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Do fans influence the outcome of matches?

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Jack Ross | 12:00 UK time, Monday, 2 August 2010

The lack of transfer activity throughout this close season is perhaps best illustrated by the coverage given to whether clubs would embrace or embargo the soundtrack to the 2010 World Cup, the vuvuzela.

Having never played in a match where thousands of fans are blowing their trumpet, so to speak, I cannot say for certain how distracting or irritating they are to a player but I did find it interesting that some of the world's top players complained about the noise they created.

Surely these players would have played in the fiercest atmospheres where communication with team-mates and coaches is practically impossible due to the crowd volume. If a traditional African instrument can create problems for players, is it fair to say that those in attendance at a match can have an influence on players, teams and therefore results?

Jack Ross will be playing in front of Hamilton's fans this seasonMost people involved in football would suggest they do, as witnessed by those teams who turn home stadiums into fortresses with the help of a fervent support and those who achieve near impossible results with the backing of a larger than normal and more audible away support than normal.

My own view is that there are other factors which will have a greater influence on performance but there is no question that a positive and passionate support behind you is still a significant tool in terms of what can help a player.

In my own experience, I have usually been more aware of or felt a greater influence of fans supporting my side when I have played away from home. As a rule, it would seem that those who travel tend to offer more vocal support than at home and there are several matches which I remember fondly for such reasons.

In my time at Falkirk, the derby match at East End Park against Dunfermline always saw Falkirk carry a huge support to Fife and, as you exited the tunnel at the far end of the stadium, you could not fail to be motivated by the sight of a packed away stand at the far end of the ground. A further match where the fans undoubtedly played a significant role was strangely enough at Falkirk for St Mirren in a crucial relegation game. The Buddies fans were present in large numbers even as we went out to warm up and their backing was vital in a great team performance.

Therefore, if it is agreed that fans can help a team win a game then is it safe to assume that an overly critical support can inhibit a player or a side's display. Again I would say, to a certain degree, of course a player should be strong enough to accept criticism and most accept it as part of the job but there are occasions when it can become a problem and difficult to handle.

Players, in my opinion, easily deal with abuse from supporters of other teams but can react badly when on the receiving end from their own fans. I have played with team-mates who have clearly become targets from fans and others who have heard those backing their own team cheer as they are substituted. In each case it is usually very evident as to how much it impacts upon their displays but also how much it drives them on to improve displays and win over the doubters.

As the start of the season draws ever closer, players will expect criticism, most will receive it; but when the praise and support is clearly felt it might just be the difference between defeat and victory, sixth place or ninth place and so on.

Finally, having played our latest friendly in Spain against Malaga, most of our players would have been blissfully unaware of any shouts from the home fans who packed into the small stadium in Benalmadena. The game itself was a terrific pre-season work-out against a La Liga side and, while losing the game 2-0 is still a disappointment, the fact that we enjoyed the match so much was indicative of how well Hamilton played for large periods of the game.

As a player the best tests in friendly matches are against the top teams, as you have to work incredibly hard to get the ball from them, hence improving match fitness levels. Furthermore, you then have to be assured in possession to make sure the aforementioned hard work is not in vain and, mentally, concentration levels must be really high as players who have commanded transfer fees in the millions, as Malaga had, will punish any mistakes.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    The biggest display of 'fan power' I've witnessed was at the France V Scotland game in Paris. We carried a huge support, filling our section as well as large chunks of the home section. The noise of the Scotland fans, in my opinion, had a hugely positive effect on the Scottish team. However the French had to play in the 'fortress' Parc des Princes which was more like an away match for them given the level of Scottish support, and unsettled them greatly.

    Good blog jack.

  • Comment number 2.

    So why join Hamilton if you like to see a large away support, no disrespect to Hamilton but they havn't got the biggest backing in the SPL.
    Agree with poster 1 about the France Scotland game the amount of scots in the stadium clearly had an affect on both sets of players.

  • Comment number 3.

    Ah the memories of France V Scotland, flooding all back now!

    What a 3 days!

  • Comment number 4.

    I remember in an interview, Zinadine Zidane, said he rarely noticed the crowd, unless things were going particularly bad for him. On the other hand he also said he noticed the atmosphere or ambience a game or stadium had. I also remember a certain ex-Celtic striker saying he once felt totally demoralised when he heard his own sighing when he miscued the ball over the bar. Funny that... he could deal with the abuse of the old firm games but not that.

    But the worse abuse I've ever witnessed in a match was a serie A game involving, Marc Zoro - a player from the Ivory Coast, who played for Messina. During a game against Inter Milan he got so fed up with the racial abuse he received from his own fans that he picked up the ball and left the field. Some argued that he let the racist win by doing that but I find it difficult to criticise him for it. Eto and Henry of suffered similar abuse in the Spanish league.

  • Comment number 5.

    Jack,

    I believe that all players have off days and do not deserve some of the abuse they receive.

    However, when players constantly under perform for a whole season, especially when the previous season had been so good, I feel this is unacceptable.

    I find it even more unacceptable when they do not put in the 100% effort I expect to see from every player. I don't believe, however, that fans can influence the outcome of a match as players should be focused enough to carry out the job they get paid high amounts of money for.

    I find it even more unacceptable when players retaliate by turning and shouting abuse back at the people that pay their wages.

    Your thoughts?

  • Comment number 6.

    i beg any team to be away from the town they represent with no stadium for 10 years and thereafter return and have a massive support its not gonna happen. however if the team continue progressing like they have over the last 5 years the support will return. the management at hamilton are pulling out all the stops to get younger football supporters thru the doors. bring back terracing behind the goals and watch the crowds and atmosphere return. who wants to sit next to some bloke u dont know when ur mates are spread out the stadium.

    come on the scarlet hoops - top six this year and a european place - before our biggest asssest our manager moves on..

  • Comment number 7.

    Hi Jack,

    my first visit to this blog and I've enjoyed reading your comments.

    I couldn't agree more and recall a story from a family member, straight out the dressing room of an SPL side during the time of Sir Alex Fergusson. But not from Aberdeen however.

    The team manager told the team in their match preparation that he loved going to Pitodrie because he could always field his best elleven. He quickly followed that by a sharp reminder that he wasn't talking about the sorry lot in front of him, he was talking about the Aberdeen fans.

    So they got behind the ball from the start, kept possession and if the had to give up possession, punt the ball into the South Stand. Fifteen minutes of this had all manner of abuse raining down on the poor Aberdeen players who took the throw-ins. When their heads inevitably went down, the signals came from the opposing team's dug-out to crack it up.

    Aberdeen never had an answer for this, even with Sir Alex at helm.

    I've visited Pitodrie as a neutral as frequently as I've watched my home town team and have never failed to be appalled at the manner in which the fans turn on their team with a level of abuse that is unparalleled elsewhere, and all because they think things are going against them.

    Understandable when your team is getting a drubbing but during what it a relatively even contest??

    Myself and numerous others simply reached stauration point and don't go now. But what about the others who won't take their kids - the fathers and grandfathers? And what about the young guys who just wouldn't want to embarrass themselves or subject their wives and girlfriends to this undignified atmosphere?

    The mindset that we simply have to string a few games together and the fans will come flooding back has to go, after all not every team can win trophys every year but sadly that is the only measure of success that some people can handle.

    People have to come to football matches because they want to.

    Crowd behaviour isn't simply putting players off their game it is driving fans out of the game for good.

  • Comment number 8.

    Not sure if the fan's reaction will influence a team in a single match Jack. If a team are doing well and either have an off day or are beaten in a great match by the better side then the fans are usually fairly relaxed. The team are doing their best and there is the reasonable expectation that normal service will be resumed the following week.

    It is the cumulative effect of a series of poor performances that will certainly mean that fans can influence results. There is that dire phrase 'the manager has lost the dressing room'. This may have happened in the past but I would contend that the situation starts when the manager loses the fans.

    Given recent performances I regret to say that John Hughes will not survive many more exits up the tunnel to a chorus of boos. A poor end to last season coupled with the Europa result must mean that Yogi's jacket is on a shoogly peg.

    Fans are the club or nation. Earlier contributors point to the Paris game. Of course that was fantastic, we were doing well. We knew we had an outside chance. When fans are given high expectations and are badly let down then the flak will fly. Ask George Burley, or indeed, John Hughes.

    Fans are fickle. Fans are unrealistic, Aberdeen fans pining for Fergie are possibly the most extreme example, but the simple fact is that we fork out our cash to follow our team.

    Do fans influence matches ? When you're team is doing well it is a self fulfilling prophesy. When they are letting the fans down the manager and players should be fearing their P.45.

  • Comment number 9.

    Thanks as always for the comments.

    As always opinion will be divided upon how much of a factor a crowd is, but the support/criticism from fans does influence players and matches on occassion.

    One thing that seems to be rare in the game, especially the top league is any good natured "banter" between players and fans. Most sensible supporters enjoy it when there is a rapport between them and their own or opposing players. Perhaps, it is simply another sign of the times, a time when even goal celebrations are curtailed by regulations!

  • Comment number 10.

    Barryffc
    Jack Ross is not on about the size of the support,he is on about their backing or abuse given to players .
    Hamilton may not have a huge support,but they are every bit as voiciverous,as 60,000 supporters.
    As a matter of fact,a player can hear the remarks clearer,from a smaller crowd,than a larger one

  • Comment number 11.

    Jack,

    don't give up on this one.

    Motivation is key and how can anyone be self motivated to the levels of foreign players like Carles Puyol i Saforada with what they have to put up with.

    I was in Barcelona when Spain won the semi's. The reaction was to celebrate in a way that I've never seen in connection with any Scottish club. Loud, certainly, Fireworks the lot. But above all the displayed a level of national pride and dignity that left me longing for just a tiny measure of it in Scottish supporters. No mass disrespect for the beaten team, no excessive alchohol fuelled aggression, no trashing the neibourhood, so often attributed to so called 'high spirits'.

    They just wanted to party and didn't care who they partied with and seemed to have a particular sympathy for the fact I was Scottish and were not unaware of the decline in our game but couldn't understand why our crowds are so low.

    The quality of player is most certainly, in part at least, a measure of the quality of the supporter.

    I have a question for you. Slightly off topic perhaps but I think it is closely linked - are there any peer group bodies of like minded players, not former players mind you, who are dedicated to defining and setting what could be the Gold Standard of professionalism in the Scottish game?

  • Comment number 12.

    Comment 11, there is no such group as far as I am aware. I do feel that it is a very good point however as within all the studies into what is wrong with our game, and what can remedy it, the opinions of current players seems to be largely overlooked.

    In my view there would certainly be present day professionals who would be both interested and capable enough of providing important information and insight into how the game can change for the better.

    Thanks for the response, and I hope to cover more of this in a future blog.

  • Comment number 13.

    Jim,
    And interesting response to #11.
    I suppose the obvious question is - why don’t you start one? Your 4 years at university are indicators to what you can attain within your ‘other profession’ if you choose to move on from football.
    Do you think that will be the end of the learning? Far from it. It is only the beginning.
    In the commercial and business world each of the industry sectors are served by a range of professionals, many of which belong to professional bodies. These bodies are not to be seen as a more visible trade unions, for although both types of organisation carry out vital services on behalf of their members, these professional bodies are quite different in their aims.
    What sets them apart is that they have a vision that sets out to raise other’s opinions of them by increasing their visibility as leading exponents of their craft. They raise their members profile and the value that their members have for their respective employers by and define the levels of achievement that new members must attain, as well as the principles which they must uphold.
    The core principle is that this new found status is achieved on merit by the actions of each individual and it is not merely enough to hold a position as a practitioner. It is an environment where you are judged by your harshest critics – your peers.
    These bodies start small and grow big to become highly influential and respected, and they usually start with the efforts of one or two individuals. I suspect you are writing this blog to influence thinking on the game. Judging by some of the responses I would say that you have a way to go, so why don’t you contribute in an area where you can have a greater influence.
    You mentioned the current review process and it seems like you are waiting for someone to show you the way.
    I mean no disrespect to Henry McLeish and his committee but we have been through this process time and again, and we are still waiting.
    We need real leaders. Leaders lead. They don’t follow.
    Players everywhere in the Scottish game need intelligent and articulate representation, to drive up standards that will increase the chances of success and the price tag on their heads.
    Are you the man for the job?

  • Comment number 14.

    We have good support but a poor team, pity we will not qualify for the World Cup again !!!

  • Comment number 15.

    Very good post, strange it took me this long to see it. One thing I'd like to add though, I know they are not very common these days, but surely the main derby for Falkirk will always be against the 'Shire. Well I'm going to resurrect it if it's the last thing that I do, I have started a series about this great derby.

    https://falkirkfchistorian.blogspot.com/2010/10/falkirk-v-east-stirlingshire-part-i.html

    I know the rivalry is greater between Falkirk & DAFC is greater, but it is a rivalry not a derby, that would be to play down the fife derby surely.

    Call me a pedant, but I'm a pedant.

 

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