Tottenham’s manager Andre Villas-Boas took the brave step of criticizing his club’s own supporters after their 1-0 win over Hull City. Villas-Boas was unhappy with the atmosphere created for his players at White Hart Lane and was quoted post-match saying that his side felt like the away team at times (from Sky Sports):
“I compliment the boys for what they did – great work rate. Not only that but we played away from home. We didn’t have the support that we should have had in a game that we needed a win. There was much anxiety present in the fans which transmitted to the players, so this victory is down to the players. We did it with no help today.”
Whilst Villas-Boas singled out his own supporters for creating a paltry, inhospitable atmosphere, this is a problem that is not exclusive to Spurs and White Hart Lane. The truth is that the typical atmosphere at Premier League games is dwindling at pretty much every ground across the country.
Sure, there are still occasions that churn out vociferous, fervent displays of fandom. We we were witness to that in earnest at the Stadium of Light and Stamford Bridge on the same day White Hart Lane was riddled with angst and frustration. The passion in English football is incomparable when there is dramatic late goals like those scored by Fernando Torres and Fabio Borini. And it borders on delirium when they come against local or positional rivals, just as the aforementioned goals did this weekend.
But aside from those rare instances of theatre, the majority of stadiums seem to have suffered in terms of atmosphere. In a standard, run of the mill home game, the contribution from home supporters in England can be alarmingly poor. In the main, English crowds will wait to be sparked into life by the players. A tough tackle or a stinging shot can be the catalyst for a jump in noise, but not really vice-versa.
It’s not how it’s always been, but lately, supporters seem more muted and more frustrated than ever during games. And when you think about it, it’s obvious why.
First and foremost, the times and dates of games are becoming almost laughably inconvenient. Take Tottenham; the club’s participation in the Europa League means that every time they play in midweek in Europe, their next league game will be on a Sunday.
Already, this creates issues for the supporters. Not only is Sunday typically a day to relax with family, but public transport often runs on a limited service. Plus the prospect of a few pints is often swerved with Monday morning and work commitments looming. The game can seem like a hindrance at times and as you might expect, these circumstances don’t make for a jovial and patient set of supporters.
Talksport’s Adrian Durham gave just one example of this in his column this week:
“The mother of a colleague of mine supports Spurs and travels from her home in Surrey to White Hart Lane for every home game. On Sunday the trains were all messed up so she had to endure a long, slow painful bus replacement service there and back.”
Games on a Saturday at 3pm are just better in every sense. Supporters have routines, often ones that they have followed for years and for some, this is the best bit about going to the game. So it’s understandably frustrating when they are disrupted, as the fixtures are juggled around between broadcast companies. It happens with the early and late games on a Saturday, on Sundays and on Monday nights too.