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Driving south to Walsall? Man, we must have been insane.

It was nice while it lasted, wasn’t it? Those couple of weeks of actually being happy for the first time since, Fulham maybe? Three years ago? Couldn’t last, could it. The Bradford game seems a very, very long time ago now. We’ve now lost three on the bounce (two of them to injury time goals), McGahey might be out for the season, Piergianni is suspended for two games, and we’re back deep in relegation shit. Come, come, nuclear war.

I booked a day off work for the Walsall a few weeks ago, in happier, more optimistic, more innocent times. My God, I wish I hadn’t. It started well enough – it was great to see Will Sutton (who I thought was excellent) score on his first game back, not least because it shows that throwing caution to the wind and sending everyone up for a corner works. As per sodding usual, it all went wrong pretty quickly. It WAS a foul on Hope in the build up to their equaliser, though. The second half went from bad to worse, their second goal was a long time coming, Bahamboula looked way off the pace again, and aside from a brief few minutes when we put Walsall under pressure, it looked like we could have played until midnight without ever threatening to score. It was utterly, utterly bleak.

What felt even worse than the abject performance, though, was how toxic the atmosphere was. Don’t get me wrong, it was awful, no one could have been happy watching that game, but screaming about how ‘fucking garbage’ we are, incessantly, doesn’t show how much more you care than everyone else, it just makes the whole sorry experience even more miserable for everyone. And if you do it right in my fucking ear, for most of the game, then I’m spending the second half wanting to walk out, and the coach journey back cursing the M6 roadworks and dying to get home and take some painkillers for my banging headache. I’m not a happy clapper, but having a go at people for applauding the players off at half time (when there’s another 45+ minutes to play so it might be an idea to encourage them) is just unnecessary. Especially when it was 1-1 at the time. It’s been a long while since I’ve been so desperate to leave a match; if it had been a home game, or somewhere I could have gone the pub or got a train/bus, I’d have left a quarter of an hour into the second half. I could have cried when they announced there were 6 minutes injury time.

It's one thing to be pissed off at how we’re playing, about the situation we’re in, at how poor our squad is, but screaming and ranting right through the game just makes an already grim atmosphere poisonous. It isn’t the ‘kick up the arse’ that you might think the players need. For example, I’m not sure what people think bellowing about Hallam Hope being ‘too small’ and ‘too lightweight’ is going to achieve. Are you hoping he’ll hear you and think “Shit, you’re right, I’d better grow 5 inches and get on the protein shakes”? And the thing is, I don’t actually disagree with the point. If you say it in the pub, I’ll probably agree with you, and argue that while Hope is certainly playing much better under Shez, we really need a big target man up front, and it was typical of our luck that when we signed one, he got injured after two games. If, however, you scream it in my ear for most of the game, you’re going to giving me a blinding headache, you’re going to make going to the match pretty unpleasant, and you’re going to put me off going again. Maybe you think football is where you should be able to let off steam and be as aggressive as you want, and you’ve paid your money to watch that rubbish and you should be able to shout whatever you like. But here’s the thing: everyone else paid their money too, and if you put people off paying their money to support Latics in future, that might not be the best long-term strategy to support the club? I get the anger, I’m angry, we’re all angry, but surely there must be some medium between being a happy clapper and screaming “EVERYTHING IS SHIT!” for 90 minutes.

One last thing: if you’re the bloke who thought it was funny to punch the door of the women’s toilets at Walsall as I was coming out of it, please reflect on what a stupid shitty thing that was to do. You weren’t ‘having a laugh’. It wasn’t ‘banter’. You were being an idiotic thunderously unfunny arsehole. Lads, call your mates out when they’re being idiotic thunderously unfunny arseholes. Don’t excuse or encourage their shitty behaviour.

On to 4 consecutive home games, then. Let’s hope for the best. Let’s hope we can turn this around. See you in the Rocky. Unless you’re being angry and shouty in my ear, then I’m pissing off to the pub.

Written by Arlene Finnigan

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