High Expectations Will Only Lead To Disappointment
The expectations of football fans differ hugely from club to club.
Taking Palace out of the equation for a moment, look at the situation Arsenal currently find themselves in and how fans of the North London club are feeling.
Once again, the Gunners are high profile at this stage of the season. Looking likely to be also-rans in the Premier League title race, if they took part in the Gold Cup at Cheltenham this week, it is almost certain that they would finish fourth.
With their humiliating thrashing and consistently timed exit from the Champions League at the hands of Bayern Munich, two legs of which sandwiched a loss at Liverpool, there are many fans wishing the tenure of Arsene Wenger would end.
You can understand their frustrations, can’t you?
I mean, this is a club that have won the FA Cup five times since 2000, twelve times in total. League winners just the thirteen times, the last being 2003/04. Runners up last season which kept their record of not finishing outside the top four since their fifth place in 1995/96, making them regular qualifiers for the Champions League.
That is an atrocious record, don’t you think? Nothing to be envious of at all. In fact, if that was Palace’s record, I’d be so disappointed.
Sarcasm aside, it’s true, success breeds confidence and with that, expectation. Clubs and fans become used to success but if it does not come regularly for some clubs after tasting it, it can spell trouble.
Forget your regular successful clubs in this country, Leicester City produced the biggest footballing fairytale the game has ever seen. How did that work out for them? The sacking of Claudio Ranieri for their poor form in the league this season, even though they progressed if their first ever Champions League campaign.
Many would argue that Leicester will never be in such a position again so focusing on European competition was right. But their success has changed the mindset of some of their fan base. Not now content with just surviving in the Premier League after their amazing title win, they want more and that is only natural.
The Foxes are perhaps a club suffering an almighty hangover, not used to such high profile success and not knowing quite how to deal with it. By that I mean, look at other title winning sides. Celebrations take place but the focus immediately goes on how that can be bettered the following season. Tasting success, they want more rather than celebrating the feat throughout the summer.
Anyway, back on topic…
Compare the success of the top sides with that of a club like Palace. There are many clubs in the same boat, flirting with relegation between the Premier League and Championship in recent years for the most part.. Even further down the leagues if you look back in history.
What is success to clubs like us?
A number of play off final triumphs, promotion to the top division as champions, promotion from lower division and a Zenith Data Systems Cup win. Some clubs do not experience half that so I consider myself lucky to experience what I have following Palace.
But you see, the likes of Arsenal and Liverpool, the perennial underachievers in the top division, are unlikely to ever experience such highs and lows that clubs like Palace have and will again.
Yes, I am sure that losing an FA Cup Final, being knocked out of the latter stages of European competition are disappointing but do they match the feeling of complete and utter devastation fans feel when witnessing their club being relegated?
I highly doubt it.
Yes, winning a major competition is a real high, I get that. Seeing Palace winning the FA Cup last season or in 1990 would have been quite something. Just take a look at what that meant to Manchester United fans, or the club as a whole. The manager that steered the Red Devils to the cup triumph was sacked a little over twenty four hours later.
It is clearly being used to something makes fans grow complacent. United fans at Wembley last May are a real example of that. A cup final should be a celebration, something to look forward to, be excited about but they were quiet for the most part, some even leaving before their team lifted the cup! Palace fans meanwhile were taking their places early to greet the players warming up to a chorus of chanting, singing and an amazing display of red and blue. For god sake, most of us stayed behind to cheer the players that were hurting after the loss, not leaving and turning our back on them.
Talking of United, this is a club that has expereinced relegation, that was back in the 1973/74 season and many of the current crop of Old Trafford regulars were not around to witness it let alone tell us what the feeling was like.
Fans of clubs like Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and both Manchester clubs, christ, even Tottenham and Everton all expect success. Should they? Perhaps so for the amount of money these weathly clubs spend each and every season. As we all know, buying success does not always work but spending millions adds to the fans expectations of a club.
So what expectation should fans have for the likes of Palace, Stoke City, West Ham United and West Bromwich Albion? Is it enough to be looking to fight for a top ten finish and perhaps the dream of European competition? Perhaps so, and likely a case of knowing your place in the top division. Last season was a real one off with Leicester winning the title but again, that raises the expectation levels of all fans with the view that if the Foxes can do it, why can’t my team?
These expectations will always vary whether you are a fan of Sutton United in the National League or Arsenal in the Premier League. Levels of expectation are only natural, Sutton fans will not be dreaming of their side winning the Premier League title by 2025 and will not be expecting their boss to be sacked if that hasn’t happened. They will be dreaming of promotion from the National League. Arsenal fans (and others) meanwhile, well, goodness only knows what they will be hoping for and expecting by then.
The fact is, if you take fans hopes, dreams and expectations away, there may as well not be a game of football. It is a huge part of the daily discussions before, during and after matches up and down the country day in day out, season in season out.
It will never change and while there are fans falling out of love with modern football with clubs deemed to be more a business opportunity and money seemingly ruining the game, thousands still flock ritually to their church every weekend.
Have your hope, have your dreams but don’t let those expectations run wild. Football will always serve up something so very special or quite the opposite. Whatever level of football fan, it’s what us fans will always come back for.
Amen to that.