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When the First Whistle Blows

By: Bill Osborne
Date: 15/06/2005

LOOKING at the Fishy message board, one could be forgiven for thinking World War III was just around the corner rather than the approach of another football season in division four.

Home > Features > 2005 Features > When the Whistle Blows

It would be easy to say that opinions about the club, the manager, the players and our chances are split between two factions. Easy, but untrue.

If one looks at all the views and opinions expressed, one can see parts of one faction agreeing with parts of another faction, other groups disagreeing within their own group and Fishermensfriendz (A poster on the Fishy MB) disagreeing with them all.

It seems strange that although the opinions differ, each faction claim to be the 'true fans' whatever that may mean. I have my own opinion what that is.

One thing for sure. You can bet your bottom dollar that these same discussions, agreements and disagreements are going on at almost every club in Britain. Football fans are not noted for their reluctance to speak out even if they are wrong. 'Better to be wrong than silent' should be the fans motto!

If we look at the extremes of what Mariners fans are saying, we have the worst manager in the league, no decent players, no hope and no chance.

But at the other end we have a manager who has done his best and deserves another go, a good base of players to be added to and a very good chance of promotion.

In between these two extremes, we have the cynics, the negative thinkers, the suicidals and the mental cases. (Choose your own area)

We also have the dreamers, the philosophers, the number crunchers, the fantasisers and the ultimate optimists of the 'nothing will go wrong' group.

If the management and the board were to take these views and opinions seriously, they could well throw their hands in the air and call it a day.

But there is no need for that.

Because those who have been connected in some way to football for even a relatively short time, will know that is usual in football. The closed season brings out the best and worst in us all.

We are not used to traveling the highways of the local shopping precinct, listening to the wife's advice on how to spot a bargain or spending Saturdays visiting Auntie Gertrude who is 94 and stone deaf or other activities delegated by the other half.

Saturdays are the preserve of the football fan. All other events postponed until the final whistle blows, and so it should be, and we have to rid ourselves of the frustration of waiting for the season to start somehow.

So fans should not be taken too seriously when they are talking of converting to netball or Christianity, giving up hope and never visiting BP again. The nearer we get to August, the quicker we grow out of that. Most of us that is. The word 'us' being we, the true fans.

So what is a true fan?

(I have always differentiated between 'fans' and 'supporters'. A fan is someone who has an interest or liking for Town and probably does no more than look for their results and position. Some ex Town players are fans. Some have said that they always look for Town's results whoever they are playing for. In the two Wembley visits, many fans converted to supporters just for those two special events. Many have not been seen since. So the name 'fan' that was derived from the word fanatic is really the wrong word to use to describe those who follow the team, go to games and put their money in. They are the real fanatics. They are the 'supporters'.)

But I will use the word fan, as we all do, because it is easier but I really mean supporter.

A true fan, in my opinion, is not someone who attends all the games. We would all do that if we could. A true fan cannot be measured either by the amount of money they spend in the club. Everyone's financial circumstances are different.

A true fan, in my view, is one who forgets all they have said in the pre-season, however much they believe they were right. A person who places aside his fears and prejudices and supports and backs the club, the manager and the players from the minute the first whistle blows.

Because until the first whistle blows, we will never know whether we were right or wrong in our praise or criticism. Each season is a new chapter. We cannot know what the future holds and it will take a lot longer than a few games to know where we stand.

The true fan is going to support his side until there is a good reason not to, and I cannot see any reason why a true fan will stop supporting his team whatever position in the division they are or what division they are in. (Not like the glory hunters who only support success).

A true fan will not abuse his team or manager from the stands just because we lose a game. Their may be justification for that, to some, somewhere down the track, but not at the beginning of a season.

So there you are. That is my own view of what a true fan is. So here is the question. Are you a true fan?

Or are you one of those who cannot wait until the first whistle blows so you can continue moaning and whinging from where you left off last season?

Think about it!

In the meantime, carry on expressing your views, your opinions and forecasts for the future. It does no harm, it gets it out of your system until the real games begin again.

But when that happens, you, the true fan, will be there, laying aside your pessimism and supporting your team, your manager and your club.

Because that is the way of the "true fan".

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