Gallipoli. 1915. Australian troops attempt to storm the beach, and lose almost 8000 men. Yet over time, a tactical defeat became a nation defining event, where the virtues of courage, and helping out your mates were formed. And it demonstrates that there is such thing as losing, and losing.
Few Fulham fans are under any delusions that we aren’t in a desperate situation. And after a transfer window that would make Lee Carvallo’s Putting Challenge blush, there doesn’t appear to be an 11th hour saviour ready to turn that around.
We have an incredibly difficult run, and a team that can implode without warning. What do we as fans do? I have a bold, and probably unpopular suggestion: We sing.
It’s a call to arms that nobody wants to hear. It was easy singing ’22, 22 undefeated’ as we left The Den last year, or when TC held the trophy aloft at Wembley. It’s not so easy when Cardiff put us to the sword, or we fall on our own against Burnley. But it becomes crucially important for two good reasons.
It creates the final impression
If we are to go down, we get to leave one lasting impression on the Premier League. I would like to leave a legacy of a fanbase that didn’t give up; that didn’t crucify their players on Twitter (as if the players would ever search their own name in a slump); that made home games intimidatingly loud.
Come May 13th, when an acquaintance who bravely supports a top 6 team swaggers up to you, would it not take some of the sting off if the second thing they mention is “Fair play to Fulham supporters though, they never gave up!” A fanbase that rolls over doesn’t deserve Premier League football any more than a team who does the same.
The manner in which we go down matters.
It lifts the team
The first reason is reason enough. However, an accidental bi-product of a fanbase doggedly supporting an underperforming team is that it may well cause them to lift. Case in point: When Coldplay were just about to burst onto the world scene, their drummer Will Champion was having a shocker. He couldn’t stick to a tempo, and couldn’t finish a song without stopping a few times along the way. Confidence shattered, he decided to quit, and the band started auditioning other drummers. Enter Dave Grohl, the nicest man in rock’n’roll. He sent a letter to Champion, saying that he liked his vibe and style. The rest is history. Champion metamorphisised overnight, finding confidence and a consistent tempo. He stayed on and holds his own in one of the world’s biggest bands.
Now admittedly, when I watched Cyrus Christie against Arsenal at the Cottage, I was not feeling quite so altruistic. It’s difficult in the heat of the game to be rational. But we are now entering a crisis where the usual rules of football no longer apply. We don’t have the luxury of slating a poor performance anymore. It may feel good to boo the team after a torrid 90 minutes, but it actually does the opposite of what you want. Motivational research has shown this time and time again. A hard word from the right person can provoke a response. Many hard words from the entire Hammersmith End is counter-productive. You may well say ‘they are professional athletes, criticism comes with the territory!” Well, try paying someone to not have anxiety anymore, or to never feel stressed again. The argument falls flat.
We need to give them grace that they may not deserve in order to get the result we want. It’s delayed gratification, but it’s part of being an adult.
So: The players may well play poorly. And we can boo them and curse them on Twitter. And they will probably play poorly again as a result.
We can be tactical here. They may well play poorly. But we should sing their name to the rafters of the Hammy End. The team may lift, and we may well survive. We don’t have any control over that. But we control how the commentators speak about the home fans, and we control the impression we send to the millions of people watching all over the world. We can portray a club with heart, soul, and (dare I say it) an identity.
As for me personally? If we are to go down, I will go down swinging.
Let that be how Fulham are remembered. That, at least, is up to us…