In the ever lengthening list of depressing things about the modern game, the ‘fans’ petition’ is right up there near the top.
Of course collecting enough signatures from we, the people, to affect real change – be it political, social, economical or a collection of all three – is a wonderful thing, and it is and should remain one of the backbones of a democratic society. It’s just that that is where it should stay.
A quick glance at the website change.org on Monday evening shows you how ‘the people’ have got behind causes such as ensuring that a young boy with cerebral palsy can stay in a class he loves with his friends, and the nomination of the incredibly brave Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai for the Nobel Peace Prize. Fantastic, heartwarming causes both.
But then on the same website you get to the 18,699 people who have signed up to declare that Tom Cleverley be banned from England’s World Cup squad in the summer, a response to a similar petition from Manchester United fans earlier in the season demanding that Cleverley be sold. This is football in 2014.
It’s insane, isn’t it? To use a platform that is meant to provide such good in the world for this mindless rubbish.
Obviously the people who sign it aren’t expecting it to succeed – are they? – and it has been done more in jest than anything else, but where does that put a 24-year-old footballer who still has the vast majority of his career ahead of him? There has been some excellent progress and exposure in the fields of dealing with depression in football recently, and then we go and give oxygen to something as crass as this?
Cleverley has been a scapegoat for United’s poor season, and I’ll admit myself that his is one of the first names that comes to mind when you ponder just what they can do and who they can get rid of to make things right.
But there is a difference between criticising a player’s performance and then going to these extreme lengths. That should be pretty apparent to all, and you have to expect that it probably is.
There is no doubt that had United been enjoying a much better first season under David Moyes then these petitions would never have come about.
Cleverley could have done exactly the same things in exactly the same order throughout the campaign, but as long as David De Gea had saved more shots, Nemanja Vidic made more tackles and Wayne Rooney scored more goals then he wouldn’t be in this mess. The England petition was spawned from the United one.
Yes he’s underperformed, but from the boardroom downwards who hasn’t at that club lately?
Whether or not he’s worthy of a new contract is another matter entirely, but if Cleverley is involved in the United team to play Liverpool on Sunday he will be inclined to wonder just what Moyes has done to help him out of this relentless rut.
Because in that Liverpool team will be Jordan Henderson, a player who – although not the target of any petitions – was hardly considered a stellar success in his first season at Liverpool, and indeed was on the verge of exiting the club following the arrival of Brendan Rodgers in the summer of 2012.
Yet Henderson knuckled down, worked hard – something you can never accuse Cleverley of not doing – and won Rodgers’ trust. His manager, seemingly impressed and feeling that he owed his player something back, responded by picking him and instilling within him the type of confidence that now makes a World Cup place seem likely.
Henderson was down at Liverpool, but not out, and crucially he won the support of his manager at a vital time.
Cleverley now needs to show the determination to get over this extreme low point in his career, and then if he does, he’ll need Moyes to back him to the hilt and allow him to express himself on the pitch.
Given the Scot’s rigid tactics though, you have to worry for his midfielder.
Getting Cleverley out of this mess has to be a two-man job, and you can only hope for the player’s sake that the will is there on both sides to do it.
The Magic of the Cup still matters
What will the clubs who picked weakened teams in this season’s FA Cup be doing on the weekend of April 12th? Whatever it is, it won’t be as glamorous as a Wembley semi-final anyway.
Arsenal might be more used to such situations, as indeed are Wigan given their amazing achievements lately, but for supporters of Hull and Sheffield United (and Wigan too) this is the clichéd stuff that dreams are made of.
And it is bound to make fans of the clubs which viewed the Cup as more of a hindrance than a priority incredibly jealous.
Speaking of Cup Competitions – Aberdeen take on Inverness CT in the final of the Scottish League Cup this weekend. The excellent @FitbaThatba have gone so far as to pen a tune for their beloved Dons!
Best of luck lads #COYR
Derby day draw in North London
We’re back in profit after the Eden Hazard Wincast last weekend, and now we’ll turn our attentions to Sunday’s North London derby.
It’s the type of game in which a draw won’t really suit either side, and so throwing in that alongside the likelihood of goals makes a score draw look to be the way to go.