A Rubicon

There are no comments to be made on this article because it is a personal reflection. It is not right or wrong just what I think of things – not OpEd just Op – and what I think is this: I did not enjoy the 3-3 draw with Barnet.

Allow me to elucidate. I love football. My earliest memories include watching Clough’s Nottingham Forest and Paisley’s Liverpool in Europe and I’ve seen football in six or seven different divisions.

I’m a City fan first of course but I’m not blind to good football and I enjoy the cut and thrust of a game. 4-4 with Bolton when we had two sent off, 2-2 with Sheffield United a couple of times, 5-4 at West Ham. I enjoyed these games as much as many wins.

I did not enjoy Saturday even though it was that sort of thriller and it had the makings of a cracking game of football.

It had goals, attacking excellence, defensive troubles, good defending at times and some impressive keeping, a controversial winner. It should have been the sort of game that while not great not to win left the taste of battle in the mouth.

The only taste it left was sickening and bitter and bad.

The feeling that should have been with me was a buzz from an exciting game but what I was left with was a sick feeling in the stomach that something has gone badly wrong.

Of course there were problems on the field. City’s second half display attacking petered out quickly but defensively we stood firm enough to keep the visitors to lashes from outside the box and one chance which Rhys Evans says did not go in and Stuart McCall was right to say that on balance we barely deserved a point.

It was far from vintage football but it was the stuff of promotion campaigns and in many ways what we go to football for or at least what I was under the impression we went to football for.

It was not the processional football that people fear the top four of the Premiership will become, it was the excitement of a contest. It was the cut and thrust. It was battling for the points against another team who wanted to go away from Valley Parade with something.

It was silence.

It was clapping the goals and nothing else.

It was abuse to our players at every turn. It was every single mistake being latched on as an excuse to pour vitriolic scorn onto the field. It was foul of mouth and of mood and unfathomably aggressive in the name of support.

It was horrific.

It was almost the total opposite of the phrase “City’s fans roared home the team home to victory.” It was hard to see how much less the players on the field – winning as they were – could have been supported. McCall says we barely dissevered a point and did not perform but any poor play on the field was nothing compared to the performance of the 12th man which was beyond wretched.

Not one person who has seen the game thinks that Barnet were a poor side yet the level, the constancy, the content of the abuse poured onto players such as the leading scorer in the division or a nineteen year old who has played less than a dozen games for his home club or the guy on a hat-trick for not brushing them aside was as unnerving as it was upsetting.

How has it come to this where the only sound to be heard was supporters that are so viciously, aggressively negative to their own players? How has it come to pass where players are not cheered on to inspire them but play in fear of not mindless but mindful abuse directed at them, directed personally, aggressively charged against them?

I admire Joe Colbeck for having the character to not wilt under this wrath. I worry that as he looks to come back to fitness in January when Leeds sell Fabian Delph and start looking for a new winger that there is precious loyalty shown to him to keep him at Valley Parade.

Do not mistake this, reader, for a call to arms to stop booing Player A or support the team with a kind of jingoism – although those things would no doubt improve matters at Valley Parade – but rather as a marker in my future recollections of my time following football; a Rubicon; a point where the hand becomes the wrist.

This is not blaming the fans for the performance or the result it is an observation and a worry. Perhaps fans get the team they deserve and if so how the Hell do we deserve to even be pushing for promotion?

This is not what I remember football to be. It is not what I became enraptured with in 1977 watching the European Cup being lifted of 1981 watching City for the first time. It is a perverted view of how football should be.

Saturday was a cruel caricature that is the stuff of Poe-esque nightmare where all that you thought was good turns out to be a spoiled, sick, rotten version of what it used to be.

Saturday mocked my faith in Bradford City and the fans that follow the club and the time that I – and others – put in supporting them.

It is that that left me sick in my stomach.