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Terry Pierce - To boo or not to boo - that is the question

Published: 07 Dec 2010 - 09:29:32

With the Football League programme decimated by the current cold snap there's a slight lack of action to react to this week. So, instead, I've decided to look at an issue splitting the fan-base of my own club and the subject of many a debate over recent years - is it ever right to boo your own players?

Are fans entitled to convey their disappointment or frustration because, as a fan, they've paid their money and will be there long after the latest big-money let-down has moved on? Or, as the name suggests, should supporters back their players irrelevant of talent or temperament?

Swindon striker Vincent Pericard has polarised opinion among the club's supporters since his move to Wiltshire almost a year ago. Those who defend him, including the club and team-mates, point to his hold-up play and the fact that he brings the best out of Swindon’s star man Charlie Austin.

But the former Stoke and Portsmouth striker has only scored twice in 29 league appearances and has been the victim of increasing abuse from sections of the Robins' faithful. And the issue came to a head during Saturday's win over Sheffield Wednesday at the County Ground when Pericard was withdrawn late on to a chorus of boos, ironic cheers and chants of "cheerio, cheerio".

Unfortunately for all concerned, the situation is a vicious circle. Players in the sight of the boo-boys are, more often than not, going to get worse, not better. With confidence draining every time they step on the pitch and the crowd waiting to jump on every missed pass or sloppy touch, it can be an icy slope towards the exit door.

As the performances get worse, the abuse increases and the spiral continues until the player leaves or, rarely, turns the fans with one moment of magic or through sheer hard work and determination.

The absolute minimum every fan expects from any player that is lucky enough to pull on the shirt of their club is complete effort and commitment. Fans, especially those of lower league sides, can forgive mistakes, a lack of talent or a loss of form but no fan can overlook a lack of desire.

Unfortunately for Pericard, like many other strikers, he can sometimes come across as lazy, and his work-rate and fitness are often called into question. It doesn’t help that Swindon fans have been spoilt with strikers over the last few seasons, with Simon Cox and Charlie Austin the darlings of the County Ground.

But one player who played with both of those should be the example for Pericard and any other player feeling the weight of expectation and the pressure of criticism from the crowd - Billy Paynter.

Paynter arrived at Swindon unfit and out of form and failed to win over the fans, but through a combination of serious hard work and the arrival of two tasty partners, he went on to enjoy his best form since leaving Port Vale as a youngster.

Most right-minded fans recognise it's usually wrong to jeer their own players so long as they’re putting in 100% every time they take to the field. But even that is not enough for some fans, and it can be remarkably hard for a player to shake off the boo-boys and turn the jeers into cheers.

What do you think?

FOLLOW TERRY ON TWITTER @telpierceDSG


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FOOTBALL.CO.UK BLOGGER:terry pierce
Terry was born and bred in Wiltshire, and is a massive Swindon fan - travelling the length of the country most weekends to watch the 'mighty' Reds. He also manages a successful(ish) Sunday league side, and his life pretty much revolves around football. Five-year-old Terry was in the crowd when Swindon won promotion to the Premier League in 1993 with a 4-3 play-off win against Leicester. He cried after every goal. Read Terry's thoughts every week on life outside the Premier League. Follow Terry on Twitter @telpierce.

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