched and if the opposition, like Bournemouth, are tactically beating you make alterations, but I hope that one day ‘Plan B’ will only be used in extreme circumstances.

Just over a year into the job, I still feel unsure about Stuart as our manager. Not in a sense that I don’t think he’s good enough – I can see with my own eyes the progress he’s made – but that, by being our manager, we have a legend who was and still is worshipped by most of us but with whom it is now acceptable to slag off and label ‘tactically naive’. I don’t think he’s above criticism and I think he’s made mistakes – though I fail to see why people are surprised and angry when he does given he’s managed a football team for barely 50 games – yet he’s a legend who’s given so much to this club and some of our supporters lack respect for it.

Win on Saturday and the arguments die down (until the next defeat) and those who’ve slagged off Stuart will say nothing. No offence to the people who run them, but I hope all City-related message boards stay relatively quiet between now and May because it will mean we’re having a good season.